catching up with grasses

September 28, 2011

Catching up again – seeing and continually learning  – how plants have developed and matured in the growing season, is a pleasure – usually! The first phase of the decorative planting in this garden, in Sussex,  was carried out  during late autumn and early winter of 2009. For those that can remember this was a cold, cold winter, so a fingers crossed approach was needed but, luckily, in this particular garden there is a very fine gardener. The 2nd + 3rd phases followed on in late spring and early autumn of 2010. So back to review the grasses in their 2nd season. Miscanthus ‘Grosse Fontaine’ forming flowering trumpets at the end of the canal . . .

. . and seen from the main lawn below. The oak uprights support wires for the line of espaliered pears and make a division between the two garden areas. Silvery Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ stands sentinel behind Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ and Rosa ‘Buff Beauty’.  The cedar marks the north garden.

This large garden is a garden of rooms – it was defined as such early on in the design process – with one of the rooms  tagged the Exotic Garden. This houses those that look exotic but aren’t necessarily tender. So very bright colours – reds, oranges, purples  – and bold in form and shape. Miscanthus ‘Ghana’ was part of the palette but we had to accept Miscanthus ‘Graziella’ as a substitute and, all things considered, I think it’s a better grass for the position. Less obvious but with eventual stronger autumn colour and the pendulous habit works well as a contrast to the neighbouring plants. It stands behind the persicaria in the image below.

Not a grass, but a bamboo, Borinda papyrifera stands behind the tetrapanax in this shot, and was sourced from Jungle Giants.

The Exotic Garden nudges up to the Perennial Garden so Hedychium ‘Tara’ and Dahlia ‘Melody Mambo’ jostle around with Aconitum arendsii and Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’ in a rather jolly way . . .

. . Echinops ‘Blue Globe’ parties around as well.

A group of Rosa ‘Lili Marlene’ is under planted with Carex buchananii as a front edge to another garden room.

And the old stalwart Stipa tenuissima used as a threading plant within the Herb Garden. Simple and easy to grow and manage. Just let it seed where it wants and pull it out if you don’t want! Tufty and wafty in habit and provides low movement amongst the lower static groups of herbs. Final image signifies for me, musical notes drifting away and circling back. Wonderment and reflection. Although this is a garden created for a family with all the fun times and gaiety that should and does happen here, it still has an overall  sense of magical solitude but also  seems totally grounded.  Hence the choice of poem that is a reflection on the spiritual and pragmatism of decision making.

In eye a dark pool

in which Sirius glitters

and never goes out.

Its melody husky

as though with suppressed tears.

Its bill as the gold

one quarries for amid

evening shadows. Do not despair

at the stars’ distance. Listening

to blackbird music is

to bridge in a moment chasms

of space – time, is to know

that beyond the silence

which terrified Pascal

there is a presence whose language

is not our language, but who has chosen

with peculiar clarity the feathered

creatures to convey the austerity

of his thought in song.  R S Thomas  Blackbird

Folkestone is the home to the Triennial. The sub heading is A Million Miles From Home – supposedly providing the international feel of the events. The Leas high above the coastal path is a good starting place for any visit to the town. Sumptuously magnificent buildings of a certain age were well positioned set back sufficiently for some shelter and also to allow folks to promenade and generally enjoy themselves along the grassy terraces.  1st tick from me. The generous gradient offers at least three routes across the sloping cliff face including the zig-zag path which leads down to . . . .

. . a small amphitheatre. It’s modest but useful as onlookers can spread out either side or indeed view from the passing places on the winding path above. Impressive in a homely way but well thought out. 2nd tick.

Unobtrusive decoratively planted areas integrate within the surroundings of Lower Leas Coastal Path. There are options to the seating arrangements – variety in type and material – also tables for chess or picnics and other exercise equipment but discreet in proportion to the overall spatial use. I was aware of the sound a single bell – took me back to school days and the angelus! Not pleasant but the installation that featured this was very pleasing. The positioning is superb and the narrative equally interesting A K Dolven  ‘Out of Tune’ 16C tenor bell removed from a Leicestershire Church for not being in tune with the others. Disgrace but then recognition. 3rd tick.

The traditional bell-pull very popular especially with kids – these 2 aren’t kids, well in years being at least 50. Wander on to the old harbour station where the troops embarked for France during WWI. and was the also terminus for the Orient Express. Ghostlike and powerful  . . .

. . and the position for ‘Rug People’. Huge tick from me. Mark Wallinger used an associated concept for an installation from the first triennial that has been given a permanent home on The Leas ( the small images below).

Some industrial relics could be taken for ‘art’.  Whatever. The view of the East Cliff curving round to Dover is spectacular especially on a sunny day.

The heart of the town nestles around the harbour as it would have when planned and constructed. The tide retracts to leave many, many scallop shells . . . a spankingly new restaurant, Rocksalt, overlooks the harbour. Position gets a large tick, food less large tick but decent enough.

Cornelia Parker’s ‘The Folkestone Mermaid’ is now a permanent work. She looks to sea as she should. If she turned around then she’d get a view of The Old High Street with eclectic shop units – a mix of artist studios, just enough cafes and eateries unlike Hastings Old Town where it’s food door to door and none of it good.  Big enough tick to consider moving here . . .

In the library, Charles Avery has left his ‘Sea Monster’ – a mysterious beast, part horse, snake with tiny wallaby arms. Hung drawings, cartoon like but rather beautifully executed, add to the narrative of his world. I think Len would have responded well to this piece.

Myself, I  went there simply to take a walk. Charles Avery

The church in The Bayle, the oldest building in the town, houses 100  model ships – warships, trawlers, steamers, liners, brigs, rafts and junks made from cardboard. They float above the aisle suspended from the nave. Massive tick.Only mentioned but a few of the artworks. No ‘could try harder’ on this report! Loved it and will return.

Rosencrantz: We were sent for.

Guildenstern: Yes.

Rosencrantz: That’s why we’re here. (He looks round, seems doubtful, then the explanation)  Travelling.

Guildenstern: Yes.

Tom Stoppard  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

a room without a ceiling

September 20, 2011

Around the Serpentine Gallery are clusters of catalpa trees – a preferable way of planting these exotics as against the usual single specimen method. They form the subtle markers within which the annual temporary pavilion sits. This year  a low black box spreads across the space. Curvy paths encourage further investigation . . . .

. . into an inner skin of a corridor that flows around the 4 sides. Densely painted hessian covers all the vertical surfaces – strangely tactile. The atmosphere is monastic – visitors talk in whispers – at least they did during my visit. The architect was keen to implant a sense of quietness.

The hortus conclusus or the enclosed garden in the centre contrasts with the simple built form exceptionally well especially, in late summer, when the planting has reached maximum height. The perfume of the Actaea racemosa ‘James Compton’ floats around the enclosed area. The light glares down – a sense exacerbated by the matt black surfaces. I didn’t want to look up at all! Friends had criticised the tables and chairs ringing the space but, on my visit, these were almost empty and insignificant whereas the friends had been subjected to occupants holding meetings by phone and internet. Ah, the necessities of modern life!

The structure and enclosed planting were rather magical. Molinia ‘Transparent’ softly exploded at intervals with Aconitum wilsonii ‘Barkers’, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’, Aster mac. ‘Twilight’  and the Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ also in full throttle. Dramatic but self composed at the same time.

My most favourite book on Hortus Conclusus is The Enclosed Garden by Rob Aben and Saskia de Wit. I refer to this book more than any other now – rationale, theory, history + contemporary ideas and precedents. Marvellous! Just a couple of illustrations showing the deconstructed model and 13 C Patio de la Acequia Granada:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour. William Blake  from"Auguries of Innocence"

Visiting to monitor growth and discuss how a new garden as developed to suit the owners is a crucial part of a designer’s role. There were 2 posts on this garden build – the first is here ( last autumn) and the second here (early winter).

The sculpture is by Leigh Dyer and just a reminder, below, on the area before the build – slippery grassy slope  – that needed a rationale and also a pragmatic approach to the levels to enable easy circulation. Planting that grows gently in height towards the woodland – decorative to finger tip height and then grassier – and self binding hoggin with timber edging now provides a decent surface.

A fine line of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ run along the house walls (above) and  a relaxing seating/eating area (below)has evolved with some shade from the vine clad structure and offers views back up the garden.

By the end of November, the blues and silvers will be subdued with the buttery grasses and dark seed heads still having a presence. It all depends on the first frost.

Ye have been fresh and green,
Ye have been fill’d with flowers,
And ye the walks have been
Where maids have spent their hours.

You have beheld how they
With wicker arks did come
To kiss and bear away
The richer cowslips home.

You’ve heard them sweetly sing,
And seen them in a round:
Each virgin like a spring,
With honeysuckles crown’d.

But now we see none here
Whose silv’ry feet did tread
And with dishevell’d hair
Adorn’d this smoother mead.

Like unthrifts, having spent
Your stock and needy grown,
You’re left here to lament
Your poor estates, alone. Robert Herrick  To Meadows

8.40 am on September 15 2011. Point the lens at the sun and discover a composition with a slippery silvery feel.

Maybe learn how to hold the camera straight next time!  Turn a few degrees to the south and all looks normal again . .

. . . but what are my eyes really seeing?

They say there’s a high windless world and strange,
Out of the wash of days and temporal tide,
Where Faith and Good, Wisdom and Truth abide,
`Aeterna corpora’, subject to no change.
There the sure suns of these pale shadows move;
There stand the immortal ensigns of our war;
Our melting flesh fixed Beauty there, a star,
And perishing hearts, imperishable Love. . . .

Dear, we know only that we sigh, kiss, smile;
Each kiss lasts but the kissing; and grief goes over;
Love has no habitation but the heart.
Poor straws! on the dark flood we catch awhile,
Cling, and are borne into the night apart.
The laugh dies with the lips, `Love’ with the lover.   Rupert Brooke   Mutability

The Connect 2 cycle route from Hastings to Bexhill passes between the rows of beach huts at Bulverhythe and, at least, riding west there is sense of somewhere to go unlike riding east where the cliffs at Rock-a-Nore hit you in the face and force the steep climb up East Hill to Fairlight.  Yesterday, a few huts were locations for Open Studios. Claire Fletcher and Peter Quinnell inhabit Beach Hut 10 . . .

. .  snapshot views occur from behind the front row of huts  . . .

. . and being nosey, just have to jump off the bike and record the composition . . .

. . . looking through the window of the hut below, a dog posed for just long enough.

Cycle on to the point opposite the bridge over the railway line where a viewing platform has been constructed. At this point out to sea is the wreck of The Amsterdam    300 passengers and sailors  lost their lives when this ship of the East India Company ran aground in 1749 on her maiden voyage to Java. The wreck is visible at very low tides.

At the base of the Galley Hill, Bexhill reveals itself above, but patches of sandy beach look more inviting  . . .

. . it was a day for the coast rather than town so decide to do an ‘about turn’ and this image below marks the point where I fell off trying to take the photograph while cycling along! Hélas!

My favourite  ‘about turn’ from Spike Milligan . . .

. . . and some verse from Hart Crane.

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge

The dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath

An embassy.  Their numbers as he watched,

Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,

The calyx of death’s bounty giving back

A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,

The portent wound in corridors of shells. 

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,

Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,

Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;

And silent answers crept across the stars. 

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive

No farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps

Monody shall not wake the mariner.

This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps. At Melville’s Tomb

in a pink dream

September 3, 2011

Now, if you are not keen on pink, be warned and go no further. I put it all down to not having being dressed in pink dresses when I was little so having to double dose now! Well. it’s an indulgence and a few visitors may remember that I’ve done all this before.

A beautiful array of flowers on 3 closely planted Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ – the all in all favourite  –  never fails to delight.

Finding its way through a vine gently and decorously.

And softer and peachier is the runner bean ‘Celebration’ . . .

. . with the more common ‘Painted Lady’ in the background.

A single plant of red orach is allowed to remain – too many seedlings get in the way of much needed crops – with the languid habit of the stems – having the vapers!

Stiff and thrusty bog standard Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ above and more rangey in habit is Sedum Red Cauli’ below. The flower colour this sedum softens with age. Clever folks plant this with Sedum ‘Bertram Anderson’ to romp around the base and cover the ground – well, Piet Oudolf does!

And a spread of salmon echeveria and a small cascade of terracotta pots arranged in the art of non arrangement that so many strive to achieve on B’s table on the next plot.

I went to heaven, –
‘Twas a small town,
Lit with a ruby,
Lathed with down.
Stiller than the fields
At the full dew,
Beautiful as pictures
No man drew.
People like the moth,
Of mechlin, frames,
Duties of gossamer,
And eider names.
Almost contented
I could be
‘Mong such unique
Society.  Emily Dickinson  I Went to Heaven

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