some of the pier disappears

November 29, 2010

A good deal of activity around and on the poor pier. Dismantled steel shapes resemble parts of ships carcases. They make very strong sculptural features literally scattered across the beach – mangled and warped by the heat of the fire.

All heaped together  – unidentifiable pieces of fabrication – discarded but sort of attractive in their muddled groupings. 

And within the hour, a change has happened. It’s as though the tides and the forever moving beach provide us with a constantly changing spectacle. Very grateful – no human being could do this.

Things get broken
at home
like they were pushed
by an invisible, deliberate smasher.
It’s not my hands
or yours
It wasn’t the girls
with their hard fingernails
or the motion of the planet.
It wasn’t anything or anybody
It wasn’t the wind
It wasn’t the orange-colored noontime
Or night over the earth
It wasn’t even the nose or the elbow
Or the hips getting bigger
or the ankle
or the air.
The plate broke, the lamp fell
All the flower pots tumbled over
one by one. That pot
which overflowed with scarlet
in the middle of October,
it got tired from all the violets
and another empty one
rolled round and round and round
all through winter
until it was only the powder
of a flowerpot,
a broken memory, shining dust.

And that clock
whose sound
the voice of our lives,
the secret
thread of our weeks,
which released
one by one, so many hours
for honey and silence
for so many births and jobs,
that clock also
and its delicate blue guts
among the broken glass
its wide heart

Life goes on grinding up
glass, wearing out clothes
making fragments
breaking down
and what lasts through time
is like an island on a ship in the sea,
surrounded by dangerous fragility
by merciless waters and threats.

Let’s put all our treasures together
— the clocks, plates, cups cracked by the cold —
into a sack and carry them
to the sea
and let our possessions sink
into one alarming breaker
that sounds like a river.
May whatever breaks
be reconstructed by the sea
with the long labor of its tides.
So many useless things
which nobody broke
but which got broken anyway 

Ode to Broken things  Pablo Neruda

a little person has arrived – a very important little individual  – hence no time nor inclination to be blogging of late . . .

 . . wee fingers perfectly formed . . .

 . . the father and the son and their ears. No doubt they will look alike but have unique identities. And although the snow has arrived blanketing the ground,  strangely the landscape beneath breathes through clearly and retains its own identity too.

Early morning with a sprinkling of snow on the beach. A grainy landscape – quite raw . . .

 . . . to the west, with Bexhill lit up and Beachy Head far away, somewhat warmer in feel and more mellow . . .

 . . directly to the south, a stretch of rocks called  Goats Leap is starting to emerge from the water as the tide goes out. When the natural landscape met the sea, the creatures came down from the cliff tops.


Across the road at the Burton Gallery, a sense of summery warmth in a picture by David Reeve and also . . .

at La La Rookh, summery clothes. But not today unfortunately. It’s bitter . . .

 . . little parcels of frozen snow clinging to the grass but bright shiny fruits on the iris gleam through the snow  + look quite festive . . .

 . . . and the spread of verbena has become a delicate frozen button headed landscape.

So for the little one, a lullaby that is all about the way it is sung with soothing notes – the words convey the uncertainty of life! 

Hush-a-by baby

On the tree top,

When the wind blows

The cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks,

The cradle will fall,

Down tumbles baby,

Cradle and all.

An update on the progress at this garden (1st summer click). Today the azaleas and grasses are due to arrive to fill the border on the right  by the house. These will be set out in curves so that they can be cloud clipped to form a soft billowing organic form in the years to come. The contractors have some students on loan from a college in the Auvergne who are studying for a HND in Horticulture. Julie is in the distance neatly raking the hoggin paths in the French style.

The winter sun is catching this part of the garden today. The dark mulch has gone down around the box mounds, grasses and infill perennials. Come early summer, all this planting will have filled out to become a tapestry of green, white, blue with a touch of soft yellow.

Nathan and  Cecile are cleaning down the paths before a final layer of gravel is laid as a top coat. We ‘re waiting for the plant delivery but jobs can be completed anyway. The azaleas will go in the bed shown below. In contrast to the other planting, the client, quite rightly, preferred strong bright reds and pinks to bring some drama to the scene.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Aureocaulis’  from Architectural Plants as a buffer to the slope  into the woodland. I was slightly hesitant about the choice but, in fact, they look great especially when the light catches the stems.

From the terrace under the vine looking south . . .

. . and down to the lower garden and on to the woodland with stream and ponds.

The wine of Love is music,
And the feast of Love is song:
And when Love sits down to the banquet,
Love sits long:

Sits long and arises drunken,
But not with the feast and the wine;
He reeleth with his own heart,
That great, rich Vine.   The Vine  James Thompson

what a difference a day makes

November 15, 2010


What a difference a day makes . . . ‘my yesterday was blue, dear’, as the lyrics say, and it was wet and a tad miserable. The horizon line was indistinguishable  in the murky atmosphere so I resorted to looking at the rain on the foliage of plants close-by. Pittosporum tobira by the front steps. Poor plant keeps falling over every time there’s a strong storm from the west. It’s also out grown the huge clay pot and now the pot has shattered so something will have to be done . . . but this wasn’t the day to be mucking around with wet soil so I concentrate on looking at the raindrops hanging off the small fruits . . .

 . . and the drips rolling down the foliage of the Euphorbia mellifera and Geranium madarense below . . . all too green, green, green. And the same green!

Striking and vibrant tones on the Molinia however  . . .

. . and even livelier on the Trachelospermum. This plant has gone into shock for one reason or another but, anyhow, it’s a jolly vision and quite festive  in all this gloomy dampness.

The group on the little table has an addition of some mussel shells. I use shells as a mulch around all the plants – these must have been washed down from the deck above in the torrent. 

This morning at least the horizon is clear. Large and beautiful cloud formations hang overhead and move like a symphony . . . sublime  allegro . . .

and slower adagio. The sky looks uncertain but there’s a glimmer of blue to the east . . . and the sky above  the Old Town High Street is a definite improvement.

Up at the allotment, it’s a beautiful afternoon although claggy underfoot. Some small apples still cling to the tree . . .

 . . and even the greeness of the fennel has more definition today. 

The hedgerow is ablaze with fruits of the hawthorn . . . the scherzo . .

 . . . and the rondo, or return, to a lovely settled evening. 

And as Dinah Washington is singing  ‘and the difference is you, the sun’.

There’s a great specimen of Parrotia persica by the path that runs from the Design Studio to the main building on the Hadlow campus. Students and staff brush past this large shrub which is almost a tree about 6 times day. The current 3rd year, brushed up against a smaller specimen in Calverly Gardens, Tunbridge Wells this week on a survey visit for the Place and Culture project. No one could recognize the plant. Of course, their minds are on different things  – many research projects and the start of their major year long project – so recalling a certain plant is not top of their priorities at the moment. We’ve all looked at plants that we know perfectly well and been stumped for the name.  In a way, that’s the rationale behind this post, readjusting with the known but looking with fresh eyes.

Looking to the sky with one long deep breath . . . . hardly any leaves left on the Acer palmatum . . . . but with such a spectacular colourful finale in autumn, it must be exhausted and longing for dormancy.

Many berries still on Crataaegus prunifolia and fruits of a different sort on the pine.

The double borders are pinned down with 2 lines of fastigiate oaks. At the start of the journey down the borders, the naked stems of the pollarded pauwlonias echo the upright habit and encourage the eye skywards again.

A line of Alnus incana in front of the birch – all quite simply positioned but apposite. The torch looks great at the base of one shining upwards! So looking upwards, the last leaves on the cotinus flutter away.

And onto the Betula nigra group with the young branches still fairly smooth and tactile. Those who know these gardens will recognise the route I chose by the sequence of the images . . .

. . . the mature trunk and branches are wonderfully wrapped in the tissuey layer of peeling bark.

And the taxodiums are entering their quiet time. A good deal of this planting was instigated by Kemal Mehdi, a plantsman and an individual who influenced and inspired students and staff alike. He’s missed by many here including me but busy on his own garden now.

There is no Silence in the Earth — so silent
As that endured
Which uttered, would discourage Nature
And haunt the World.  Emily Dickinson

grasses in the garden

November 1, 2010

Grasses in pots and in the ground at Knoll Gardens. . . .


Lovely to get right down into Carex testacea . . .

 . . and Miscanthus ‘Malepartus’.

By the bark circle, an elegant Ginkgo is turning buttery yellow . . .

 . . . and all the tones of late summer and autumn are woven through the borders . . .

 . . . I find I’m particularly taken by the upright Panicum ‘North Wind’ as well as the stature of a gum . . .

 . . . and more buttery foliage on a group of Veronicastrum . . .

 . . with liquorice ligularia heads. Mmmm.! This is an exquisite time of year just before the leaves come down.

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who’s to say where
The harvest shall stop?  Gathering Leaves  Robert Frost

very special plants

November 1, 2010

Special Plants is in a special place! And how, those great tables of box, yew and beech flow magnificently down the garden and echo the structure in the landscape beyond.  

The last remaining dahlias pump out their strong tones in a final flourish. Powerful stuff!

The pretty tree is Malus transitoria with tiny pinkish yellow fruits. Trees with berries became the subject of discussion on the unease amongst the Health and Safety fraternity to allow fruiting trees in school areas in case pupils stuff berries up their noses!

The line of Miscanthus make an interesting fluffy interface between orchard and paddock – it must be wet down there. 

The beech circle has two round openings at eye level – to the north and to the south. To the north, tall Molinia caerulea wave around in front of the barn. The barn is stuffed with logs. Crushed brick is used as a surface on the paths – very effective. 


The raised ‘new gravel garden’ with a sculpture by David Mayne – excellent with the autumn coat of the sedum.

A log wall down by the pond and the most magnificent chestnut ever.

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries – – -roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – – – how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

 Fall Song – Mary Oliver

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