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 . . .




. . . 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.




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.



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 . . .







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

Hauser and Wirth offers up this inside . . .


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.


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.



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


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 . . .


. . . 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  . . .


. . . 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.




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.


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.




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.





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.



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



. . . 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.


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


‘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


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 . . .






. . .  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 . . .






. . 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.




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?




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


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




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 . . .


. . . 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.


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


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 . . .





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







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.




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



9 stairwell

At the De la Warr Pavilion to watch live opera on film. An opera within an opera (and in this case, Jesse Norman would have made all the difference). Wandering around this building in its setting is always a pleasure . . .

3 window

4 window

. . the bandstand, known as the bus shelter,  without the usual skateboarders . . .

1 window

. .  I glimpse a figure pulling red shopping trolley. I have seen this lady before,  in St Leonards maybe . . .

6 bag

7 bag

11 bag

. .  and watch her inhabit the space, stare out to sea and eventually exit stage right.

14 bag

13 sea portrait


Some folks take the opera tradition seriously and sip their champagne looking out to sea . . . while other younger inhabitants stand with the correct paraphernalia and look out to sea too as the roof area is shut this evening.  Shaun Gladwell has provided installations to use and to view that conflict with cultural practices and traditions.

17 onlookers

16 scooter

This is ‘Triumph Daytona 675 Intersection’ and on the roof he’s provided ‘Ride + Skate – mini ramp intersections’. You must book a time slot for BMX riding and skating depending on weather.

2 gladwell

18 ride + skate on the roof

In the school room by the installation . . .

19 school room

. . useful and relevent tools are laid out for creativity.

20 school room detail

Scampering back down the staircase to catch the rest of the opera, I thought, goodness only why, of Betjeman. What would he have made of Ariadne? He’d have liked the saucy bits but would have missed the lack of poetry and sensitivity I feel. Oje, das ist traurig

21 stairwell


Hark, I hear the bells of Westgate,
I will tell you what they sigh,
Where those minarets and steeples
Prick the open Thanet sky.

Happy bells of eighteen-ninety,
Bursting from your freestone tower!
Recalling laurel, shrubs and privet,
Red geraniums in flower.

Feet that scamper on the asphalt
Through the Borough Council grass,
Till they hide inside the shelter
Bright with ironwork and glass,

Striving chains of ordered children
Purple by the sea-breeze made,
Striving on to prunes and suet
Past the shops on the Parade.

Some with wire around their glasses,
Some with wire across their teeth,
Writhing frames for running noses
And the drooping lip beneath.

Church of England bells of Westgate!
On this balcony I stand,
White the woodwork wriggles round me,
Clocktowers rise on either hand.

For me in my timber arbour
You have one more message yet,
“Plimsolls, plimsolls in the summer,
Oh galoshes in the wet!”  John Betjeman  Westgate-on- Sea

too late, too late . . .

February 5, 2012

to admire the fresh snow but the pattern of footprints is equally fascinating . . .

and there have been and, will be, plenty of posts past and present  . . .

 . .   ‘out the back’ is still in virgin mode.

Purcell’s Cold Genius ———–

What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow
See’st thou not ( how stiff )2) and wondrous old
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I ( can scarcely move or draw my breath )2)
Let me, let me freeze again to death.3)   – – – —  from King Arthur.

And brilliantly performed:  Klaus Nomi. No apologies for using it again.

beside the seaside

February 2, 2012

To Worthing for some much needed CPD – a strange place for a landscape designer to visit for technical detailing, inspiration, maintenance and management etc. but Splash Point was the reason for this, so look at the link to get some idea of the rationale of the scheme. Many of the south coast towns sited directly on the sea front are entering into some rejuvenation of facilities and therefore increased visitor footfall – Margate has a new Turner Gallery; Dover sea front has a new landscape  and Folkestone hosts the triennial; The Jerwood opens in Hastings next month and Bexhill is the home of the De La Warr pavilion and new landscaping for what its worth!  Eastbourne houses The Towner Gallery and everyone knows about Brighton. A bit of a list and, looking at it, quite art based. There is always discussion on whether landscape design is an art! I see there’s also discussion at the moment on the word ‘space’ and ‘outdoor room’ as being old hat or, just simply difficult to understand – for goodness sake!

It’s a tight intervention which works quite well within the small area. It’s quite edgy  – sharp angles, crisp hard surfaces, complete contrast to the surroundings, makes you stop and look, is uncompromising – and, may date, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Worthing is dated after all although the pier won best in category fairly recently.

Some of the slate bouldors are engraved with a variety of topics. Oscar Wilde apparently presented prizes for the best dressed vessels when he visited as well as writing a large part of The Importance of Being Ernest here and nodding recognition in the naming of a character.

It was below freezing yesterday at 10am but some locals inhabit the ‘space’!  I am interested to see how the clean stemmed form of the tamarisk tree grows, survives or falls over! A bold treatment of a twiggy, large bush/shrub in these environments  . . .  and anyway why not. The designers have sent me this image of summertime. The trees came from Van den Berk nursery.

The rest of the sea front looks like this . . . .

maybe that’s what is expected and enjoyed so hence this below. A set of  Lyrics with this post not really a poem as the music is definitely required for the ‘Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”- and featured in so many films!

Everyone delights to spend their summer’s holiday
Down beside the side of the silvery sea
I’m no exception to the rule
In fact, if I’d my way
I’d reside by the side of the silvery sea.
But when you’re just the common or garden Smith or Jones or Brown
At bus’ness up in town
You’ve got to settle down.
You save your money all the year till summer comes around
Then away you go
To a place you know
Where the cockle shells are found.

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
So just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll be beside myself with glee

And there’s lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea!

William Sykes the burglar,
He’d been out to work one night
Filled his bag with jewels, cash, and plate.
Constable Brown felt quite surprised when William hove in sight
Said he: “The hours you’re keeping are far too late.”
So he grabbed him by the collar and lodged him safe and sound in jail
Next morning looking pale
Bill told a tearful tale.
The judge said, “For a couple of months I’m sending you away!”
Said Bill: “How kind!
Well! If you don’t mind
Where I spend my holiday!”

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
So just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll be beside myself with glee
And there’s lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea!    John A. Glover-Kind

enjoy !

garden courts

August 29, 2011

Garden court can describe a particular exterior area well. Maybe courts are grander than courtyards and often part or parts of large country gardens or estates. Sometimes, as in these examples, these areas were domestic or private garden spaces initially but, now, open to large numbers of visitors. The exotic garden at Dixter has changed not only in the amount of traffic it copes with but the way the change in planting  – from lowish roses to large-leaved architectural exotic plantings – has changed the scale. The drama and personality of this relatively small court is heightened even more by the lack of views out – there’s so much to look at close quarters. Real ‘in yer face planting’!

The entrance court is more open with two areas of grass – not symmetrical – and edged with diverse types of planting. The focus, of course, is the rather stupendous collection of plants in containers. So a carpet of colour at low level frames the porch. It’s very decorative and very personal and very domestic. This feature just makes the space and gives it the character of a court.

Just a nodding reference  to the Actinidia kolomikta that drapes itself elegantly over the clay roof tiles nearby. Very effective visually with the lichen.

At Sissinghurst, the curving arcs of the yew hedging frame the simplest of courts – a very bold statement  – maybe not a place to sit or, maybe it is? In the White Garden, one is encouraged to sit at one end – under some shade. The planting is  simply white and green – very cool but also fairly flowery –  within the evergreen geometric structure. Designed for a family but now inhabited by hundreds.

At Glyndebourne, once a private house and now an opera venue, it’s useful to view the connecting garden spaces from the balcony. There’s a good deal of coming and going along main routes but there are small personal areas to linger in.

The rear garden court spreads out from the original main rear access. A succesful space whether used years ago or this week – the area has a charm and connects to the main lawn.

A piece of sculpture has been posiotioned bang in the centre of the busiest area – useful plinth for a glass – rather obvious but at least the piece is BIG!

Another contemporary court contains more sculpture with a Henry Moore ‘Draped Reclining Figure’ at the far end. There’s a touch of Dan Kiley here but doesn’t quite hit the spot!

The garden courts are connected by the changes in level – steps and curving ramps – that serve the visitors and staff well, offering plenty of options within the circulation.

Fabulous perfume from Clerodendron trichotomum placed so that branches overhang one of the spatial areas with shade loving  lush planting around the base

Classical yew hedging forming the structure and the invitation to explore the court that encloses the large pond.

The poem – well, yes I realise it’s about the need for affection or simply the need for sex – some people analyse it as such!Music, sex, discreet garden courts, private spaces  . . . . all these cross reference. You can simply choose which suits!

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  I Am in Need of Music

colour and texture

August 20, 2011

At Great Dixter, sun and shadows highlight the colour and texture in the planting beautifully but those who plan borders and are involved in planting design know that form and habit are also important components. The Gleditsia elegantissima  – strong in form and habit, casts the shadow and frames one view across the Long Border. The silvery foliage erupts from Salixi alba var. sericea, pollarded to retain the scale. The tree would become too large for this situation if not pollarded.  Silvery cardoons make equally dynamic statements at the back of the border with graceful artemesia to the fore . . .

. . here lines of Calamagrostis show how form and habit makes strong contrast to the floppy lines of low dark aster and the topiared yew shapes. The single fastigiate tree, on the left, is a poplar and provides a satisfying link and repetition in form to the ornamental grass. All so simple but so satisfying . . .

. . lines again of course in the kitchen garden; lines here for order and good husbandry but, aesthetically attractive too.

Teazel, Dipsacus fullonum, is the key plant at Dixter this month and this year. Don’t recall seeing so many of these all around the garden previously. The teazels seem to follow on from mulleins but, this may well change, as gardens, especially great gardens where visitors are welcomed, are required to ring the changes with regard to key plants that spread seed.

By the large, old mulberry, teazels wave out from a group of pink Japanese anemones to greet the visitor. Very delicious combination . . . and one I shall borrow!

In The Exotic Garden, lush tall growth as expected in August with bananas towering overhead and dramatic mixtures of texture and colour at eye level. Was looking forward to seeing the swallows which nest under the eaves of the low buildings – no sign and no sound unfortunately.

However, multitudes of dahlias and cannas in mid aria instead. The dark leafed canna could be C. ‘King Humbert’ – I forgot to ask but will on the next visit.

But I do know that the pale dahlia below, with flowering fennel, is Dahlia ‘ Bishop of Dover’ because I’m growing this too, this year.

And a flowery mead – eryngium and white agapanthus give the strength of form and shape with softness in texture and coolness in colour of the complimentary plants completing the picture.

The swallow’s cry that’s so forlorn,
By thrush and blackbird overpowered,
Is like the hidden thorn
On the rose-bush, deep-bowered:

But when the song of every bird
Is hushed in Summer’s lull profound,
And all alone is heard
Its little poignant sound,

The piteous shrill of its sharp grief
Seems, in the silence of the air,
The thorn without a leaf
On the wild rose-bush, bare!   Grace Tollemache  The Swallow’s Note

Hazlitts, in Soho, was a boarding house when William Hazlitt lodged and died there. Now it is a  ’boutique’ hotel which is an up market boarding house. On Hazlitt’s grave stone in St Anne’s churchyard, part of the inscription reads . . . . ‘A man of true moral Courage,  Who sacrificed Profit and Present Forms to Principle,  And a yearning for the good of Human Nature,  Who was a burning wound to an Aristocracy . . .’   So, not a man who would be interested in how or why Soho, surrounded by woods and fields, came to be named –  ‘Soho and away’ was a hunting call. Different forms of pleasure are to be found here now in Frith Street at night.

Dramatic lighting in Langley Street off Longacre in Covent Garden. Powerful stuff and as bright as natural daylight. But round the corner suspended above Floral Street is the Bridge of Aspiration  which I find magical whether day or night.

In front of the extension to the Opera House, trees become quite magical too. They wear their glittering evening diamonds well . . .

 . . peering down from the terrace at the rear of the Floral Hall, the market buildings sit very comfortably within their space . . .  the lighting is spare, in keeping and just floods the access points sufficiently . . . along the facade, new geometric shapes of light emerge. 

And inside, golden light and much anticipation for the tinkling notes of Mozart but unfortunately Callas is long gone but thankfully her singing carries on.

The following morning, the city appeared quiet and the pleasing lack of traffic, pedestrians and foliage means that the buildings and the spaces between are easier to absorb.

Opposite the NPG, Edith Cavell stands firm and upright . . .

 . . looking stern and maybe judgemental of what is going on around her feet and also on her shoulders.

More London planes at Tate Britain where one of the current exhibitions is on the work of Susan Hiller. I know that photography is forbidden but couldn’t resist this installation. The title is ‘Witness’ – 400 speakers and 400 audio tracks that are just about at ear level – ‘ a mappa mundi’ – every individual telling a story in many languages. I found it beautiful, and my sister did too.

I found the image below without a ghostly figure on the web – it’s good. The whole exhibition is very good if you have an interest in collections. My sister found it generally annoying for a good reason that she should explain herself! 

Finally, leaving the city via Hungerford Bridge, glimpses of the Eye conjures up memories of funfairs and playgrounds. It’s good to take a break and play. 

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.  Marianne Moore  I may, I might, I must.

and Saturday evening

February 13, 2011

And on Saturday evening some of us got together for some music and dancing at The School . . . this is rather a tenuous link to the point of this blog but . . . most people there are makers or artists or designers in some way or the other – not necessarily associated to landscape – however we all need to have fun! But please note, not Atlantic Soul more English Channel!

Quite like these glimpses through  . . .

The outfits the ‘girls’ wore for the first set – note the  handbags – so that all the hand movements were perfectly executed. 

A couple of the band – a mixed bunch!

And the dresses for the final set . . .

and to finish ‘Through the Grapevine!

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