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Occasionally, Great Dixter stays opens in the early evening when the garden is much less populated and so easier to absorb. The Front Garden is still in meadow mode with soft blue flowers of Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clark’ dancing through the grassy herb layer. Occasionally Fergus gives an informal talk  – last Saturday he talked to the Friends of Great Dixter about successional planting, supported by his mind maps which are something to behold, and introduced this year’s group of students from Germany, US, Japan, UK and Turkey who gave short but delightful explanations about their horticultural life pre Dixter. We could wander around the garden before and after and soak it all in. June is the time of reflection and review of the past combined with the chance to develop and fine tune intuitive skills. This garden in June . . . mmm . . .

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We heard about staking methods and the bedding out of plants that are grown on from seed annual and biennials in seasonal batches often 6 months apart. Cornflowers, tall and precise, are a case in point in The Solar Garden.

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In The Wall Garden, great contrasts to the ‘soft meadow look’ appear with the container plants. An expansive composition of form, texture, habit + confident use of colour.  The domed head of Geranium madarense in flower (below) echoes the arch –  clever. Looking at this grouping, foliage is to the fore.

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Looking down on detailed combinations such as Ladybird poppies filtering through the honesty seeds and the fading tones of Smyrnium perfoliatum and then looking up and capturing a gutsy long view beyond the verbascum torch to the clipped gateway and the walnut in the Front Garden – these aren’t haphazard planting combinations but are all clearly thought through.

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The light is dropping away so contrasting colours take centre stage but touches of delicacy are half hidden and so offer surprise on investigation such as this delicate pea wrapping itself through the thick stemmed tree peony.

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Wandering through the garden rooms, the contrasts and, therefore the changes in character and mood, invite reflection – from my point of view anyway. Lessons to be learnt at every visit – a joy.

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This month the variegated portuguese laurel throws fragrant flowers over the narrow path leading to the Orchard and High Garden. A modest shrub but does the business when required. Again contrasts flood the view-point . . .

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Seeing what’s going on in the Vegetable Garden is a must on any visit here but this time my eye was taken with the elliptical spread of acid green Euphorbia in the prairie. Brush against the Leptospermum lanigerum in the High Garden  – powerfully scented white flowers disguising the silver foliage at this time of year – and then look  . . .

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. . . through vertical strands of Thalictrum and Miscanthus and Stipa gigantea arching nicely all around with full stops of the odd Ferula flower . . .

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. . . blood red flowers on a rose in the Long Border taken with a long lens from The Orchard stop the eye whereas a pretty spread of dwarf campanula gently washes the base of Lutyens curved steps.

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Then a quick foray into the Exotic Garden where the winter coats and shawls around the bananas have been cast aside. Mostly a green foliage room with the occasional rose in flower prior to the big visual explosion that will happen here from July onwards. What have I learnt? So much; marvellous.

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This must be the month when Mercury started it,

tongue in cheek, stirring his sky-pot,

scattering the winged languages.

 

First, the pictograph with its chiselled petals,

then its linear equivalent, syllabic –

the exact whistlestop shape of the swallow.

 

Philology: How sound falls in love with the script.

 

What I have to put my mind to

is June’s own rain-noise,

the talk that drowns out the traffic.

 

Fricatives and plosives, tree-language

learned in the schoolroom of the wind.

 

Translations from the rose-garden,

the half million sweet nothings you can’t make out.

 

Bird-gossip,

blown husks like ripped envelopes

rowan-flowers white as folded-open letters.

 

And that black man

under the branch stock still with his ear

to the air and its underwater wash of shadows.

Alison Fell  June Lightyear

 

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‘Finally’ is used in the title as I feel bad that this post didn’t make it on the day – very poor from the this blogger’s perspective. The alexanders are in full flower now and best to search for the young shoots  if they can be found. It’s an acquired taste but would surely have been foraged at many hundreds, maybe thousands of May Day festivals. Background information and for previous posts on this colourful extravaganza that dominates Hastings Old Town every year on May Bank Holiday. click here

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The crowd was thick down at Rock-a-Nore waiting for Jack to exit the net huts and see the light of day again 12 months on. Headdresses are the first thing that catch the eye with the usual mix – lots of foliage, horns, feathers, tat and more thoughtful compositions – which merge together when folks get closer and closer straining to see when the procession might start . . .

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. . .  a few look nervous about the whistling, loud bangs and unidentifiable noises. Or is he just bored?  Some intricate costumes need close inspection and some couples just look so dapper without much decoration . . .

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. . lots of green and relief to see some red – but who is he, or she?  Finally we get underway and Jack appears festooned with ribbons and his neat crown ribbons.

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For me, the day would not be the same without this couple. They appear in all previous posts and in many guises but all exquisitely designed and crafted. Today, he (Bob) becomes the pope in the foreground and his female companion just hidden behind – well, she shouldn’t be there anyway. A pope with a partner?

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Her hat is something to wonder at – equally the footwear . . .

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. . his mitre held many sprigs of spider plant and a mackerel for good measure. And he had a furry tail.

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So a good deal of banging sticks from The Sweeps and some with garlands and clogs from somewhere more refined than Hastings surely?  A very neat group . . .

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. . . and the fire eater, nicknamed ‘the baby’ goodness knows why as this year the ‘baby’ has developed adult chest hair. He received applause quite rightly from the imbibers at The Dolphin when doing his stuff.

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fire-eater-jack-in-the-green-festival-hastings-1184664 Here his is last year ( image from the web).

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As the procession moves up All Saints Street and then crosses The Bourne to descend The Old Town High Street, I meandered around looking at a property that wasn’t quite right but it was very green and then on to stare at a few shop windows with the usual bits and pieces displayed outside. Also enjoyed the reflections that were offered up . . .

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. . . and find a place by Café Maroc to see it all again.

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And I can see and admire it all for the third viewing when they reach the top of Croft Road (the home of the famous allotment) before the procession turns left and then just makes a short flat run to the castle where jollifications, eating and drinking and making merry can really start.  The pope is already looking forward to the final events. It’s a steep hill, a hot day and many struggle under the weight of costume and heavy musical instruments. Bye-bye  Jack, until next year  – goodness knows where I’ll be then.

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last

last last

 

If you were to think of painting May

you would think of a locus of appearances –

the nature-goddess yanked from the soil

like a snake from a hole and shaping herself

 

as a tortoise or a sheaf of barley.

 

You would look with a clear eye

of Aphrodite Kyanopeis at her washing day

and see the starched iris, the hyacinth,

the sickle-blade of every stainless shadow,

 

and you would dream of a going-into-blue

like a stippled brushwork of wisteria

and the blue glaze of the sky where the bees meet,

 

then also of its exact golden opposite,

 

for honey is the colour of sun through eyelids

and above all the pure food of the Oracle,

transparent as the truth her handmaids the Melissae

 

etch on the air by their way-of-buzzing,

their way-of-flying.  Alison Fell  6   May  from Lightyear

 

 

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The Great Dixter Christmas Fair is held this weekend. After a wander around the stalls set up in the house, a chance to wander around the garden for the last time this year – for most of us anyway. In the Barn Garden, the fig, now bare, stretched out to take as much of the winter sun as possible is a thing of great beauty . . .

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fig 2 barn garden

. . I find the piles of compost and mulches and the stacks of felled timber equally beautiful in a functional sense.

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wood

The clipped buxus by the front of the house have a melodious form. Fergus has tackled a hebe in a similar manner; I’m not sure about this aesthetically or is the formal European treatment of a New Zealander that disconcerts me?  Interesting though. Looking through the archive, I find a post from last November (written a couple of weeks earlier in the month) where a shot of the oast and the border in the Blue Garden is almost identical . . .

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blue garden

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. . . Dixter is a strange mix of the vernacular and the strength of form and texture in the planting – some contemporary. Very close to the hovel (above) in the Exotic Garden is a great explosion of foliage and vertical, soft and furry buds on a tetrapanax. No sign of the new dogs today, but Titch was around craving attention and receiving much affection. . .

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titch

towards cat garden

. .  across the Cat Garden, behind the Long Border, seedheads are slowly turning to biscuit tones . . .

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. .   but the Long Border itself still has spots of colourful fruits and lingering flowerheads – delicate in composition. And opposite, the mulberry too shows delicacy in its form and texture.

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As does this grouping in the corner of the Vegetable Garden looking across the Orchard . . .

from veg garden to orchard

. . .  by the Horse Pond, great stands of gunnera slowly collapsing after their performance. Applause and much appreciation.

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What’s green is going, taking

with it the last hiding-places

of the light, its spills

and splashes.

The trunk of the one wild cherry

ink black, like the swan’s neck,

its leaves sharp scarlet beaks.

The land’s flayed bare by its reckonings

with the century –

torn off a strip,

like the sod that Private Harry Farr

stops under.

The moon pins its white square

of flannel over the heart.

Dawn drips its slate-light

across the field,

scratches another name

on its sum of wonders.  Alison Fell    November (6)    Lightyear

(Harry Farr was a young Yorkshire soldier shot in Flanders for so-called desertion)

Chelsea foray

May 23, 2013

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Rather shocked to see that I haven’t been to Chelsea for 3 years. Years ago, it was an event to look forward to – the development of show gardens, sound second hand book stalls where work by Sylvia Crowe and Nan Fairbrother could be found, the design tent (my home for many years) and mostly the delight of Beth Chatto’s stand in the Grand Marquee. Now, Twitter, Facebook et al tells us exactly what we’ll find so the sense of discovery doesn’t exist. The sun used to shine too, on the odd occasion. Yesterday, the place was packed. We shuffled around trying to poke a nose over shoulders of crowds that appeared to be looking at exhibits but of course were gawping at the TV celebs busy filming. Due to the heavy cloud and the bitter cold, I made straight for the flowers  . . .  inside . . . .

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. . classy stand created by Avon Bulbs. Deep maroon Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’, white fringed Tulipa ‘Daytona’, Allium ‘White Empress’ and Anthericum liliago major stood serene. Hard to miss is Sue from Crug Farm Plants – colourful gear and great jewellery  – manning the display of foliage rich specimens. Many are grown from seed collected from annual plant hunting expeditions. Show stopper here is Disporum longistyllum with black and green stems standing proud.

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As sculptural, but to be pitied, a large excavated tree on the East Malling Research Stand with all roots exposed. Folks edged around it nervously and were supposed to wonder at how ‘scientific knowledge can be focused on rootstocks and growing techniques, through to the modern application of genetic studies to advance fruit culture’. Boffins can be brutal! To the other extreme, opulence and pure decoration from the Far East but quite hideous . . .

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. .  stonking lupins and touches of ethereal beauty  – geum, verbascum and ladybird poppies – created by Rosy Hardy

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The light’s quite strange inside the Grand Marquee and I’m nowhere in terms of photography which is a frustrating combination. Below is the evidence, oh dear. Beautiful and imaginative display of cascading amaryllis badly captured. This stand by the Dutch firm of  Warmenhoven showing their fabulous bulbs upwards and downwards ticked all the boxes for me and, amazingly enough,  for the RHS, and we hardly ever agree.

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Well, outside I shivered but this lady carried off her outing with great aplomb and I did see a few hats and remembered Jane accordingly.

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A few of the show gardens warrant some exposure here. Ulf Nordfell designed this for Laurent-Perrier. Simple, clean and classical. Sleek, calm and contemporary. Exquisite use of crafted materials – soft and sublime planting – all excellent. However, I much preferred his  Linnaeus Garden of 2007. And someone has just asked Why? Well, the narrative in that garden was strong, clear and compelling – that’s my answer.

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Unfortunately for Ulf, he was partnered alongside this great spectacle seen below . . .

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. .  Christopher Bradley – Hole designed this  . . . he can do the narrative so well. And he courageously filled the space with plants and let us rest our elbows on green oak balustrade so we could breath it all in and, of course, admire his skill and that of the contractor.

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The inspiration cane from the English countryside  – field patterns and native plants with some Japanese overtones and a little Mien Ruys too perhaps?  But I didn’t mention that to him – next time perhaps . . .

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. .  the profiles of green oak and charred oak that wrap 2 sides of the garden have caused a stir.

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And something that caused another stir is The Trailfinders Australian Garden. On the rock bank and filled with glorious plants like Brachtrichon rupestris sourced from a nursery in Sicily. The chaps on the stand were thrilled with their Best in Show – such enthusiasm rubbed off all around.

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The product stands at the show have their share of hideous rubbish  . . . a strange dichotomy . . . well designed ( mostly!!) show gardens and quite lovely plants on the nursery stands and pure crap on the product stalls. This ghastliness above loomed over the small ‘Fresh’ gardens where designers are asked to be brave and challenge preconceptions. Some achieved this and some didn’t quite. I liked this  – Digital Capabilities – where the concept of engagement of technology and physical space was explored by Harfleet and Harfleet. The degree of Twitter activity manipulated the movement of screens.

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And this garden ‘After the Fire’ was also popular especially with me. After last summer’s spell in Languedoc and Provence enjoying the garrigue landscape, this little landscape connected completely. Regeneration of plant life following forest fires  . . . seed collected by Kelways and nurtured to provide some of the planting. Huddled amongst the burnt stems are members of the Mediterranean Garden Society from Greece and France

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Always interesting to see and learn how recycled materials can be used effectively as on The Wasteland but I didn’t understand the planting especially the siting of 3 blowsy pink rhodos! Echoes of the past.

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But I did understand this stand of Sneeboer garden tools. Best thing to finish off with and good to see you again James  Aldridge!

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The following were not allowed in the house:

A lone glove, dropped.

The new moon’s crescent glimpsed in the mirror.

The sky-spars of an open umbrella.

There was also the rubic of May

and its blossoms. Granny barred the door

against hawthorn and the sloe,

even the rowan with its friendly acrid smell of underwear,

so that Bride the white goddess

could not dance herself in from the moor,

or too much beauty break and enter

her winter store of darkness.  Alison Fell  5 May

filigree of trees

February 7, 2013

photo (2).JPG chestnut

An installation with a sense of fragility at The Towner Gallery. The branches of sweet chestnut appear to hover across the floor of the gallery space. A strong material takes on another character when organised vertically. Olaf Eliasson made this Forked Forest Path as part of the Bon hiver exhibtion – it had great charm and the visitor is totally engaged physically. I wonder  how different woods would work – like stands of species in cash crop wood – in a large venue like the turbine hall at Tate Modern. Of course, Olaf knows all about that space.

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Really don’t know if I should have taken these pix – the attendant was busy with a couple of young ladies – but the temptation was too great . . . .

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. . . Kelly Richardson is also showing at The Towner. Her videos of known landscape elements taking on an unknown appearance through movement, treatment and juxtaposition are thought provoking, amusing and a little unnerving. The moving images have the strength to suck the onlooker in  – Richardson’s world easily becomes the real world.  I’m not linking directly to her videos but suggest this link.  . . .

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the last frontier

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. . back with my feet on the ground, I thought to engage with the still canopies in some quiet weather . . .

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. .  the closest tree groups are in the local gardens designed and built by the Burtons. The environment felt frozen in time. Just gazing into the composition that the filigree of trees encapsulated was absorbing . . . .

gate house

the clockhouse

still tree

stretched tree

tree breasting a squall

tree regrouping

tree fingering a hill

tree-shadow on the mist above the moor

tree rain-blind against glass

tree with its hands flying

to its mouth

tree-branch whipping

a sky sullen as youth

tree-branch fallen in the garth

tree-log drying

at the fireside

tree-log knitting its red-and-black

patchwork in the hearth

tree-log whistling its psalm

of surrender

tree-log hollowing

tree-boat borne

on the yellow sails of the flames

funeral-boat whose tiller the axe

leans by the open door  Alison Fell   Lightyear January 3

Just to record today January 20 2013. And also to take a breath of air, so across to the front and look east . . . .

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. . and to the west.

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And to look down at the turnstones rushing around on the beach – little dark smudges, poor things.

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And herring and black headed gulls . . .

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. . being spied on by a penguin! and a friend.

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Trudge back along the alley and admire the Euphorbia mellifera doing the best it can opposite the front door. Go inside and read some poems in the warm.

euphorbia mellifera

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. Robert Frost  Fire and Ice

January gives me a dark eye

and a light.

one patched like a pirate,

obliged to look in,

the other squinting out at the park

like a spring animal.

What my dark eye knows

Is the blind underbelly

of the turf.

the brown dog

in the dream that defies gravity.

and, in the premature dusk,

Concorde swooping down from a storm-cloud,

not silver for once

but tar-black, lucid

as a galleon in the hieratic spread

of its sails.   Alison Fell  6 January  Lightyear

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