February 15, 2017
Wandering around the garden in February – sort of warmish, still air and birdsong all around – the structure, that old overused term, is centre stage in the Peacock Garden where fluted stands of grasses alongside sculptural yet wayward form of dipsacus talk to each other within the framework of clipped yew.
Warm brown tones predominate – the newly composted beds are clean, the surfaces criss-crossed with canes laid flat identifying the recently planted groups and the lines of low aster bordering the paths looking burnt but seeming strangely tactile.
Signs of fresh new growth – Galanthus ‘S Arnott’ snuggle around the base of the yew . . .
. . . and informally sprinkle around fresh green fronds of the invasive Black Parsley better known as Melanoselinum decipiens – it’ll achieve human height in full summer – a charming monster. Yellow flowering Helleborus x hybridus inhabit this area too. All springlike.
Similar strong architecture in the High Garden – glossy fingered rosettes on Trochodendron araliodes – a plant perhaps hidden by showy neighbours in full summer.
And heavenly perfume from wintersweet and witch hazel – competing or complimenting ? Just delicious together.
More snowdrops frothing around under the myrtle in the corner of the Wall Garden – what bark, what stems, what beauty at 60 years old.
The Pool Garden, cleaned but not yet pruned back.
And returning to the Peacock Garden, in contrast, a hive of activity with gardeners busy in every corner . . . no visitors as yet . . .
. . . but soon thre will be, during the first weekend in April, the Plant Fair heralding the start of the season – be there or be square – and thanks Fergus for a good lunch. And a good chat.Interesting perhaps to look at other posts of differing seasons and times to the day.
What birds plunge through is not the intimate space,
in which you see all Forms intensified.
(In the Open, denied, you would lose yourself,
would disappear into that vastness.)
Space reaches from us and translates Things:
to become the very essence of a tree,
throw inner space around it, from that space
that lives in you. Encircle it with restraint.
It has no limits. For the first time, shaped
in your renouncing, it becomes fully tree. Rainer Maria Rilke
January 9, 2017
No wind, a little sun and some cloud and low tide so the beach is revealed offering a large expanse for strolling, digging for lug worms, bird watching and play in the pools – the gulls and oystercatchers are busy too.
This landscape in the foreground and the distance is etched in man-made lines but, close to, the organic forms of nature can be discovered. Crambe maritima throwing up pink bulbous shoots already . . .
. . . sand particles, clays and rocks with smooth rounded surfaces make small individual landscapes within the larger landscape and always changing amongst the constant of the lines of groynes – some hundreds of years old and some highly decorated by the tides.
Signs of peat extraction – methodically cut in parallel lines – and the dark, almost black, slippery ground surface of the petrified forest that stretches elegantly into the sea, show again how man interrupts nature. Nature’s lines are altogether more beautiful.
Turning to the west from the path along the sea defense, reveals a different vision of quietude – the brow of the ridge running from Winchelsea along Wickham Rock Lane with Icklesham beyond.
And the poem, it describes me or as I feel within my self.
There is particular music
Hunted for, dug up
Near airy, planet-spaces,
Or on the cold, sure lip
Of a cliff that will not take
The climb of a white break
But only permit a foam
Rising. So I make
A music out of places
Watched on careful nights,
Not circumscribed, no view
Caught in the camera-mind
To be developed later.
Words are music to find
In the places the colder, the better.
But I have needed South
And its unambiguous sun,
Its haze and fire on the breath.
Since childhood I’ve been one
Never at ease at home
Creating out of shame
Measured happiness. Elizabeth Jennings Particular Music
January 4, 2017
The Wednesday morning market in Place aux Herbes in Uzès displays many produits du terroirs, regional products and specialties. It’s a more compact affair, so easier to negotiate and altogether a more satisfying experience than the Saurday jamboree. Now, in winter, the architecture lining the narrow emptier streets is also easier to appreciate – stand back, look up and admire.
Look across, breathe in and admire here too, south of the town, in the Gorges du Gardon. Ferula stems of last year’s plants still stand tall although brittle and with a feeling of just about hanging on . . .
. . . the Gard flowing from the west into a horse shoe curve and then bending out again to the east and on under Pont du Gard until it slips into the Rhone, I’ve posted about about this much loved walk previously . . . .
. . . the winter sun highlights details like the dried fruits on the elder and the new growth of ferula . . .
From this panorama point le point de vue des castellas, a man made cave is visible used by the rock climbers who hang disjointedly like Looby Loo all along the south facing aspect.
The interior of the cave required a figure for purposes of scale but the view from this point was safer sans figure.
Neraby at the Galerie Marina, glimpses of the countryside still in skeletal mode . . .
. . . and inside with Robert Lobet and inspirational work.
You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather
an asset – that in view of the fact that spirit creates form
we are justified in supposing
that you must have brains. For you, a symbol of the
unit, stiff and sharp,
conscious of surpassing by dint of native superiority and
liking for everything
self-dependent, anything an
ambitious civilization might produce: for you, unaided, to
attempt through sheer
reserve, to confuse presumptions resulting from
observation, is idle. You cannot make us
think you a delightful happen-so. But rose, if you are
is not because your petals are the without-which-nothing
of pre-eminence. Would you not, minus
thorns, be a what-is-this, a mere
perculiarity? They are not proof against a worm, the
elements, or mildew;
but what about the predatory hand? What is brilliance
without co-ordination? Guarding the
infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to
the remark that it is better to be forgotten than to be re-
membered too violently,
your thorns are the best part of you. Marianne Moore Roses Only
November 20, 2016
This is another way of looking. A different way of looking, absorbing and learning. The last post was a flutter through the senses – specifically how lyrical planting can be interwoven with musical tone. Now I thought to use the same gardens (recently visited precedents and still fresh in the mind) to appreciate the variation in the planting style. Great Dixter offers up a masterclass in structural planting housing eclectic mixes of seasonal supporting cast. Quite often sensational and always well judged in the proportion and scale of the planting groups as the photo above shows. It’s close by so I visit it frequently as a friend
I liked the theatricality and also responded to the dynamics of the Walled Kitchen Garden at West Dean and If I lived closer I would befriend it. Here functionality is foremost but very closely followed by the aesthetic – admire the husbandry and wallow in the beauty too . . .
. . . admire nerines – not to everyone’s taste – this pleasing arrangement inspires me to search for the more unusual, rather than the everyday knicker pink forms. Wayward actaeas bending over the low hedge in a shady bed contrast bizarrely with the summer beddding chrysanths + dahlias on the sunny side.
Produce in the glass houses is grown to maximise the fruiting and to please the eye. The necessary order and control seems to work in tandem with the delight of growing decorative plants too.
The Walled Garden at Marks Hall is purely decorative. A series of garden rooms flow through the middle level – designed for young and old with seating aligned to views out, the old fish ponds now a lake, and to the spaces incorporating play forms such as mounds and pits, balls and steps to balance and climb on plus an Alice in Wonderland planted tunnel. Horseshoes of hedging swirl across the obvious geometry – three dimensioned hard and planted surfaces but it is the asymmetry that makes this garden within a garden special and if I lived closer I’d become a friend just to enjoy . . .
. . . Peter Thurman‘s tree planting. Extra special.
Hauser and Wirth offers up this inside . . .
and this in the surrounding courtyard. Molinia ‘Moorhexe’, Sesleria autumnalis, cimicifuga, gillenia and deschampsia under the Celtis. Piet Oudolf’s planting is just enough to let the exterior space breathe.
And in his field – a gently sloping site – grassy raised mounds offer the visitor a path through the centre with massed planting of perennials and grasses moving in from the boundaries. A bold concept but poor functionally with signage preventing any access to the mounds. Interesting to see how these very large areas of planting read in the early months of the year. I would ‘friend’ the gallery if they need me.
Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause. Octavio Paz Between Going and Staying
November 6, 2016
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 . . .
. . . 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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In our own schemes, we can’t help in indulging and relishing and delighting in musical tapestries . . . however . . .
. . . 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.
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
October 16, 2016
950 year anniversary of a ‘Good Thing’ (1066 and all that: a memorable history of england. yeatman + sellar). The town celebrates this after voting for Brexit which many think, was an acknowledgement for the predicament that the fishing fleet had found itself in during years within the EU. So, to stop being conquered and thus able to become ‘top nation’ again, has a new meaning . . . mmmm . . .
. . . here sheltering from the rain by The First Inn Last Out pub, we await the procession. The rain stops and here it comes down the Old Town High Street . . .
. . . drumming, shouting, clapping, explosions. This event continues in a Sussex town every week until November 5th when Lewes holds the culmination bonfire event celebrating and commemorating the burning of protestant martyrs and of a papal effigy following Pope Pius’ decision to restore the Catholic hierarchy. Images and models – guys – of popular hate figures were placed at the pinnacle of the bonfire. Some discussed who might be honoured this year . . .
. . . costumes are important, as are masks. There is an order for who wears what in the procession, for example, those dressed in striped smugglers tops should process before anyone in black tail coat. This year, a few Normans, but mostly it’s a motley collection and with surprisingly a good few tiny sleeping tots in push chairs – the overall feel is of bonhomie.
The crowd follow the procession to the Stade where the bonfire is lit and then the explosions, in the sky, commence. Great evening.
The poem needs to be read with any sort of English country accent that you can muster.
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And ‘Arold got shot in the eye.
The Duke, who were always a toff
Having no battles on at the moment,
Had given his lads a day off.
When some chap in t’ Conqueror’s ear
Said ‘Let’s go and put breeze up the Saxons;’
Said Bill – ‘By gum, that’s an idea’.
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting – ‘Hands up who’s coming to England.’
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t no choice.
The sea was so calm and so still,
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.King ‘Arold came up as they landed –
His face full of venom and ‘ate –
He said ‘lf you’ve come for Regatta
You’ve got here just six weeks too late.’At this William rose, cool but ‘aughty,
And said ‘Give us none of your cheek;
You’d best have your throne re-upholstered,
I’ll be wanting to use it next week.’
When ‘Arold heard this ‘ere defiance,
With rage he turned purple and blue,
And shouted some rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered – ‘And you.’
‘Twere a beautiful day for a battle;
The Normans set off with a will,
And when both sides was duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.
King ‘Arold he won the advantage,
On the hill-top he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his cads all around him,
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.
The Normans had nowt in their favour,
Their chance of a victory seemed small,
For the slope of the field were against them,
And the wind in their faces an’ all.
The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,
And soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started banging each other
‘Til the swineherds could hear them in Kent.
The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed both with buckler and sword –
But the Normans had best combination,
And when half-time came neither had scored.
So the Duke called his cohorts together
And said – ‘Let’s pretend that we’re beat,
Once we get Saxons down on the level
We’ll cut off their means of retreat.’
So they ran – and the Saxons ran after,
Just exactly as William had planned,
Leaving ‘Arold alone on the hill-top
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.
When the Conqueror saw what had happened,
A bow and an arrow he drew;
He went right up to ‘Arold and shot him.
He were off-side, but what could they do?
The Normans turned round in a fury,
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the fight were all over bar shouting,
And you couldn’t see Saxons for dust.
And after the battle were over
They found ‘Arold so stately and grand,
Sitting there with an eye-full of arrow
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and. Marriot Edgar
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