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.




I’ll tell of the Battle of Hastings,
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And ‘Arold got shot in the eye.
It were this way – one day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff
Having no battles on at the moment,
Had given his lads a day off.
They’d all taken boats to go fishing,
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’.
Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting – ‘Hands up who’s coming to England.’
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t no choice.
They started away about tea-time –
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

 The Battle of Hastings


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.

Entering it

you enter yourself:

the world connects

and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,

there is always

a body stretched:

a rainbow.

I’ll sleep beneath its arches. Octavio Paz


cairn + lotus

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.

terrace + pool

Many pools alongside the dry stone walls holding the changes in level provide habitats for dragon flies, frogs and snails.


better 2 weeks ago

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. . . .

big cairn

. . . 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.

arch final

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


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 . . .

phyllostachys edulis


. . . 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 . . .



bamboo maze 2

loathian 1

. . .  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 . . .

chickens 3

loathian architecture

pigs 2

la ferme

. . .  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 . . .

walkway 1

trachycarpus close up

surprise 1

surprise 2

. . . hidden in a plantation, another surprise; and another . . . with a hint of what’s to come . . .

surprise 3

surprise 5

. . . 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.

surprise 6

surprise 8

surprise 7

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?

dragon valley 2

dragon valley 4


Some beauties here including Loropetalum chinense; note to self – use it more.

surprise loropetalum

composition 2viridis

The plant combinations are very good – some quite unexpected . . .

tree ferns

. . .  and to finish Phyllostachys viridis ‘Sulfurea’ with the younger green stems that turn to sulpher tones in the second year.

phyllostachys sulphurea

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






in tuscany

May 23, 2016

terrace poppies olives 2 copy

a short visit to friends just south of Florence. vineyard and olive groves spread across their property retained in practical flat ribbons  – some grass mown and some left long with decorative results . . .

olive old copy

. . . old olives are retained if they are single stem but those from the bad frost some years ago are being removed and replaced with fresh young plants.

terrace poppies olive copy

textures copy

Around the buildings, the owners prefer to leave the fluffy growth on the canopy. Pleasing contrasting textures in this composition . . .

cork oak 1 copy

. . . and also on the cork oak.

pienza 1

In Pienza, narrow views out to the wonderful countryside even on a cold and cloudy May day. Who gave these streets such pretty names?

pienza 2

pienza 3

pienza 4

pool2 copy

Many years ago we designed this pool garden within what once was a walled kitchen garden. Simple, clean lines, reflections, peaceful – what more to say? only that these friends understand importance of good management; many clients do not.

pool cupressus window copy

The love of the place and the people who inhabit it – this is the reason behind the choice of the poem.

poppies cupressus copy

The tumult in the heart

keeps asking questions.

And then it stops and undertakes to answer

in the same tone of voice.

No one could tell the difference.


Uninnocent, these conversations start,

and then engage the senses,

only half-meaning to.

And then there is no choice,

and then there is no sense;


until a name

and all its connotation are the same. Elizabeth Bishop

to esplanade

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  . . .

flamenco 1

flamenco 2

. . . waiting to take the stage and perform with their instructor, or was she a judge? Whatever she was big personality . . .

flamenco 3

. . . we were all transfixed by her charisma.

flamenco 4

esplanade fountain

Around the fountain, horse men and woman, from Uzès perfomed with impressive skill . . .

horse skills 3

horse skills

horse skills 2

. . . and another formidable horse woman was also centre stage.

in charge 2

Crowds overflowed into the street around the bodegas . . .


bodegas 2

. . . full of bonhomie. Beer and sangria flowing but no one seemed to show after effects . . .

concerts 1

. . . and musicians started impromptu concerts . . .

concerts 2

concerts 3

concerts 5

. . . full of fun and some performers showing superb skills.

bodegas 4


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


salvias chateau 1

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 . . .

a table

. . . the planting, edging the garden, reverts to the ever popular flowery mead style.

a table perimeter

la cuisine africaine 3

‘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.

cuisine africaine

cuisine africaine 2

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 . . .

carre et rond 2

. . . 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.

carre et rond 1

carre et rond 3

poplares 1

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.

chris drury 1


Selected existing mature trees are partnered with sculptural but also practical landscape elements . . .

sculptural bench

. . . 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.

rhus + Loire

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

Season’s fastness

Season singing

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.






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