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 chance to walk a part of the Sentier des Lauzes through the pine and sweet chestnut forests in the Ardèche. Lauze are slate slabs so the terrain is often schist and therefore loose. Thanks to Louisa Jones for the nod on exploring this environment  – well described in her book Mediterranean Landscape Design Vernacular to Contemporary and giving some background on how a non – profit organisation of locals and incomers grew the project. “one of those abandoned terraced landscapes in the Mediterranean with an uncertain future” Martin Chenot, founder.

Took this pic through my legs – just one of those things.

The walk is well balanced with enclosed wooded areas contrasting with  those of openness. Here beyond the lonely pine  views across to Dompnac. Christan Lapie’s figures contemplating the view too . . .

. . . ‘Le Belvédère des Lichens’ discreetly positioned by Gilles Clément also looks across the valley of the Drobie. Louisa describes the decks as; ‘unobtrusive:simple wooden platforms placed among lichen-covered rocks and out towards the medieval chapel of Saint-Régis . . outlines,textures and tones participate in the same sense of flow. But Clément is a naturalist, concerned not only to feel but to know. It matters very much to him that lichens are symbiotic union of algae and mushroom, and that these four species – pale Rhizocarpon, silvery Parmelia, stiff sombre Lasallia and grey Aspicilia – involve different scales not only in space but also in time. In addition, some species indicate clean air. Learning how they live gives wider resonances to the art without the abstraction of the symbol. this particular mix can only exist right here, at this moment, and will be different tomorrow’. (Louisa Jones)

To discover the art works here needs a sense of exploration and inquisitiveness unlike those at Chateau  de la Coste  – but that’s another issue and another post – where attention is to the artwork as against to the setting. My opinion of course.  Commercialism against  . . .  romantic veneration and a wish to understand how the landscape and the inhabitants worked in a sense of harmony – that was necessary as it was a working environment. Martin Chénot: ‘The important thing is to keep walking, to harvest the landscape with eyes, muscles, feet, mind and dreams”.

The walk takes about 5 hours – my group suffered road closures and mapping errors so we only managed about a half – but looking forward to returning and seeing especially le Jardin des Figuiers et l’atelier refuge. An exhilarating day.

 

Back at our base, recharging the batteries and admiring the other residents and noting the signs of the change of the season.

Blind I know with senses arising from fern and tree,

Blind lips and fingers trace a god no eyes can see,

Blind I touch love’s monster from that bounds

My world of field and forest, crowns my hills.

Blind I worship a blind god in his hour

Whose serpent – wand over my soul has power

To lead the crowding souls back from the borders of death,

Heaven’s swift – winged fiat, earth’s primeval monolith. Kathleen Raine The Herm

 

 

Below Mont Lozère, in the Cévennes where sweet chestnuts abound, sits Le Jardin du Tomple described as a ‘jardin anglais’. A term that is off-putting to me after all I have Great Dixter, Sissinghurst Castle and any number of English gardens on my doorstep for a good part of the year. Certainly the garden has an air of informality with curving grass paths flowing around large mixed borders packed with mature flowering shrubs – hydrangeas, roses, camellias, cornus – perennials et al and there is just a small amount of typical Mediterranean terracing.  So my understanding is that it is the planting design that has defined the description. The garden is also described as ‘secret’. Well, it’s hidden away amongst glorious trees – pines and cyprus, poplars and châtaignes –  the access is difficult but that, in effect, makes it an intriguing objective. And it is worthwhile.

The key to any succesful large garden is the water source whether river, springs or bore holes and here in this area it’s a necessity. The river has its arm around the garden and the water from the surrounding wooded hills is organised into canals, bassins and an informal rill. The huge lumps of schist rock from glacial fallout dominate the water course and the garden . . .

. . . there is a traditional water feature and nearby a marvellous clump of Iris x robusta ‘Gerard Darby’  – a truly brilliant plant – evergreen here and with just enough moisture in a shady area to show to full potential.

Cornus kousa surrounds this small pigeonnier and many more varieties are being planted throughout the site . . .

. . . more typically English is philadelphus perhaps and roses everywhere; more than 350 and many old varieties.

Areas of  mown grass offer easy circulation and a chance to enjoy the wilder, meadow type grassland.

On the wall of the mas is a collection of old implements hung in a decorative manner . . .

. . . equally decorative is the echeveria planting within the dray stone walling. I will be copying this, thank you, and maybe the setting to rest of old gardening tools too. So summing up and to answer my own question, a succesful juxtaposition of English and French garden styles – quirky with a personal touch created by the mother and daughter owners, Françoise and Véronique, much to see and admire  – and hurrah for their use of plant labels.

Visit it in the dark. Cicadas

Are inside your head as your hand

reaches towards the bark: you feel

The latent heat first then the surface,

Scrubbed with lichen you can’t see

But know from the fizz where touch

Meets memory. Before all this,

the scent, which is anti-language

(only, as it drifts into your body

the words slip in, as well),

and made of earth, air, sun

and human consciousness. Jo Shapcott     Of Mutability   Cypress

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

groyne-1

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.

groyne-2

close-up-3

distance-dungeness-wind-turbines

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 . . .

crambe-shoots

sand-pattern

. . . 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.

clay-rounds

clays-and-marls

decorated-groyne

landscape-1

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.

landscape-2

petrified-forest-timber

gulls

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.

pett-level

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

Unsurrendered to,

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

Relishing loneliness

Creating out of shame

Measured happiness. Elizabeth Jennings Particular Music

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town and country

January 4, 2017

uzes

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.

uzes-2

ferula

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 . . .

gardon-from-west

. . . 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 .  . . .

gardon-flowing-east-to-meet-rhone

elder

. . . the winter sun highlights details like the dried fruits on the elder and the new growth of ferula . . .

ferula-new-growth

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.

cave-long-view

cave

The interior of the cave required a figure for purposes of scale but the view from this point was safer sans figure.

gardon-from-cave

Neraby at the Galerie Marina, glimpses of the countryside still in skeletal mode  . . .

galerie-marina

. . . and inside with Robert Lobet and inspirational work.

robert-lobet

You do not seem to realize that beauty is a liability rather
than
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
brilliant, it
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

 

 

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