October 11, 2016
a post with few humans – a couple of tourists and some carved in stone – it’s easier for me to engage with this landscape as such. At Pont du Gard, in the terrain around the landmark, those maintaining the landscape show good skills – using just enough management. The olives in this grove have a balletic quality – a certain strength underlying a lightness of form . . .
. . . equally, the dry stone walling is rhythmic in contrast to the static character of the remnants of this ancient aqueduct that carried water from Uzés to Nimes. Some is very fragile awaiting restoration, perhaps . . .
. . . a sprinkling of chêne vert left to edge the informal track leading down to the first dramatic glimpse. Nothing could be more powerful and appropriate.
Masterful engineering – perfection in the detail of the construction – a simple and beautiful junction of stonework.
At the Monastère, ‘the antechamber to heaven’ but also close to home, the small church is receiving attention – completion of the interior next year perhaps – with the facade finished and decorated with a frieze of ‘Eric Gill’ style carving.
Eclectic architectural details which somehow work spread around the entrance, the spacious courtyard which I was to shy to photograph, the chapel and the nuns gathering room – they’ve employed a sensitive architect. Also, stupidly, I didn’t pluck up the courage to ask to see the productive gardens – all that convent schooling still affects me badly . . .
. . . but here at the quarry at Vallabrix, no hestation on pushing through fencing and security bondaries to get as close as possible. This sand is used to manufacture Perrier bottles – so much better to drink water from glass than plastic . . . and it’s a stunning landscape to behold and walk around although the locals are not so keen on the noise and night time working. Two poems for this post, Attwood and Paz, what can I say . . .
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round. Margaret Atwood
Between now and now,
between I am and you are,
the word bridge.
you enter yourself:
the world connects
and closes like a ring.
From one bank to another,
there is always
a body stretched:
I’ll sleep beneath its arches. Octavio Paz
July 10, 2016
Personal; intriguing; nourishing; an oasis; a pleasure garden; inward and outward and upward looking; et al. Just a quick mind map to test out feelings of the time here in Sambucs and there are of course some elders as the title of the garden suggests . . .
. . . narrow paths run across the terraced land leading to areas, some intimate for lounging and the odd larger space for eating, through varied vegetation interlaced with sculptural features; some discreet . . .
. . . and some functional constructed from smooth river stones.
Many pools alongside the dry stone walls holding the changes in level provide habitats for dragon flies, frogs and snails.
Poetry, inscriptions and selective writings are part of the experience. Above is the classic comment: ‘you should have been here two weeks ago, the garden looked so much better then’.
Zinc panels here in la Porte des Étoiles, display selected inspirational thoughts from Gilles Clément from le Jardin en Mouvement. Apposite for this garden that is managed on ecological systems and also retains an unmanicured look which in turn relays a welcome sense of freedom. Heaps of composted spent garden waste sit naturally at path junctions.
This impressive static cairn stands proud against the open extent of the south facing boundary. . . .
. . . while glittering stipa shimmers against a darker background in a more enclosed area . . .
. . . lythrum, indigenous to the ditches here in Hérault, provide some flower colour. I was hoping for more colour but in truth, I should have planned an earlier visit. Next year a return in May perhaps and then better photos? Lovely garden Nicholas and Agnès and tasty lunch too.
My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
Rainer Maria Rilke A Walk Poem
May 31, 2016
This is difficult. A post inspired by a bamboo garden which avoids endless photos of tall, upright, sticks of varying shades of green; all perhaps a tad gloomy. Not sure I’ve suceeded so the reader best escape now . . .
. . . but, it is to me, a place of delights. The close up shots, the long views through the forests of stems and the eclectic mass planting of the varying species and their varieties. (Phyllostachys edulis – goodness it gets this tall? and below Chinombambusa).
Below is the maze – with hedges tall enough to fox adults . . .
. . . so, in this decorative landscape with intial planting by Eugène Mazel a passionate botanist, who planted his first species on the Estate in 1856 by acclimatizing these species from countries such as China, Japan, North America and the Himalayas and, then, ongoing development by the Nègre family. More recent additions included a Laotian village with buildings constructed of strong bamboo – as robust as steel – as the major material. A village nestling within a fluffy nest of Fargesia backed with more structural Phyllostachys; a home to chickens and the odd pig. Children love it . . .
. . . historic elements are retained such as the ferme and avenues of Seqouia. Trachycarpus are planted in avenues too – some trees still low enough for the hairy textures and the erupting flowers to be at eye level. The first of the surprises . . .
. . . hidden in a plantation, another surprise; and another . . . with a hint of what’s to come . . .
. . . another hint with the Davidia but then I am thrown completely off course with the two Cornus although they look as though they should originate from the east.
The clues work. Buddhist style? Inspired by Feng Shui? The blossom covered pergola leads into the Oriental Garden designed by Erik Borja. Just 15 years old and mature enough now to make its mark.
‘whether it be in China or Japan, the shape, size and the style of a garden depends on the outline of the pond’. Perhaps?
Some beauties here including Loropetalum chinense; note to self – use it more.
The plant combinations are very good – some quite unexpected . . .
. . . and to finish Phyllostachys viridis ‘Sulfurea’ with the younger green stems that turn to sulpher tones in the second year.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. Pablo Neruda Sonnet XVII
May 15, 2016
In Nimes, it’s feria – a great big party based around the bulls . . . bull fighting . . . bull running . . . and other bull events. These are not for me but I do like a festive occasion. On the way up the esplanade through the stalls of food and of clothing, I came across young girls perfectly turned out but hanging around in informal queues . . .
. . . waiting to take the stage and perform with their instructor, or was she a judge? Whatever she was big personality . . .
. . . we were all transfixed by her charisma.
Around the fountain, horse men and woman, from Uzès perfomed with impressive skill . . .
. . . and another formidable horse woman was also centre stage.
Crowds overflowed into the street around the bodegas . . .
. . . full of bonhomie. Beer and sangria flowing but no one seemed to show after effects . . .
. . . and musicians started impromptu concerts . . .
. . . full of fun and some performers showing superb skills.
It opens, the gate to the garden
with the docility of a page
that frequent devotion questions
and inside, my gaze
has no need to fix on objects
that already exist, exact, in memory.
I know the customs and souls
and that dialect of allusions
that every human gathering goes weaving.
I’ve no need to speak
nor claim false privilege;
they know me well who surround me here,
know well my afflictions and weakness.
This is to reach the highest thing,
that Heaven perhaps will grant us:
not admiration or victory
but simply to be accepted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones and trees. Jorge Luis Borges
April 5, 2016
A follow on post from this. And to set the scene: rivers of salvias – masses of Salvia ‘Amistad’ and S. uliginosa in late summer run riot through the planted areas around the park and the two areas of the festival site. Just wanted to acknowledge a couple more of the temporary garden installations that worked well. ‘À table’ – the theme of an edile table which recurs and never disappoints – to share a meal in the form of a garden party but, here, seated on benches with carnivorous plants suspended as lights over the long refectory table packed with old species of edibles,produced by pollination, so unsuitable for large scale cultivation – black tomatoes, purple peppers, violet cauliflowers and climbing spinach . . .
. . . the planting, edging the garden, reverts to the ever popular flowery mead style.
‘Cuisine Africaine’ showcased edible plants and seeds from the African bushveld required for the survival of human, insect and animal life.
Centre stage in this garden was a spectacular metal and wire wrapped sculpture – a homage to the significance of the Boabab tree in this landscape – the canopy offering shade for villagers and travellers. A place to meet, to rest and to eat under. Leon Kluge built a good garden.
Farfugium japonicum, an evergreen ligularia, looking resplendent in containers in the hospitality area. An extremely French look – but beware as this plant needs copious watering grown like this.
In the Prés du Goauloup, a large flat area of landscaped park adjacent to the festival site, some of the garden installations from previous years have been relocated; many are Chinese . . .
. . . the red ribbon of ‘Carré et Rond’ or ‘land and sky’ integrates the contemporary concept of storm water management with the philosophical ideas of the link with man to water in traditional Chinese garden. Designed by Yu Konglian for the 2012 festival.
I find this poplar group very pleasing and, equally interesting, is a site specific installation by Chris Drury called ‘Carbon Pool’ – a magnetic spiral of felled cedar lengths capturing some of the Goualoup Park secrets and appearing to drag them down into the earth.
New planting of Liquidambers make a seasonal frame.
Selected existing mature trees are partnered with sculptural but also practical landscape elements . . .
. . . leaving the festival but looking forard to the next event. views across the Loire river beyond the fiery Rhus – a willow and poplar landscape just losing the green and softening to yellow.
I have built a house in the middle of the Ocean
Its windows are the rivers flowing from my eyes
Octopi are crawling all over where the walls are
Hear their triple hearts beat and their beaks peck against the windowpanes
House of dampness
House of burning
The airplanes are laying eggs
Watch out for the dropping of the anchor
Watch out for the shooting black ichor
It would be good if you were to come from the sky
The sky’s honeysuckle is climbing
The earthly octopi are throbbing
And so very many of us have become our own gravediggers
Pale octopi of the chalky waves O octopi with pale beaks
Around the house is this ocean that you know well
And is never still. Guillaume Apollinaire
Ocean of Earth to G.de Chrico.
April 5, 2016
Prevarication – that’s the problem or is it an excuse? Or plain laziness? Anyway time to acknowledge a garden that was, but is now gone. A little explanation: ‘The Savage Garden’ designed by 4 students from University of Greenwich landscape architecture/garden design course was selected to form part of the 2015 International Festival of Gardens at Chaumont on the Loire. The design was edited by Jamie Liversedge – senior tutor – with just a little help from me and built by students and Jamie + myself. Here he is talking about the garden . . .
. . . and the image above shows the site last April just before the opening of the festival – all other images show the garden in September just before the closure. The theme was ‘collections’ and the selection jury including Maestro Patrick Blanc defined the collection to be plant based. Le Jardin Sauvage – tropical, a jungle, somewhere to get lost in, a refuge, where wildlife inhabit the overhead canopies, where Le Douanier Rousseau would have felt entirely at home – was a challenge not necessarily to build but to plant. The plants required time to envelop the site even though we selected some large specimens but over the time span of the festival, the growth of the planting was successful. The expectation was achieved. An angled route over crushed broken tile lead through lush foliage highlighted with brilliant flower colour across a bridge and under rusty steel arches – red was important in the colour palette from early on in the design stage. A few images . . .
. . . Mina lobata clambers over the steel reinforcing bar arch structure with a dark tender pennisetum covering the ground.
Cannas, hedychiums and begonias eventually came to the party. It looked good and the festival staff and visitors appreciated the concept and the finished result.
Another garden that caught my eye (really the best in the festival, for me) Le Jardin du Teinturier – a dyer’s esate probably in Marrakech – where the utilities of plants and the pigments extruded from berries, stems and roots were shown in a cinematically installation. It was perfection – well ordered, inspiring and beautifully designed . . .
. . . striking berries of Arbutus.
The gardens were eclectic in character under the umbrella of a given concept – always thought provoking and surprising. ‘Réflexion d’un Collectionneur’ – a garden based on nature in a garden around a museum or gallery where the visitor views without knowing what lies beyond. Enticing – paintings or mirrored panels show the world behind the viewer. Is it a secret garden or a museum collection? Whatever, it was very clever.
Carnivorous plants were centre stage in a few gardens and this perforated screen shown below in Le Collectionneur de L’ombre was pleasing – a collection of ferns needed shade. The poem, well, a jungly romp with Spike Milligan that conveys the fun aspect of Le Jardin Sauvage. To follow a few more images and words on other parts of the festival.
On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!! Spike Milligan
March 12, 2016
A jaunt out above the gorges to see if the new seedling growth of the ferula is showing and, yes, frothy and fresh in tone, carpeting the ground around the forebears which are still strong but wonderfully light to hold as the stems are hollow now . . .
. . . young ferula growth here mixed in with low, lime green euphorbia, but the taller Euphorbia wulfenii also claims attention. A black-eyed form and perhaps crossed with others to form E. x martini . . .
. . . Iris pumila – in papal cloth and in soft yellow – stop me in my tracks, not only to admire visually but, also to avoid squashing them where they sprout through the stony path.
By le Castellas and at Table de Lecture de Paysage, the view forces the eyes to lift up away from studying up from studying the minutiae on the ground to this tableau – the river Gard flowing in a cup shaped curve; a quite splendid panorama . . .
. . . as it enters from the west beyond Russan and beyond Anduze . . .
. . . and as it moves to the east flow under Pont Saint – Nicolas and then under Pont du Gard before entering the Rhone. Some folks do other physical and challenging pursuits here but I just gaze.
How the tiny narcissus occupy this terrain and how enjoyable they are . . . so it’s eyes down again and especially when the path becomes a solid sponge like form of limestone. Perhaps it’s more like walking on a giant food grater.
Then again the view demands attention. Pont Saint-Nicolas and surroundings can only be enjoyed from this high aspect – there is nowhere to park nearby – hurrah.
Back in Vic, Commune de Ste Anastasie, grave stones neatly placed on the church wall face a flowering Rosa banksiae – my first this year on March 4th- and a wall hosting Umbilicus rapestris – great texture contrasts.
The poem reads like an old song or fairy tale to me – but no claim is made on this landscape but just simple grateful appreciation.
walking by the waters
down where an honest river
shakes hands with the sea,
a woman passed round me
in a slow, watchful circle,
as if I were a superstition;
or the worst dregs of her imagination,
so when she finally spoke
her words spliced into bars
of an old wheel. A segment of air.
Where do you come from?
‘Here,’ I said, ‘Here. These parts.’ Jackie Kay In My Country