18 degrees forecast so a quick trip to Grau du Roi – takes about 1 1/2 hours from Uzès but with the tensions – blockages and difficulties finding petrol at the moment – all in the lap of the gods. Turned out very well with lunch by the canal.

The village, based around fishing cottages, gained administrative buildings and was recognised as a section of Aigues-Mortes in 1867, becoming a separate commune in 1879. The village of fishers and farmers turned to tourism at the end of the 19th century, with the extension of the Nîmes Aigues-Mortes railway line in 1909:[5] bathers arrived en masse, and on the 26 April 1924 the French President of the Republic decreed that Le Grau-du-Roi was a “station climatique et balnéaire” (beach resort town). The rail line enabled local producers to market their white grapes and fish nationally.

World War II affected the village profoundly. Axis troops were stationed in the village, and the local council dissolved. By 1942, many of the inhabitants had fled: the coast was on the front line and bristled with tank traps and minefields. The village was controlled by blockhouses, and the canal was shut off. Wood from houses was used to build defences. Le Grau-du-Roi was liberated in August 1944, and the coast started to rebuild, with a focus on tourism. The effort was coordinated by the plan Racine. Architect Jean Balladur was put in charge, and he designed structures capable of supporting a large number of tourists, while also supporting the local way of life and environment. Part of the plan included the new marina at Port Camargue.[2] This was launched in 1968 and finished in 1985 – info from Wikipedia.

The sandy L’Espiguette beach sits south-west of Aigues- Mortes ( dead – water) and the étangs, shallow and saline, and surrounding marshes of the Camargue inhabited by flamingoes, white horses and bulls.

Patterns of the effect of wind and water but no plastic to be seen. As a regional parkland it is very well maintained. one of those extra special days. The poem is about a different coast but I like it.

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before—
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon—
Still going on, all of it, still going on!
To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf
(Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough
Under the sky), or gently up and down
Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white
And grasping at enormous air, or wheel
The rigid old along for them to feel
A final summer, plainly still occurs
As half an annual pleasure, half a rite,
As when, happy at being on my own,
I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,
Or, farther back, my parents, listeners
To the same seaside quack, first became known.
Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene:
The same clear water over smoothed pebbles,
The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles
Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars,
The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between
The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first
Few families start the trek back to the cars.
The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to the water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.
Philip Larkin To the Sea

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 

 

an afternoon with some sun prompts a visit to birds, habitats, landscape at Dungeness. Flat lands – gravel pits, pebbles, tamarisk, buckthorn, reeds – offer diverse habitats. Sparrows and Cetti’s warblers sing in the hedges. . .

. . . while shovelers, Slavonian grebe and smews can be viewed from the hides.

Apparently, just missed the Bewick swans and a bittern but a glimpse of a great white egret storking the shallows made up for the misses and there’s always someone to let you know what is where or was here – just now.

EDF own the power station and, now, the Dungeness estate. A strange back cloth to the cormorants perching like black shrouds on the submerged scrub . . .

. . . it’s very mellow and somewhat ghostlike. Perhaps this is fleece stretched into the twigs. The sheep are huge with thick wooly coats and some big bellies.

Lydd church standing proud and a few spreads of coppery willow . . .

 

. . . at Prospect Cottage as the clouds move in across the low sun – all is quiet.

 

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. John Keats

 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.’

 

 

 

 

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

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