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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.

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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 . . .

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. . . 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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At the de la warr, it’s difficult to ignore the views out and concentrate on the work within. For me, the world beyond the windows offers up good compositions especially if the views are uninhabited.

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The strong grid of the light diffusing blinds makes an interesting additional layer. I snapped away,  the gallery assistants looked doubtful but then pleased, when eventually I turned to absorb the compositions on the walls.

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The current exhibition ‘I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart’  – the last verse of Housman’s ‘Is My Team Ploughing’  – shows work of artists in Britain today who refer to the past combined with a conceptual and contemporary journey in their method and practice.  The poem is on the wall in the atrium and having read it, it seemed as though the building also enhanced the ethos of the exhibition.

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At 135, All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town, it’s possible, on the odd occasion, to view a house built in 1500’s. Alistair Hendy has restored this house, especially the exterior, to something like it might have been. Guttering and down pipes are a nod to gentrification but windows, beams and the ‘jetty’ overhang are now revealed having been masked by the Georgians in their love of the flat façade.

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A small group of us were welcomed into the parlour which could have been a shop in earlier times. There is electricity and other services all discreetly hidden but the house is lit with candles to give an ambience of the past. All the fires were working – wood smoke covered us in a pleasant manner – as we wandered around the ground floor being mindful of the low thresholds, changes in level and admiring the eclectic taste of the furnishings – things Alistair likes as and not necessarily truthful to ‘period’. It’s his home after all.

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Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.

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Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .

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. . .  and on the first floor, a box bed with a view out to the street. May 5th is Jack-in-the-Green day and decorations are up. A post on this will follow as usual (last years is here).

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The thunder box and the chair mounted on the wall took my eye as did windows with the original glass. Shutters, quite rustic, are a recent addition. The floor below the  zinc bath required extra support – discretely done to the conservation officer’s satisfaction. Not a good idea to ask too much about the local conservation officials in this house . . . folks here know the brain ache that accompanies this relationship.  . . .

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. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in.  It’s worth a visit.

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Caught in a fragment of forgiven light

The past’s refracted and the present lies

Waiting to be caught. Now feeling dies

 

At the year’s edge, the dark-to-be of night

And then the migrants homing and the spring

New as always, meaning everything.

 

Day has its attitude of sovereign height,

Birds discourse, the long hours spread, we are

In the best moment of the travelling year.

 

Now the dark is light and sound is sight,

Winter written off, summer is then,

Spring is the season for begetting man. Elizabeth Jennings  Caught.

 

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‘A small but special Spring Plant Fair’ (the header on the flyer) this weekend at Great Dixter offered the opportunity for a gentle stroll around the garden as well as to view, buy, make notes about and order from exquisite plant nurseries. Wandering up the drive by foot and admiring the structure of the trees around the horse pond  –  an experience often missed if entering and exiting by car. A still and misty morning . . .

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. . . some plants just need more observation now such as the chusquea in relief against the castellated yew hedging.

 

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Simon’s stacks of timber await his decisions on their reinvention into a functional item. Organised groupings and practical arrangements show clearly in the early season before the masses of ornamental vegetation take over . . .

 

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In the field below the nursery and the shop, many small, established nurseries showed their plants, seeds and  products. Lohhof Stauden displayed many grasses and Wildside with Keith Wiley presented delicious, delicate looking but tough treasures.

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Around the Lower Moat, gunnera fronds are on view – the unfurling is magnificent to behold – such stature – accompanied by new vertical growth on the iris – slim and neat in contrast.

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From the orchard the house appears to retreat behind the flowering fruit at this time of year but in the Long Border the drama is centre stage. Confident planting with all companions appearing  well orchestrated. Great knobbly stems of salix, naked and as yet unadorned, punctuate the composition . . .

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. . . the beauty of emerging foliage and flower heads is quite breath taking.

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The Exotic Garden looks tantalising but we are not allowed in quite yet, as everything is under wraps until the temperatures rise, so the Topiary Lawn claims our attention  . . .

 

 

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. . . large trumpets of lime green and piped stems of bamboo and the coppery skirts on Euphorbia x pasteuri delight my eye around the Blue Garden.

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Pretty blossoms on Prunus tenella in the Sunk Garden – so feminine. And various compositions both detail at ground level and bulkier and more distant at eye level offer themselves up to those who can’t get enough . . .

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. . . Fergus has a thing about euphorbias and he’s right! Marvellous with the clipped yew backdrops . .

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and just to finish lines of early, fosteriana, double and late tulips. All one could wish for.

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Preludes and dawns, those spare awakenings

Gone before listened to, how we miss such

Arrays of opportunities. As sun lifts up

Its wings and birds tune their large orchestra,

We are invited out of sleep, called to

Take part, share all such daily, sweet beginnings.

 

Dramas of dreams rise up, the haze of them

Dries in the sun and the awakened mind.

The spirit’s opportunities see flights

We seldom heed. Good moments of regret

Vanish in our wanton rummagings,

O bold designs, O short disparaged nights. Elizabeth Jennings Missed Chances

 

out + about

March 2, 2014

Still in an urban frame of mind as against more rural or natural landscape environments – not because I wish to be but it’s what is thrust centre stage at the moment. Another storm is whistling up tonight. If the summer ahead is long and very hot, then looking back on stormy evenings might be a good leveller. Gardens, plants, growth, softness and explosions of seasonal interest are still ‘parked’ . . . unfortunately. In George Street, Old Town Hastings, a few compositions were put on record . . .  child’s carriage or maybe a dog’s carriage would be more applicable for this doggy town and details on an old screen reminded me of transfers and childhood stickers. . . .

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. . . .  George Street through the sea mist – colourful, a little shambolic in a charming manner, idiosyncratic and packed full of tea and coffee shops. Incurva Studios is in a side street connecting to West Street with an installation that changes seasonally. This quill may be a ‘Leigh Dyer’ . . .

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. . . in the window of one of the many second hand bookshops, a bound thesis or  dissertation by Jane  Gallup titled ‘Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment’. I don’t know what to say.

And some vibrant wall art on the extinct Butlers Emporium with the continual change of use showing  in the Old Town Butchers now housing eastern trinkets.

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Great glossy seas this morning, churning and rolling and thundering in a wonderful fashion. Huge winds push some of us to find a little shelter in Norman Road. Windows offer excellent compositions with layers of depth and sub text . . .

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. . .  the Baker Mamonova Gallery and Lucy Bell’s show floral art . . .

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. .  Fleet Gallery and Wayward show large light fittings and haberdashery items.

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Plan B and Sideshow Interiors have exotic mannequins . . . some pushed right into the window frame.

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Some are busy on repairing their buildings and some like to express themselves in a scrabble format on  other peoples walls. It’s a funny old place. I may have said this before.

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At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings In Memory of Someone Unknown to Me

geography and geometry

July 30, 2013

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This oleander caused problems.  At the moment, it’s a show stopper along Exhibition Road but 10 years ago as we completed this project it was deemed dangerous, by one individual, due to its poisonous properties. Many plants are poisonous if eaten by humans. Many of its companions which are poisonous, if digested, remain in place. So the plant was lifted from the large rear terrace and re planted by the main public entrance of The Royal Geographical Society (IBG)  where visitors enter through the glass pavilion designed by Studiodownie. I could never fathom the reasoning for this decision.

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The pavilion makes a great shop window for exhibitions and the garden area beyond. The Society needed extra space for library, research rooms and lecture theatres, and so ground was excavated to house these facilities below a wide terrace with an adjoining sunken garden for outdoor events. Front of pavilion above and rear view below.

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The current exhibition – Travel Photographer of the Year –  fills the pavilion, the terrace and the sunken area. We designed large containers to edge the terrace as a safety precaution and also to hold the evergreen summer flowering Trachelospermum jasminoides which weave along the taut stainless steel wires to provide shade and give some privacy to the research rooms below. I was cheered to see how well this system was still working and that it remained aesthetically pleasing. The powerful fragrance filled the outside space.

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The wide rear terrace floods off the ground floor eating rooms and hallways.  This planting looked rather over grown now and in need of some maintenance and was the original position for the oleander. Easy to see that clumps of oleander would provide colour amongst all the green. The plants on this south facing aspect were chosen as indigenous to the southern hemisphere while the north facing side was planted with species from other side of the equator – birch, robinia, bamboos, ferns etc etc.

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Across Kensington Gore, the catalpa’s are flowering around the Serpentine Gallery and completing the composition with the temporary structure and the permanent building.

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This year, Sou Fujimoto has conceived a see through rubic – horizontal escalation – of latticed powder coated steel. I love it and so do many others. It looks light weight and summery and appears to be practical. Of course, a good summer helps!

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A friend, whose opinion I value, told me not to miss Genesis – Sebastião Salgado –  at the Natural History Museum. He was right  – it’s quite miraculous and I’ll go back again. This image of reindeer travelling over ice looking like a geometric pattern is mesmeric.

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Many of the images from Patagonia and Chile resonated clearly with me but all the regions of the world were documented in a highly particular way.

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Final stop of the day to see yet another exhibition – Green Fuse, the work of Dan Pearson at the Garden Museum in Lambeth. Here within this old churchyard, the sense of history preveils  . . .

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. . . . . but also geography, botany and horticulture. By the church is the tomb of the John Tradescants, father and son, plant hunters and collectors, who introduced many species collected from other geographic regions to this part of the world. Some are planted here.

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I climbed a ladder to . . .

Was it the moon or stars?

Was it to find a view,

A total world view of

Some magnitude? I had

Much daring once in love,

But daring balanced by

Hope and trust, I read

Of how wise men will try

Slowly to reach a state

Where there’s no argumnet

Man cannot know his fate

But he can face the rough

Returns, the storms of hate,

If only he will love

But love with purpose and

Direction. I can see

A ladder in my mind

A monument, I am free,

A moment understand. Elizabeth Jennings  I Climbed a Ladder

vertical gardening – encore

September 9, 2012

In Rocquebrun, almost 5 months on from the last visit to the Jardin Méditerranéen, I was expecting to be rocked by exotic colour. A touch of something to come in the streets way below the garden  from a bougainvillea draping itself lazily over a wall and completing the composition of the view to the bell tower. The bells pealed and many cars with foreign, mostly British plates, swept in to the village to celebrate an ex-pat wedding – thought for a minute that I was on the set for a remake of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Some more colourful planting in Rue sous les Fenêtres as an appetiser . . . .

. . . but I clearly was mistaken to think that this garden would be a carnival of colour. Instead green and more green but many different foliage surfaces mean different tones of green. Looking back to the post on the visit in April (has some factual info that I’m not repeating again), I read that the harsh weather of late winter had knocked back many plantings – foliage was looking browned off and fed up – still signs of this on aloes, agaves and acacias. But the strength of the architectural form and the combinations of form, habit and texture make this a powerful experience in its own right.

Plenty of new buds on the mimosas . . .

. . and a flavour of how the precipituous journey on sloping paths and narrow steps through the exotic and succulents and on to the botanical path of cistus and mimosa collections   . . .

. . .  to 150m above the River Orb. The rock face housing the garden is sheltered from the north, east and the weather from the west  . .

. .  the highest part, The Mediterranean Orchard, is inhabited.

My search for flowering plants rests here with cactus. In truth, the opuntia fruits are just colouring up and bits of caprobrotus and lampranthus showed a few flower heads – just a visit at a quiet time; a flowering siesta.

Like these babies tucked out of harms way and a new plant to me, labelled as Haworthia fasciata. Mmmm, not so sure . . .

. . .  massive heat is retained within this volcanic intrusion – hence the choice of poem.

Over the surging tides and the mountain kingdoms,
Over the pastoral valleys and the meadows,
Over the cities with their factory darkness,
Over the lands where peace is still a power,
Over all these and all this planet carries
A power broods, invisible monarch, a stranger
To some, but by many trusted. Man’s a believer
Until corrupted. This huge trusted power
Is spirit. He moves in the muscle of the world,
In continual creation. He burns the tides, he shines
From the matchless skies. He is the day’s surrender.
Recognize him in the eye of the angry tiger,
In the sign of a child stepping at last into sleep,
In whatever touches, graces and confesses,
In hopes fulfilled or forgotten, in promises

Kept, in the resignation of old men –
This spirit, this power, this holder together of space
Is about, is aware, is working in your breathing.
But most he is the need that shows in hunger
And in the tears shed in the lonely fastness.
And in sorrow after anger.  Elizabeth Jennings  A Chorus

vertical gardening

April 21, 2012

Narrow, twisting but inviting paths criss cross up the precipitous hillside in Roquebrun. Deserted in  the middle of the day, rural France appears to sleep, or maybe eat, and nothing will change that. Cultural centres, small shops and businesses still shut . . .  you may see a cat or a couple of dogs, but little else moves which is grounding in this ‘rushing around’ age   . . . . hence not a glimmer of action in these images taken in the ascent to the entrance of the Mediterranean Garden. 

The last remains, La Tour Guet Carolinginne,  of the 12C castle stands on the summit and provides a landmark for the steep climb up the hill side. No thought here to ‘disabled access’!

Roquebrun is picturesque with short inward looking views. . .

 . . . and equally wonderful in the 180 degree panoramas of the route of the River Orb.

The base of the tower houses tufty, doughty  arid loving plants.  Even on this south facing and protected situation, plants have suffered from the cold February weather. So brown foliage and stunted growth has been cropped out of the images but, very soon,  all will flesh out, thrust up and produce colourful flowers and fruits again. Palms, cacti, aloes. echeverias and many other types of succulent like Ruschia show the potential and richness of gardening in a dry climate. 

The many acacias must look stunning at flowering time. After their big performance, they still  form a structural and textural balance to the more architectural and spiky shapes of the agaves. 

Cistus are well represented – not architectural at all, but beautiful in their flowering mode and also attractive to beetles – shiny green and the smaller furry ones.  The plants here are slightly behind in their development and growth in contrast to where they might be expected to be at this time of year. So the heavy, fleshy characters take prominence at the moment and always form good compositions. And the tour maintains a discreet presence.

I expect to return and be able to engage with a rich variety of other succulents and exotics at close quarters. Return at the end of the day when the groups of visitors have long gone to breathe in the atmosphere of this small landscape that sits above the large landscape below.     

At this particular time I have no one

Particular person to grieve for, though there must

Be many, many unknown ones going to dust

Slowly, not remembered for what they have done

Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve

Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,

And, by that fact gives my grief purity–

An important person quite apart from me

Or one obscure who drifted down alone.

Both or all I remember, have a place.

For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out

Wishing to give these classical repose,

No epitaph, no poppy and no rose

From me, and certainly no wish to learn about

The way they lived or died. In earth or fire

They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings. In Memory of Anyone Unknown to Me.

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