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 love surprises especially those in the landscape. This feature wouldn’t have been a surprise if I’d read the guide book before visiting Oppidum d’Ensérune. Of course, Oppidum is a remarkable site on a hill  with 360 degree views;  so a smart strategic choice for seeing those  down on the plain who might have threatening ideas. An ancient settlement occupied the hill from  the 6th century BC to  1st century AD. The Romans ran the Via Domitia alongside connecting the Alps to the Pyrenees and below the hill sits this landscape -Étang du Montady – a large circular expanse of drained land which is now wedge shaped fields separated by irrigation ditches that converge in the centre. Monks in the 13thC drained the freshwater wetland following orders from the Bishop of Narbonne! I found it amazing as a piece of land art which is also functional. So, the ditches allowed water to flow in radial lines to the centre of the circular depression, from which it was conveyed through underground pipes below the Malpas hill  several kilometres to the south. (I think I prefer the image above in contrast to the photoshopped one below) . . . .

. . .  the fact that the drain for Montady went through Malpas encouraged Riquet, the designer of the Canal du  Midi, to build a tunnel through the same hill for his canal. The image below is from the Malpas tunnel excavated and constructed in 17C  to accomodate the passage of the Canal du Midi – Europe’s first navigable canal. In the nineteenth century, a third tunnel was excavated, passing through the Hill d’Ensérune beneath the Malpas tunnel to house the railway freom Beziers to Narbonne.  The hill had been riddled with holes.

‘History is just one f . . . thing after another’ (expletives removed). Alan Bennett  The History Boys

The mist sits in the Tarn Valley and floats under the viaduct designed by Norman Foster. He wanted it to seem that ‘it has the delicacy of a butterfly’. Well achieved  and it works as the highest road bridge in the world with the central pillar taller than the Eiffel Tower.  Beautiful to look at as a landmark and a beautiful experience when crossing.

Simple immoveable benches in the spacious area around the vistor centre – an old farm building – that offers the best vantage point for viewing. The Fench are good at space and very rarely clutter it up.

Between the viaduct and the Étang du Montady, rests the remains of the Abbaye de Fontcaude – hot spring in Occitan – on the pilgrim route to St. Jacques de Compostela. Many events caused destruction to the building – burnt to the ground during the wars of religion – sold by auction during the French Revolution – fell into disrepair and became farm building in the 19C – before the start of restoration only 40 years ago. It looked over restored to me.

So over restored that it lacked any sense of the past. Hanging baskets and horrid planting filled the cloister area. The only images I’ve posted are those that have a glimmer of history and the ancient construction. I did like the carved figures of St. Jacques on the capitals with the slochy hat, capacious outer garment and the loose bag over the shoulder. Back to craftsmanship then  . . . .  but hats off to more recent engineering !

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  The Bridge

My six-year-old mechanic, you are up half the night

inventing a pipe made from jars, a ski-ing car

for flat icy roads and a timer-catapult

involving a palm tree, candles and rope.

You could barely stand when I once found you,

having loosened the bars from the cot

and stepped out so simply you shocked yourself.

Today I am tearful, infatuated with bad ideas,

the same song, over and over. You take charge,

up-end chairs, pull cushions under the table,

lay in chewing-gum and juice

rip newspaper into snow on the roof.  Lavinia Greenlaw Invention

%d bloggers like this: