The sky forms an important part of the composition when designing and developing gardens – a fact that is often ignored. Here at La Louve, the garden maker Nicole de Vésian, understood this fact. Her ethos for this garden was to structure and transform the steeply sloping site and echo the forms of the landscape in the Luberon. Read more about the garden here:

The natural growth of the Garrigue landscape – mostly evergreen plants – is mirrored in the planting within the terraced garden. Large scale – the beyond –  is transformed into small scale by clipping and controlling. Stone is also revealed and positioned as a sculptural element . . .

. . . so the inert, rigid property of stone sits alongside the living organisms of the plants. The forms can be similar but the textures contrast.

Moving down from the higher terraces – Terrasse de réception and Terrasse de Belvédere (shown in the photos above) – to the Terrasse du bassin where the quince (Cydonia oblonga) provides some shade and the layout changes to embrace longer internal views. I remain a tad ambivalent to this garden room – the bassin I found clumsy and the circulation here seemed confused. However our group of 20+ managed quite well with not much ‘after you’ as this garden is small scale  – designed to please one person  – so the issue of how a private garden can transform into public space is interesting. I felt we destroyed the atmosphere . . .

. . . I did enjoy the personal touches that have been retained.

And I also enjoyed the windows of short and also long views that the garden offers.

Louisa Jones has written about this garden primarily in ‘Nicole de  Vésian: Gardens, Modern Design in Provence’ and also in her great books ‘Gardens in Provence’; ‘Mediterranean Landscape Design Vernacular Contemporary’ and ‘Mediterranean Gardens A Model for Good Living’. She theorises and justifies and explains so well.

Good to see the iris and would have been good to see many more architectural invadors thrusting through such as Cynara. Apparently Christopher Lloyd enjoyed these dramatic and seemingly random intrusions during his visit years ago. But of course they were planned as de Vésian was a master.

The recently planted lavender field and how it looked when mature (a scan from double page spread in Mediterranean Gardens – A Model for Good Living  Louisa Jones. Keeping with the original Vésian idea of dome clipping the alternates is planned.

Do I feel the garden has become a mausoleum? Yes. The owners have kept true to the original ideas and should be applauded but what must it be like tending, controlling, clipping away without inserting personal creativity. To discuss.

Zephyr returns and brings fair weather,

and the flowers and herbs, his sweet family,

and Procne singing and Philomela weeping,

and the white springtime, and the vermilion.

The meadows smile, and the skies grow clear:

Jupiter is joyful gazing at his daughter:

the air and earth and water are filled with love:

every animal is reconciled to loving.

But to me, alas, there return the heaviest

sighs, that she draws from the deepest heart,

who took the keys of it away to heaven:

and the song of little birds, and the flowering fields,

and the sweet, virtuous actions of women

are a wasteland to me, of bitter and savage creatures.

Petrach sonnet 310 Zephiro torna, e’l bel tempo rimena’

 

Sometimes the continuous present of life becomes relentless making it difficult to step off. On looking back at posts done – and so few – over the last 24 months, that has happened here . . . but enough soul searching and time to reconsolidate. Strangely the desire and principal reason to visit the gardens of Fort St André in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon was to experience the flowering of the roses. Hélas I discovered on this crucial and much delayed visit that the roses had disappointed so much over the years that they had been pulled out  . . .  so no roses to admire but much else to discover and appreciate.

Such as a small town park – natural and informal in feel – with 360 degree views spanning the Fort to the north, as above, and the Rhone below Mont Ventoux to the east; Avignon to the south and the Alpilles to the west.

Wandering through the town, there is much to enjoy  . . . including the planting of Acanthus. Thoughts of the forum in Rome where Acanthus grew in lavish abandon flooded back from memories of more than thirty years ago.

The gardens are terraced so panoramic views can’t be ignored. Close up compositions also invite some study. Not herms as such but rather classical forms with a whimsical character.

Magnificant vaults support the exterior terraces  . . .

. . . views through the access frame the compositions of evergreen planting. Apparently the roses struggled within the setting here of extreme exposure to the winds hurtling down the Rhone with the elevated cold position and also the poor soil structure on the rock form base. Some trees show their struggle with the climate but others have seeded, settled and occupied where they can.

There were always olive groves here. and other edible plants. The Abbaye was founded in 10C on the site where Sainte Cesaire lived before that time. She left her husband to live here in a grotto as a hermit – perhaps that rings true.

From the Chapelle  . . .

. . . and into the poem. Over the years of a human life and over the centuries of periods of history.

 

 

Change
Said the sun to the moon,
You cannot stay.

Change
Says the moon to the waters,
All is flowing.

Change
Says the fields to the grass,
Seed-time and harvest,
Chaff and grain.

You must change said,
Said the worm to the bud,
Though not to a rose,

Petals fade
That wings may rise
Borne on the wind.

You are changing
said death to the maiden, your wan face
To memory, to beauty.

Are you ready to change?
Says the thought to the heart, to let her pass
All your life long

For the unknown, the unborn
In the alchemy
Of the world’s dream?

You will change,
says the stars to the sun,
Says the night to the stars.  Kathleen Raine Change

 

 

 

 

A new museum ,Musée de la Romanité, in Nîmes, beside the Arènes and very close to the La Maison Carré and the Carré d’Art.

As in most French cities, urban design, positioning, ergonomics and ‘the journey’ are a pleasurable experience. Here this new installation is regarded as a dialogue between the ancient and the contemporary – and it is, and it works. The square glass panelling covering the facade appears to float – the curves echo, slightly, the circular form of the ancient arena. The architect’s concept refers the art of the mosaic and the folds of the Roman toga  . . .

. . . the archeological garden, accessed easily from surrounding streets, shows a vegetative overview of the periods of history shown inside the museum. Not quite sure about these oleanders although the slection is correct within the scope here – just they smack of poor civic planting. There are, however, olives, green oak, pines and almonds. Also lavenders, thymes and garlic, sweet chestnut, tarragon, chives and lemon balm that the Romans and Crusaders introduced to the southern France.

On the roof, a green sward peppered with drought tolerant perennials. Low, and so sheltered from the weather, but well irrigated at least in the first growing season. Also the planted carpet does not distract from the views. The interior is packed with treasures too – archaeological not botanic. And packed with multi-media support.

. . . achillea, dianthus, centaura, trifolium sps. provide an airy silky veil.

The light wraps you in its mortal flame.
Abstracted pale mourner, standing that way
against the old propellers of the twighlight
that revolves around you.

Speechless, my friend,
alone in the loneliness of this hour of the dead
and filled with the lives of fire,
pure heir of the ruined day.

A bough of fruit falls from the sun on your dark garment.
The great roots of night
grow suddenly from your soul,
and the things that hide in you come out again
so that a blue and palled people
your newly born, takes nourishment.

Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave
of the circle that moves in turn through black and gold:
rise, lead and possess a creation
so rich in life that its flowers perish
and it is full of sadness. Pablo Neruda  The Light that Wraps You

 

ville et campagne

May 28, 2018

Ville – Arles; appreciating a sculpture by Marc Nucera – elegant but purposeful and somehow wistful –  in front of the Chapelle de Méjan. Then on to the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh  . . .

. . . where the courtyard displays a feature bursting with colour and water.

Inside, one of the exhibitions is Soleil Chaud, Soleil Tardif. Les Modernes Indomptés. Vincent’s railway carriages with other works showing the influence of Millet and Monticelli; some Calder patterns; Polke’s work well lit.

Metaphors of the sun, Mediterranean region and experimentation from Modernists and Post Modernists. Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers . .

. . . and No Birds. Also de Chirico and videos of performances by Sun Ra alongside vibrant LP covers – those were the days.

Later works from Picasso: Man playing the Guitar and Old Man Sitting.

Upstairs in the original rooms . . .

. . . an exhibition of an English Modernist, Paul Nash, curated as Eléments Lumineux –  “works imbued with a surreal atmosphere and a sense of the finite, against a background of death and war”(catalogue).

From the roof terrace, a well manged parthenocissus clings to the walls of a secret courtyard. And out into Place du Forum to gaze upwards.

Ville – Nimes; banks of Cistus monspeliensis flowering with panache alongside Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle.

Campagne – Anduze. La Bambouseraie en Cévennes a couple of weeks ago with wisteria in full bloom – heavenly scent – Davidia in discreet bloom and the final flowers on Akebia quinata and  so final whiff of chocolate.

from a previous visit

The Mind is a wonderful Thing  Marianne Moore

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Giesking playing Scarltti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly equivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes – if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

 

 

An invitation by Mediterranean Gardening France to see the garden of 2 artists in St Remy de Provence. The view from M. Joseph Bayol’s studio on the first floor of his house across the wisteria to the bassin  . . .

. . .  just a small area of his studio packed with canvases, collections, materials and a few palettes with one below  . . .

. . . the bassin formally positioned with three cupressus at the far end and two very large and well proportioned metal structures on either side to support climbing roses. Scale and proportion are exquisitely handled in this garden superbly maintained by Mme Bayol. I use these superlatives in acknowledgement of both horticultural and aesthetic prowess. A garden to delight – purely personal and imaginatively handled. It shows love.

An informal pond inhabited by noisy frogs is well hidden but a charming discovery and typical of the elements and spaces to find unexpectedly on the journey around the garden . . .

. . . roses in full glory here in Provence at the start of May. Either clambering up an immense cupresses or a single bloom in a shady passageway.

The wisteria – gentle, elegant, discreet + certainly not the blowsy form – has a sculptural woven + twisted trunk. The finials on the rose pergola  – are equally underplayed . . .

. . . roses framing the entrance to the green house and quite wonderful cross views across the garden sheltered and hidden within a Provence town. One of the best gardens I’ve seen for a long while. Personal and poetic – a dream.

a few other days out to gardens with the MGF (I’m a tad smitten with this group):

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/art-on-show-large-space-small-space-chateau-la-coste-max-sauze-garden/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/at-the-ecological-garden-au-jardin-ecologique/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/un-jardin-anglais-but-is-it/

 

Summer: for a few days

you lay around with us

breathed in pollen,

counted aphids,

watched us drop

one by one on to the path

where the scent

was especially heavy. Rose multiflora Jo Shapcott

Richard Serra – an installation, a sculpture, a site specific sculpture – at Chateau la Coste to be viewed and interacted with on the Art and Arhcitecture walk around the domain. Seemingly I just snap away at things I like nowadays . . .

. . . remnants of the old farming estate have been kept such as the threshing floor outside a new chapel which I didn’t photograph.  A more interesting building ‘Four Cubes to Contemplate our Environment- a maze like structure from Tadao Ando. A palimpsest of translucent layers/facades offering plenty to absorb and think about  . . .

. . . on the way down to The Meditation Bell.

The Oak Room (Andy Goldsworthy), outside above and inside below, caught the imagination of the kids.

Big names here – Gehry, Ando, Bourgeois, Benech, Sigimoto – in this large glamorous and glossy winery vineyard cafe dining shop gallery space ‘art escape’.  Most likely the Ai Weiwei ‘Mountains and Seas’ might have flown away as my visit was some time ago . . . but I remember the very very beautiful work.

By contrast, also near Aix en Provence, a jardin remarquable, in a small town – Éguilles. Max and Anne Sauze have created somehing special in a relatively small space around one lone tree. Now there’s more and consequently increased shade and lots of bamboo. Max, the master of metal, is also a master of arrangements, of collections . . .

. . . and of pleating paper. All objets are recycled and put together to form whimsical and quirky and thought provoking ‘things’.

Mostly site specific and crossing from design to architeture to horticulture but intensely personal.

In every corner and on all surfaces, he can’t stop himself – thank goodness.

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry. Marianne Moore   Poetry 

 Mediterranean Gardening France, organises excellent trips.  I am unenthusiastic tripper however when an invitation to attend a visit to this venue Visite aux Pépinières Quissac https://https://www.jardin-ecologique.fr  dropped into my in box I had to sign up. Enticing and relatively nearby. And, to boot,  on offer was an ecological garden and a nursery from which I  had already  purchased a few sound and well-grown plants at their stand at the weekly Nîmes flower market. Plus I needed to source and select plants for a potential project. Would  this be the nursery that could supply quality plants?  I needed to visit and find answers.

Also on offer, in the afternoon, was a cuttings workshop run by Miriam Quissac.. Miriam proved to be rather a star – expertise with the growth of ‘dry plants’ – charismatic and generous with her time and her knowledge.

The nursery sits in ‘land that was no good for anything’ between pine and oak scrub and vines looking to Pic Saint-Loup in the west.

Tumps – raised beds – for the plants that thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. A ditch taking surface water from the higher ground runs along the rear ensuring that some water seeps into the planted areas.

Miriam explaining and proving her theories.

Contrasting with the openness of most of the nursery, is a small shady situation for plants such as Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ warmly cossetted  in green waste which comes from the large heaps retained in timber uprights – practical and aesthetic to boot.

Views across the nursery beds and details of significant plants well labelled – hurrah.

We all admire Buddleja’ Pablito’ – smothered with butterflies and many of us buy it –  I did.

Miriam explains the straw bale structure of her house  – note the window . . .

. . . and the pool with edges, still raw, that will be planted appropriately. Beschorneria yuccoides in the foreground merges in with the exotic, upright forms that seem appropriate here. Miriam prefers these forms to ornamental grasses.

And below the tunnel showing alternatives to lawn or ‘gazon’  . . .

. . . the workshop on seed sowing, cuttings – hard wood and soft wood  – and grafts. Total technical detail delivered with consideration and panache.

A crazy salvia in a container  full frontal. The salvias here are majestic, open-hearted and ‘au fait’ with the growing conditions. A few came home. And yes, it was the nursery that I had been searching for – Hallelujah.

I Tell The Bees  Jo Shapcott

He left for good in the early hours with just
one book, held tight in his left hand:
The Cyclopedia of Everything Pertaining
to the Care Of the Honey-Bee; Bees, Hives,
Honey, Implements, Honey-Plants, Etc.
And I begrudged him every single et cetera,
every honey-strainer and cucumber blossom,
every bee-wing and flown year and dead eye.
I went outside when the sun rose, whistling
to call out them as I walked towards the hive.
I pressed my cheek against the wood, opened
my synapses to bee hum, I could smell bee hum.
‘It’s over, honies,’ I whispered, ‘and now you’re mine.’

 

 

 

 

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