geography and geometry

July 30, 2013

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This oleander caused problems.  At the moment, it’s a show stopper along Exhibition Road but 10 years ago as we completed this project it was deemed dangerous, by one individual, due to its poisonous properties. Many plants are poisonous if eaten by humans. Many of its companions which are poisonous, if digested, remain in place. So the plant was lifted from the large rear terrace and re planted by the main public entrance of The Royal Geographical Society (IBG)  where visitors enter through the glass pavilion designed by Studiodownie. I could never fathom the reasoning for this decision.

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The pavilion makes a great shop window for exhibitions and the garden area beyond. The Society needed extra space for library, research rooms and lecture theatres, and so ground was excavated to house these facilities below a wide terrace with an adjoining sunken garden for outdoor events. Front of pavilion above and rear view below.

Studio-downie---Royal-geographic

The current exhibition – Travel Photographer of the Year –  fills the pavilion, the terrace and the sunken area. We designed large containers to edge the terrace as a safety precaution and also to hold the evergreen summer flowering Trachelospermum jasminoides which weave along the taut stainless steel wires to provide shade and give some privacy to the research rooms below. I was cheered to see how well this system was still working and that it remained aesthetically pleasing. The powerful fragrance filled the outside space.

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The wide rear terrace floods off the ground floor eating rooms and hallways.  This planting looked rather over grown now and in need of some maintenance and was the original position for the oleander. Easy to see that clumps of oleander would provide colour amongst all the green. The plants on this south facing aspect were chosen as indigenous to the southern hemisphere while the north facing side was planted with species from other side of the equator – birch, robinia, bamboos, ferns etc etc.

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Across Kensington Gore, the catalpa’s are flowering around the Serpentine Gallery and completing the composition with the temporary structure and the permanent building.

serp

serp catalpa

This year, Sou Fujimoto has conceived a see through rubic – horizontal escalation – of latticed powder coated steel. I love it and so do many others. It looks light weight and summery and appears to be practical. Of course, a good summer helps!

serp access

serp use 1

serp use 2

serp use 3

serp geometry

A friend, whose opinion I value, told me not to miss Genesis – Sebastião Salgado –  at the Natural History Museum. He was right  – it’s quite miraculous and I’ll go back again. This image of reindeer travelling over ice looking like a geometric pattern is mesmeric.

yamal peninsula siberia russia 2011 sebastiao segado

images

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Many of the images from Patagonia and Chile resonated clearly with me but all the regions of the world were documented in a highly particular way.

mus 1

Final stop of the day to see yet another exhibition – Green Fuse, the work of Dan Pearson at the Garden Museum in Lambeth. Here within this old churchyard, the sense of history preveils  . . .

mus g his

mus g hist detail 2

mus garden history detail

mus g hist arbutus

. . . . . but also geography, botany and horticulture. By the church is the tomb of the John Tradescants, father and son, plant hunters and collectors, who introduced many species collected from other geographic regions to this part of the world. Some are planted here.

mus g hist last

I climbed a ladder to . . .

Was it the moon or stars?

Was it to find a view,

A total world view of

Some magnitude? I had

Much daring once in love,

But daring balanced by

Hope and trust, I read

Of how wise men will try

Slowly to reach a state

Where there’s no argumnet

Man cannot know his fate

But he can face the rough

Returns, the storms of hate,

If only he will love

But love with purpose and

Direction. I can see

A ladder in my mind

A monument, I am free,

A moment understand. Elizabeth Jennings  I Climbed a Ladder

front meadow

Early evening at a Great Dixter Friends’ event – cloudy skies mean little shadow.  Softness is the prevailing texture in the front meadow with quiet colour allowing for the full picture of buildings, trees and hedging to read in complete proportion. I’m always aware of the buildings here with the spaces around the buildings having a clarity as well as differing character. Good design.

cenolophium 1

In the Sunk Garden, a mass of Cenolophium, unusual placing in a confined space – but it works.

cenolophium 2

cenolophium denudatum

pool garden

The division  – brickwork and planting – between the Sunk Garden and the Wall Garden, contains a bold combination of magenta lychnis + small dark dahlia.

lychnis + dahlia

long border1

Groups of cornflowers, seemingly the favoured annual this year, repeated at intervals down the Long Border. Yellow tones  read well in low light with the clearest and brightest seen on the torchlike stems of verbascum.

long border fennel + vrebascum

verbascum + e primrose 2

Quite lovely pale evening primrose in this composition . . . .

verbascum + althea

verbascum + e primrose 2

. . . and a stronger coloured form stands up well with purple tones.

verbascum + oasts

e primrose stipa

Across the Cat Garden, shimmers of stipa flowers bridge the gap between the perennial layer and the yew hedging.

hydrangea

The growth especially of perennials in the Orchard Garden is overwhelming and luxurient. . . .

pear, salvia turkestanica

. . and right at the furthest boundary of the Vegetable Garden,sits a long thin border packed with matrix planting.  Jewel like perfection.

matrix bed 1

matrix 3

matrix 2

The use of colour here has always been bold – it takes confidence to mix these 2 tones of blue with a touch of cerise . . .

corn flowers

. .  but a more obvious tried and tested combination of yellow flowering ferula, purple clematis and soft pink rose.

fennel clematis

inula + cal KF

Exuberance of planting around the Peacock Garden contrast with quieter but, as complex, combinations such as low euphorbia in the selective mix of species in the Prairie . . .

euphorbia

. . and teazles with onions.

allium + dipsacus

There is another sky,

Ever serene and fair,

And there is another sunshine,

Though it be darkness there;

Never mind faded forests, Austin,

Never mind silent fields –

Here is a little forest,

Whose leaf is ever green;

Here is a brighter garden,

Where not a frost has been;

In its unfading flowers

I hear the bright bee hum:

Prithee, my brother,

Into my garden come!  Emily Dickinson

pagoda

July 6, 2013

across lake 2

The term ‘pagoda’ is quite often misused, and surprisingly often misused by those in the garden profession. Many times I have heard contractors define a timber structure as a pagoda when it should be termed pergola. There again pergolas are often confused with arbours . . .  but enough now on terminology. This tiered structure  ‘La Pagode de Chanteloupe’ was built as a folly within a large 18C country estate on the Loire. The gardens were laid out in patterned formality to include the necessaries – vegetable, decorative, copses + groves – by the architect Louis-Denis Le Camus for a Duke.

entrance

These gates and railings appear to be original, even though most of the infrastructure of the  estate was destroyed in the revolution.  Visible features today are the pagoda with semi circular basin, Petit Pavilion (concierge house) + 2 other pavilions in Louis XVI style – markers for the estate entrance. Until recently the long avenue of limes afforded a view from the small parking area by the road,  but now the first sighting is well and truly screened with hoardings – a shame – and the visitor is taken on a orchestrated route through ticket office, new Chinese garden and an area containing many traditional and rare children’s toys and games before being allowed through the gates and onto the shingle surround. The simplicity of this open shingle space in front of the structure is quite attractive not only visually . . .

beach

. . but also for those who want to play instead of absorbing factual info – 44m high, 7 storeys and each ring with 16 columns – with the main function of the pagoda being to follow the routes and actions of the hunting parties within the woods and forests of that era. The ladies, I imagine, were not invited to ascend and view – staircase is far too narrow for wide skirts!

view up 1

. . .

view up

from inside

The banister rail on the ground floor is cast iron  . . . . . .

staircase 1

balcony 3rd floor

bannister

. .  and mahogany on the higher levels. Looking through to what were the original garden areas – now fields –  it’s relatively easy to imagine the scale of the gardened grounds.

to garden

once garden

Below shows a proposed ground plan showing the château outlined in red and the central axis to the water features with the pagoda (largish dot) to the right. Also a bird’s-eye view showing the formality and precision of the garden layout.

plan_du_domaine__du_chateau_et_des_jardins_reguliers

Le_chateau_de_Chanteloup_Van_Blarenberghe

stair well

Peering down from the highest landing  . . .

ceiling dome

. . . and up to the domed ceiling. Ah, the craftsmanship of the past. Mr Swatton could do it but not many others nowadays.

garden items

There are just a few signs of garden features – just enough to feel the character and ambience.

‘A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,’

across lake landscape

across lake

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Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers écouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l’atelier qui chante et qui bavarde;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d’éternité.

II est doux, à travers les brumes, de voir naître
L’étoile dans l’azur, la lampe à la fenêtre
Les fleuves de charbon monter au firmament
Et la lune verser son pâle enchantement.
Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;
Et quand viendra l’hiver aux neiges monotones,
Je fermerai partout portières et volets
Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.
Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,
Des jardins, des jets d’eau pleurant dans les albâtres,
Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,
Et tout ce que l’Idylle a de plus enfantin.
L’Emeute, tempêtant vainement à ma vitre,
Ne fera pas lever mon front de mon pupitre;
Car je serai plongé dans cette volupté
D’évoquer le Printemps avec ma volonté,
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère. Charles Baudelaire Paysage

More chasteness to my eclogues it would give,
Sky-high, like old astrologers to live,
A neighbour of the belfries: and to hear
Their solemn hymns along the winds career.
High in my attic, chin in hand, I’d swing
And watch the workshops as they roar and sing,
The city’s masts — each steeple, tower, and flue —
And skies that bring eternity to view.

Sweet, through the mist, to see illumed again
Stars through the azure, lamps behind the pane,
Rivers of carbon irrigate the sky,
And the pale moon pour magic from on high.
I’d watch three seasons passing by, and then
When winter came with dreary snows, I’d pen
Myself between closed shutters, bolts, and doors,
And build my fairy palaces indoors.

A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,
And all the Idyll holds of childhood’s spring.
The riots, brawling past my window-pane,
From off my desk would not divert my brain.
Because I would be plunged in pleasure still,
Conjuring up the Springtime with my will,
And forcing sunshine from my heart to form,
Of burning thoughts, an atmosphere that’s warm.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

1to beach

Under grey skies on Romney Marsh. This view is from the road that runs through the shingle to  the cluster of buildings erected around the old lighthouse. All now dwarfed by the power station. I am particularly fond of this view of this barren landscape – only to be found on this side of the road.

2 to beach landscape

Directly opposite on the other side of the road sits Prospect Cottage, home of Derek Jarman until mid 1990’s. Each year this humble shack receives a new finish. In the grainy light, the poem by John Donne, on the exterior facade is only just visible. A few folks had set up their stools and were busy capturing the composition of house within garden and, within setting, in water colour. There are no boundaries to land in this environment and you can move restfully around the ‘garden’ of the cottage to view, admire and breathe it all in. Most of the planted species are indigenous and native material will also pop up from wind blown or bird dropped seed.

3 prospect

4 prospect 2

The impact of the surroundings completes the picture – in an informative way and also strangely in an enigmatic visual sense. This was a unique ‘garden’, now much copied and mostly badly.

5 garden at prospect dungeness

6 garden at prospect dungeness

7 garden at prospect dungeness

In the 28 years since the initial visit, I have witnessed considerable changes to the habitations along the road. Over the last 5 years, almost complete gentrification has happened. Expensive vehicles are parked outside the neat refurbished houses. Fluffy garden areas are now established – all looking totally false in contrast to the original at Prospect Cottage.

8 garden at prospect dungeness

9 shed at prospect dungeness

The native planting where man doesn’t interfere still retains a quite specific feel and I fell in love with it all over again.

10 to beach landscape prospect dungeness

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys and sour ‘prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the King will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shoulds’t thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left’st them, or lie here with me?
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’s all states, and all princes, I;
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here, to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere. John Donne The Sunne Rising

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