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.’

 

 

 

 

A busy month of eclectic experiences starting with the city – looking from the 6th floor of the Pompidou Centre  across the panorama . . .

. . . and looking down onto a canopy of plane trees. Here to see . .

Cy Twombly’s work from a career spanning 60 years. It was a marvellous exhibition; sadly over now. ‘Untitled’ painted in Rome during his minimal and conceptual phase in 1970’s to . . .

the ‘Rose Series’ Gaeta 2008 drawn from influence/ inspiration/ silent dialogue with Rilke’s poems. Stunning and thought provoking and an exhibition that has kicked me into reading Homer again – what a delight.

City to coast and plant buying. As equally pleasurable as being immersed in paintings. At Pépinière Filippi, plants suitable for dry gardening are displayed in a garden setting  – this below is perhaps yucca spp – possibly Yucca rostrata  – as well as . . .

. . . in the nursery. I can’t describe the excitement and anticipation of seeing  lines of pots and the plants that they hold  – mad I know.

And then it’s off to Bouzigues for some seafood to be enjoyed with a good view of Sète.

Coast to country and walking for a few days in the Cévennes. Through the chestnut woods and over streams passing dry stone walls coated in mosses and lichen. Moss is a plant but lichen a type of fungus needing algae so a symbiotic relationship . . .

. . . we encountered some history too – a group of huts set on a plateau -restored in hommage to the protestants who fought in the Camisards’ War in early 18th C. They fought a guerilla warfare ambushing the King’s men and them melting back into the wooded countryside. Locals also hid in the the buildings in the 1940’s  – the Nazis being too lazy to climb through the dense landscape.

In Saint Hilaire-de-Lavit, forgotten vehicles and a wondrous chêne vert in the graveyard . . .

. . . and iris and wisteria still in bloom.

May Day is celebrated in the village with a Marché des Fleurs under the  55 plane trees – my front garden – which shade the colourful displays. Some are very bright . . .

. . . some less so . . .

and some are quite discreet. The poem from Rilke should wrap this post up well. à bientôt.

Rose

so cherished by our

customs

dedicated to our memories

became almost imaginary

for being so linked

to

our

dreams  Rainer Maria Rilke

I have always seen planting combinations as musical imagery and sensation – those I find stimulating and pleasurable (not always the same sensation)  – vocal and instrumental sounds in continual movement – sometimes in harmony and occasional discord, soft and raucous, slow and lively . . . .

Once I developed 5.000 square metres of planting on an operatic theme with individual concepts that followed the episodic scenarios through the composition. The selection, placement, scale meaning the numbers or amounts, relationship of group to group or just the single show stopper is much like the weaving of aural tapestry but one that is never still. And that’s the point. I like the fact that nature is in control really . . .

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. . . in the Walled Garden at West Dean, human control is evident, as it should be as a place for production. But production, here is handled in a delightful chorus line of textures and pleasingly perfect in terms of the visual – texture, form and habit – even though really it’s all about the blindingly obvious – leeks, asparagus and the kale family. At Hauser and Wirth, Piet Oudolf’s Open Field seems like a scherzo within the surrounding countryside – fast-moving, dynamic and playful – the turfed mounds work visually at a distance  . . .

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. . . the Radić pavilion sits at the far end of the field in a swirling skirt of asters and petticoat of pointy persicaria – a true coda.

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molinias

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Crescendo and diminuendo, meter and rhythm, sonata contrasted with a touch of toccata is how the planting resonates across the field even with the muted colour of autumn; when the colour can drain from the perennials and grasses. Breathe it in, listen to it and forget the nomenclature.

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In contrast, The Long Border at Great Dixter, is never on the point of going into a winter sleep. Careful attention to infill divas and maestros means full on tempo.  It’s truly operatic.

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cosmos

long-border

At Marks Hall, it’s all about the trees and at their showy best in autumn – this autumn 2016 better than other years – through the arboretum, by the Walled Garden and in the Memorial Walk by the lakes.

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water-planting

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This Walled Garden, unlike West Dean, has lost the original use and been developed into a collection of decorative planting combinations around five contemporary terraced gardens (more of this in the next post) open to the lake. Hedges read as intermezzos and the stands of upright grasses as reprises within the variations. An interesting landscape – to be revisited.

marks-hall-texture

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In our own schemes, we can’t help in indulging and relishing and delighting in musical tapestries . . . however . . .

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. . . seeing Joan Mitchell’s Salut Tom in the Abstract Expressionism show (RA) reminded me of this planting scheme. So now I’ve jumped into another art form – gone on another tack – all good.

joan-mitchell-1979-salut-tom-corcoran

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep. Elizabeth Bishop

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‘A small but special Spring Plant Fair’ (the header on the flyer) this weekend at Great Dixter offered the opportunity for a gentle stroll around the garden as well as to view, buy, make notes about and order from exquisite plant nurseries. Wandering up the drive by foot and admiring the structure of the trees around the horse pond  –  an experience often missed if entering and exiting by car. A still and misty morning . . .

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. . . some plants just need more observation now such as the chusquea in relief against the castellated yew hedging.

 

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Simon’s stacks of timber await his decisions on their reinvention into a functional item. Organised groupings and practical arrangements show clearly in the early season before the masses of ornamental vegetation take over . . .

 

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In the field below the nursery and the shop, many small, established nurseries showed their plants, seeds and  products. Lohhof Stauden displayed many grasses and Wildside with Keith Wiley presented delicious, delicate looking but tough treasures.

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Around the Lower Moat, gunnera fronds are on view – the unfurling is magnificent to behold – such stature – accompanied by new vertical growth on the iris – slim and neat in contrast.

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From the orchard the house appears to retreat behind the flowering fruit at this time of year but in the Long Border the drama is centre stage. Confident planting with all companions appearing  well orchestrated. Great knobbly stems of salix, naked and as yet unadorned, punctuate the composition . . .

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. . . the beauty of emerging foliage and flower heads is quite breath taking.

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The Exotic Garden looks tantalising but we are not allowed in quite yet, as everything is under wraps until the temperatures rise, so the Topiary Lawn claims our attention  . . .

 

 

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. . . large trumpets of lime green and piped stems of bamboo and the coppery skirts on Euphorbia x pasteuri delight my eye around the Blue Garden.

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Pretty blossoms on Prunus tenella in the Sunk Garden – so feminine. And various compositions both detail at ground level and bulkier and more distant at eye level offer themselves up to those who can’t get enough . . .

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. . . Fergus has a thing about euphorbias and he’s right! Marvellous with the clipped yew backdrops . .

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and just to finish lines of early, fosteriana, double and late tulips. All one could wish for.

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Preludes and dawns, those spare awakenings

Gone before listened to, how we miss such

Arrays of opportunities. As sun lifts up

Its wings and birds tune their large orchestra,

We are invited out of sleep, called to

Take part, share all such daily, sweet beginnings.

 

Dramas of dreams rise up, the haze of them

Dries in the sun and the awakened mind.

The spirit’s opportunities see flights

We seldom heed. Good moments of regret

Vanish in our wanton rummagings,

O bold designs, O short disparaged nights. Elizabeth Jennings Missed Chances

 

fruit 1

We took the students to RHS Wisley to engage with, absorb and discuss end of summer planting as part of Advanced Planting Design module. From the fruit mound, we gazed across acres of orchard trees and marveled at the excellence of management and good house keeping that was on display. The dusters must be out at dawn to buff up the fruits on Malus ‘Bloody Ploughman’ . .

malus bloody ploughman

. .  scanning down the glasshouse borders, more commonly referred to as the Oudolf borders, the bleached heads of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’  make striking and graphic statements at this time of year.  And at close quarters, this upright grass looks glorious with Persicaria ‘Firedance’ . . .

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oudolf borders periscaria firedance 2

calamgrostis

. . . a sweeping brush stroke of Calamagrostis brachytricha – soft + tactile – forms yet another layer in a composition of  form, habit and texture. Mass planting of echinacea, upright dark cones standing proud now, flows like a stream back into the woodland.

oudoulf borders echinacea 1

oudolf borders perovskia close up

More C. brachytricha displaying its silky plumes that contrast well with the darker thistle heads of Eryngium giganteum.  There’s a great sense of power now in the character of shrubs like Cotinus – a dramatic last burst of visual ‘fortissimo’  – while the fingers of Perovskia ‘Little Spire’, also in their last flourish, demand attention in a more ladylike and willowy manner.

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hitchmough planting 2

In the perennial meadow, where the planting mix has been defined by James Hitchmough, we recognised Silphium perfoliatum, daisy heads on tall stems ranging away over lower planting in this interesting gritty landscape. We were a tad stumped however, identifying the architectural seed heads in the image above. Neither members of staff had a clue!

hitchmough planting 1

On Battleston Hill, a forest of gums caused discussion  . . .

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gums 4

. .  as did carpets of much smaller things. Even without the added bonus of flowers, cyclamen is a winner with foliage that is nigh perfection.

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The following day, a trip to Great Dixter , without the students although encouraged to visit, to see Conifer (L) and Miscanthus (R) perform in the annual Dixter Dachshund Day. They did well. Thanks Perry? or is it Adele for the facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.563475030367660.1073741834.152726031442564&type=1

conifer   miscanthus

Signs of the changing season here too . . . .

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dixter sun flowers

. .  but the dynamic structure of this garden is never masked by the seasonal planting . . .

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. . .  the one compliments the other.

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dixter heleniums chrysanthemums

Here the fruit is integrated with the decorative planting. Some of these pear trees are very old and make a charming knarled lattice frame through which to view other areas.  And, the cotinus in the Long Border, is behaving just like its relation at Wisley as one would expect.

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In the Exotic Garden, there is abundant growth this year. Carefully squeezing down the narrow paths is like a voyage of discovery . . .

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. . .  so good to see Mrs Oakley Fisher, once more, and still in flower too. It’s all about the plants, of course.

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Out in the late amber afternoon,
Confused among chrysanthemums,
Her parasol, a pale balloon,
Like a waiting moon, in shadow swims.

Her furtive lace and misty hair
Over the garden dial distill
The sunlight,–then withdrawing, wear
Again the shadows at her will.

Gently yet suddenly, the sheen
Of stars inwraps her parasol.
She hears my step behind the green
Twilight, stiller than shadows, fall.

“Come, it is too late,–too late
To risk alone the light’s decline:
Now has the evening long to wait,”–
But her own words are night’s and mine.   Hart Crane  In Shadow

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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

malus 1

The nursery at Great Dixter opens well before the garden. This is a very good arrangement for us locals as we can shop and then start the journey around the garden (as a Friend, of course) before the world arrives.  There was a fresh energy in the air this morning.  Folks who know the set up will understand the chronology of the pics that follow. The group of malus by the lane  full of frothy white blossom partners the line of ash opposite looking OK??? fingers crossed . . .

fraxinus

4woven fence

. .  delicate touch on the woven fence – just enough for the country setting. Stacks/heaps/piles of hazel and… and … other timber.

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7 walnut

Into the Front Meadow carpeted now with camassia.

8 camassias + yew hedge

And a couple of residents enjoying the sun at last by the front door. People who know me well also know that I am a little taken with these. They remind me of the 4 that I’ve had over many years. This is 2 year old Conifer in the foreground . . .

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. . . and Miscanthus who is about 6 months old. She’s very sweet.

10 new sweetie

11 birds

Strolling around to the Peacock Garden and the Carnival of Birds – my rename of Daisy Lloyd’s Parliament of Birds  . . .  I see the first of many Ferula with main stalk thrusting skywards.

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A few views from the Cat Garden, High Garden and the Orchard Garden in no particular order.

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14 view

15 view

By know I’ve decided that Fergus has become obsessed with ferulas – similar to his great liking of verbascums a couple of years ago. But then he’s master of the visual and the horticultural. Down to the Orchard where orchids are just flirting with the buttercups . . .

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. . and on down the Long Border where a snapshot of the strong colour combinations  that Christo enjoyed was framed.

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Muso basjoo, in the Exotic garden, still in their winter clothes but signs of delights flowering well on the walls around the Sunken Garden and a glimpse of a ghost.

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last

And for those students of Hadlow and University of Greenwich, I caught up with Kemal who was looking suitably nervous about his plant idents for the Great Dixter study days – some sympathy or a wry smile maybe, but fond memories.

Within my Garden, rides a Bird
Upon a single Wheel --
Whose spokes a dizzy Music make
As 'twere a travelling Mill --

He never stops, but slackens
Above the Ripest Rose --
Partakes without alighting
And praises as he goes,

Till every spice is tasted --
And then his Fairy Gig
Reels in remoter atmospheres --
And I rejoin my Dog,

And He and I, perplex us
If positive, 'twere we --
Or bore the Garden in the Brain
This Curiosity --

But He, the best Logician,
Refers my clumsy eye --
To just vibrating Blossoms!
An Exquisite Reply!  Emily Dickinson
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