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.

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