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

calamagrostis-karl-foerster-peacock-garden

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.

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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.

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Signs of fresh new growth – Galanthus ‘S Arnott’ snuggle around the base of the yew . . .

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melanoselinum-decipiens-helleborus-x-hybridus

. . . 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.

trochodendron-high-garden

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.

chimonanthus-hamamelis

myrtus-wall-garden

More snowdrops frothing around under the myrtle in the corner of the Wall Garden – what bark, what stems, what beauty at 60 years old.

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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 . . .

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house-calamagrostis-yews-peacock-garden

. . . 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.

calamagrostis-karl-foerster-house-peacock-garden

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

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.

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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 . . .

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. . . 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 .  . . .

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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.

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cave

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

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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

 

 

dixter-1

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 . . .

leeks

veg-2

nerines

. . . 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.

actaea

dahlias-chrysanths

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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.

marmandes

nicotiana

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 . . .

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marks-hall-gardens-2

marks-hall-curving-hedges

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marks-hall-gardens-4

marks-hall-parottia-2

. . . Peter Thurman‘s tree planting. Extra special.

Hauser and Wirth offers up this inside . . .

bourgois-mother

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.

durslade-hauser-wirth-courtyard

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.

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oudolf-field-2-h-w-durslade

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

stables-oct-16

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 . . .

verg1

. . . 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  . . .

durslade-4

. . . 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.

durslade-2

molinias

durslade-3

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.

durslade-5

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.

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cosmos

long-border

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.

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water-planting

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marks-hall-3

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.

marks-hall-texture

markshall1

In our own schemes, we can’t help in indulging and relishing and delighting in musical tapestries . . . however . . .

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stables-2

. . . 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.

joan-mitchell-1979-salut-tom-corcoran

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

olives-pont-du-gard

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 . . .

wall-pont-du-gard

. . . 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 . . .

arch-pont-du-gard

path-pont-du-gard

. . . 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.

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pont-du-gard-detail

Masterful engineering – perfection in the detail of the construction – a simple and beautiful junction of stonework.

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solan-1

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.

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solan-3

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 . . .

solan-4

quarry-1

. . . 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 . . .

quarry-landscape

quarry-portarit

quarry-vines

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

 

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

chimonobambusa

. . . 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.

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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

pinus

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

 

 

 

 

 

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