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 . . .

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. . . 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  . . .

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. . . 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.

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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.

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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

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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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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.

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

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. . . 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.

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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

in tuscany

May 23, 2016

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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 . . .

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. . . 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.

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

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. . . and also on the cork oak.

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

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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.

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

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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

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In 48:Eight – the gallery of The School Creative Centre, a symposium titled This Migration – the role of migration in the arts, our lives, societies and our future histories. The sculpted heads of first and second generation Londoners formed a silent last tier. Their individual stories could be heard through the headphones.

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A slide below that was used to explain the processing of personal information and how this can be translated into data – used by the border services as well as by those more creative. Francis Alys ‘ The Loop’, Yinka Shonibare ‘The British Library’, Xavier Ribas ‘The Fence’ + Anna Maria Maioino ‘Black Hole’ were used in a discussion on how certain artists deal with issues around migration.

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Not all the heads are inanimate and the colour of bone – some are the guests . . .

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. . . not in focus but that’s purposeful. Digital images of the Lost Land of Ubar. The tracking of a migration route – digital cartography. How beautiful is the earth. I found the whole experience of the session visual as well as informative and consequently thought provoking.

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Open Studios here on 19+20 September. The text comes from Geography 111 – an anthology of poems by Elizabeth Bishop.

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LESSON I.

Q. What is Geography?

A. A description of the Earth’s surface.

Q. What is the Earth?

A. The planet or body on which we live.

Q. What is the shape of the Earth?

A. Round, like a ball.

Q. Of what is the Earth composed?

A. Land and Water.

 

LESSON VII.

Q. What is a Map?

A. A picture of the whole, or a part, of the Earth’s Surface.

Q. What are the directions on a Map?

A. Toward the top, North; toward the bottom, South; to the right, East; to the left, West.

Q. In what direction from the centre of the picture is the Island?

A. North.

In what direction is the Volcano? The Cape?

The Bay? The Lake? The Strait? The Mountains?

The Isthmus?

What is in the East? In the West? In the South? In the North? In the Northwest? In the Southeast?

 

“First Lessons in Geography,”

Monteith’s Geographical Series,, A S Barnes + Co., 1884

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Meet under the canopy of  the Shard – this was the instruction for the students studying garden design masterplan (BA Hons Garden Design) and place and culture and masterplanning (BA Hons Landscape Architecture). New start to the term and new project site: The Borough, Southwark. Cold, windy and hard environment here with major works happening to London Bridge station. The Wikipedia  reference: Southwark is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudweca. The name means “southern defensive work” and is formed from the Old English sūth and weorc. The southern location is in reference to the City of London to the north, seemed appropriate to machinery machinations . . .

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. .  just a glimpse of a tree and a tempting offer on a station poster.

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We intended to cover a semi circle – radius of 1000m centred on the station with first stop at more london  . . black Kilkenny limestone defining the strong desire line . . . a busy ‘chunnel’ at 1pm on a working day. We talked about how the space would feel on a Sunday. We hoped/suggested that the students might make a visit then to note changes. I would if this was my major design site  . . .

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. . .  some tumbling and some sitting about and some standing around on scaffolding. Great Fraxinus – they work better here than the more decorative birch . . .

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Through Potters Field and on by the London City Mission, we crossed under the tunnels arriving at St Mary Magdelen Churchyard and then into Tanner Street Park. A group of Prunus sargentii were starting the fireworks display  of autumn but, these poor trees showed the detrimental effect on plants trying to cope with badly laid paving + kerbs – terrifying hard landscaping. Through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park and on southwards to Tabard Gardens (lovely, potential here for detailed design – hint, hint) then east to Merrick Square and slowing down, a bit, to enjoy Trinity Church Square. .

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. . . through Mint Street Park, we came across this community garden – green roof building and plenty of info for interested visitors. And yes, the baby came too.

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On passed Cross Bones Cemetery and the ‘site with most potential’ that is currently a car park prior to development, we swung left down Southwark Street and into Neo Bankside. Many smiles spread across faces here. Maybe because the end was in sight but most likely as this landscape was deemed attractive by those studying – the staff more sceptical, which is their rightful position when analysing landscape projects, . . . . we’ll be doing it all again with the MA students – click here for this. We covered the semi circle ending at Tate Modern – another potential site – in just under 3 hours. So, looking forward to hearing and seeing the group survey presentation on this area, reading the A3 document and getting stuck into individual masterplanning at 1:500. All by the start of December – no pressure, of course.  Exciting site will produce imaginative designs. And the poem, well for me it’s about not being precious about the past, allowing some respect  but, mainly welcoming the future.

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The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.  E Bishop  One Art

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On Saturday, The School Creative Centre hosted a drawing workshop run by Anny Evason, based on her installation of A Garden Enclosed – click for more information on this event. The banks of the River Rother, running through Rye, were chosen. Appropriate for an easy journey through natural vegetation alongside the river as it meanders between the coastline at Camber Sands and the junction that feeds into the Military Canal.  I was interested to explore this strip of land again, having only walked it with baby in push chair as well as on a foraging expedition. To the north, small lakes have developed following gravel extraction and to the south, Rye is sometimes hidden and then revealed again behind the bunded river banks.

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There are young pines here – maybe 20 years old only – that stand out amongst all the deciduous material. Their candelabra form makes a great visual contrast  – rather seducing in terms of drawing and sketching. I recall this hedge of chaenomeles from the previous visits. It looks incongruous in these surroundings but actually has great charm.

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Stands of alder and willow are just changing appearance as the buds swell on the branches but the reeds still have their wintry look. We made initial sketches using pencil or graphite or directly onto ipads. I made the decision to do quick  15 minute sketches using graphite pencils and squinting with the right eye  . . . .

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. .

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Thickets of buckthorn alongside the gorse – both with the similar spiky attribute – form good habitat structure.  The old knarled stems of the gorse were particularly attractive to my eye in this scenario. Full sun threw shadows across the sketchbook. Looked perfect for how I wanted to capture form, shape and habit.

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gorse stems + industrial plant

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Pairs of lambs graze these low lying meadows. They’re oblivious to all the cyclists, dog walkers and those on drawing workshops . . .

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. . this was drawing that I chose to develop into a larger charcoal study using ‘bold mark making’ when we returned into the art room at the centre ‘to explore new techniques, develop skills and to work on large scale drawings’. Not terribly happy with the final result which I worked up on a A1 sheet but then the last time I used charcoal was many years ago doing life drawing on an art foundation course. It was good to concentrate on single inspirational ideas and blot out the mundane things of life.

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charcoal

Farm afternoons, there’s too much blue air.
I go out sometimes, follow the pasture track,
Chewing a blade of sticky grass, chest bare,
In threadbare pyjamas of three summers back.

To the little rivulets in the river-bed
For a drink of water, cold and musical,
And if I spot in the bunch a glow of red,
A raspberry, spit its blood at the corral.

The smell of cow manure is delicious.
The cattle look at me unenviously
And when there comes a sudden stream and hiss

Accompanied by a look not unmalicious,
All of us, animals, unemotionally
Partake together of a pleasant piss.  Vinicius de Moraes  Sonnet of Intimacy

translation Elizabeth Bishop

en movimiento

April 2, 2013

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Long journeys are a time for reflection. I rather enjoy the passivity of lounging around airport lounges, listening to music, people watching, reading and generally taking a view on areas of life. I write lots of notes that I never look at again but, I find this outpouring from my brain and soul, a therapeutic process. However, I’m not so keen on the business of travel connections  – will this flight arrive on time to pick up the next easily?  – will I make it across a city by bus to jump on the right plane? – do I have time to race from one terminal to another ? – this is the part of travelling that I find stressful. At Frankfurt – a very glamorous airport – no hassle and a 6 hour spell spent horizontal on the comfortable loungers that gently ripple and keep the circulation at the right level.

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Early morning arrival at Buenos Aires – warm and sunny – and a trip across the city to catch the next flight. From the bus, a glimpse of the Plata and some fishing activity  . . .

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. . . from the terminal building, the proximity of the water makes an appealing landscape whilst inside, a memorial to servicemen who fell in the Malvinas makes me step back and ponder on the reasoning of the placement of this type of monument in such a busy concourse. Perhaps that’s the rationale:  stop and think.

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Flying above La Pampa, the beauty of the terrain  . . . minimal human interference on the ground but we flying overhead disturb the environment nevertheless.

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The final act is a show stopper – the Andes in full glory.

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Down on the ground, the journey continues after catching up with a special couple. The three of us set off on  The Old Patagonian Express for a short chug along the track through the flat dry landscape around El Maiten and Esquel. It’s a marvel of reconstruction and perseverance .Click to see the video of a derail.

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Marvelling at the fittings and the minuteness of scale, decide that we are heavy, lumpen passengers. It’s time to get back on my feet and move all limbs and breathe in the good air around this tree filled landscape – try to lose the heaviness of the human body. The poem, ah well, somehow arriving by water might have been more exciting. The next leg is 28 hours on a bus . . .

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Here is a coast; here is a harbor;
here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery:
impractically shaped and–who knows?–self-pitying mountains,
sad and harsh beneath their frivolous greenery,

with a little church on top of one. And warehouses,
some of them painted a feeble pink, or blue,
and some tall, uncertain palms. Oh, tourist,
is this how this country is going to answer you

and your immodest demands for a different world,
and a better life, and complete comprehension
of both at last, and immediately,
after eighteen days of suspension?

Finish your breakfast. The tender is coming,
a strange and ancient craft, flying a strange and brilliant rag.
So that’s the flag. I never saw it before.
I somehow never thought of there being a flag,

but of course there was, all along. And coins, I presume,
and paper money; they remain to be seen.
And gingerly now we climb down the ladder backward,
myself and a fellow passenger named Miss Breen,

descending into the midst of twenty-six freighters
waiting to be loaded with green coffee beaus.
Please, boy, do be more careful with that boat hook!
Watch out! Oh! It has caught Miss Breen’s

skirt! There! Miss Breen is about seventy,
a retired police lieutenant, six feet tall,
with beautiful bright blue eyes and a kind expression.
Her home, when she is at home, is in Glens Fall

s, New York. There. We are settled.
The customs officials will speak English, we hope,
and leave us our bourbon and cigarettes.
Ports are necessities, like postage stamps, or soap,

but they seldom seem to care what impression they make,
or, like this, only attempt, since it does not matter,
the unassertive colors of soap, or postage stamps–
wasting away like the former, slipping the way the latter

do when we mail the letters we wrote on the boat,
either because the glue here is very inferior
or because of the heat. We leave Santos at once;
we are driving to the interior. Elizabeth Bishop  Arrival at Santos

shades of grey today

March 9, 2013

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Just a glance at something left from yesterday . . .  she’s not amused . . .  and onto the pier

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. . . always looks beautiful in its decrepit state and many locals will miss it once dismantled and replaced with this:

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Down at the stade, the low cloud hangs around the old and the new . . .

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. . . some reflections from the sculpture on Winkle Island . . .

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. .  conceived and constructed by Leigh Dyer. The main material – stainless steel – gleams out today below the snapshot view of  West Hill.

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west hill

puddles

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Hurrying down George Street passed Bells Bicycles, I look up and then down . .

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. . .  and then, once inside,  think how these might be cooked.

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Decide too bring some colour to the end of a grey day  – cooked with coriander, cumin and turmeric – onward and upward.

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Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily
like a dog looking for a place to sleep in,
listen to it growling.

Think how they must look now, the mangrove keys
lying out there unresponsive to the lightning
in dark, coarse-fibred families,

where occasionally a heron may undo his head,
shake up his feathers, make an uncertain comment
when the surrounding water shines.

Think of the boulevard and the little palm trees
all stuck in rows, suddenly revealed
as fistfuls of limp fish-skeletons.

It is raining there. The boulevard
and its broken sidewalks with weeds in every crack,
are relieved to be wet, the sea to be freshened.

Now the storm goes away again in a series
of small, badly lit battle-scenes,
each in “Another part of the field.”

Think of someone sleeping in the bottom of a row-boat
tied to a mangrove root or the pile of a bridge;
think of him as uninjured, barely disturbed.  Elizabeth Bishop  Little Exercise

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