A busy month of eclectic experiences starting with the city – looking from the 6th floor of the Pompidou Centre  across the panorama . . .

. . . and looking down onto a canopy of plane trees. Here to see . .

Cy Twombly’s work from a career spanning 60 years. It was a marvellous exhibition; sadly over now. ‘Untitled’ painted in Rome during his minimal and conceptual phase in 1970’s to . . .

the ‘Rose Series’ Gaeta 2008 drawn from influence/ inspiration/ silent dialogue with Rilke’s poems. Stunning and thought provoking and an exhibition that has kicked me into reading Homer again – what a delight.

City to coast and plant buying. As equally pleasurable as being immersed in paintings. At Pépinière Filippi, plants suitable for dry gardening are displayed in a garden setting  – this below is perhaps yucca spp – possibly Yucca rostrata  – as well as . . .

. . . in the nursery. I can’t describe the excitement and anticipation of seeing  lines of pots and the plants that they hold  – mad I know.

And then it’s off to Bouzigues for some seafood to be enjoyed with a good view of Sète.

Coast to country and walking for a few days in the Cévennes. Through the chestnut woods and over streams passing dry stone walls coated in mosses and lichen. Moss is a plant but lichen a type of fungus needing algae so a symbiotic relationship . . .

. . . we encountered some history too – a group of huts set on a plateau -restored in hommage to the protestants who fought in the Camisards’ War in early 18th C. They fought a guerilla warfare ambushing the King’s men and them melting back into the wooded countryside. Locals also hid in the the buildings in the 1940’s  – the Nazis being too lazy to climb through the dense landscape.

In Saint Hilaire-de-Lavit, forgotten vehicles and a wondrous chêne vert in the graveyard . . .

. . . and iris and wisteria still in bloom.

May Day is celebrated in the village with a Marché des Fleurs under the  55 plane trees – my front garden – which shade the colourful displays. Some are very bright . . .

. . . some less so . . .

and some are quite discreet. The poem from Rilke should wrap this post up well. à bientôt.

Rose

so cherished by our

customs

dedicated to our memories

became almost imaginary

for being so linked

to

our

dreams  Rainer Maria Rilke

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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. . . 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.

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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.

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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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. . . 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.

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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

cairn + lotus

Personal; intriguing; nourishing; an oasis; a pleasure garden; inward and outward and upward looking; et al. Just a quick mind map to test out feelings of the time here in Sambucs and there are of course some elders as the title of the garden suggests . . .

colour

. . . narrow paths run across the terraced land leading to areas, some intimate for lounging and the odd larger space for eating, through varied vegetation interlaced with sculptural features; some discreet . . .

features

stones

. . . and some functional constructed from smooth river stones.

terrace + pool

Many pools alongside the dry stone walls holding the changes in level provide habitats for dragon flies, frogs and snails.

lotus

better 2 weeks ago

Poetry, inscriptions and selective writings are part of the experience. Above is the classic comment: ‘you should have been here two weeks ago, the garden looked so much better then’.

messages

clement

Zinc panels here in la Porte des Étoiles, display selected inspirational thoughts from Gilles Clément from le Jardin en Mouvement. Apposite for this garden that is managed on ecological systems and also retains an unmanicured look which in turn relays a welcome sense of freedom. Heaps of composted spent garden waste sit naturally at path junctions.

This impressive static cairn stands proud against the open extent of the south facing boundary. . . .

big cairn

. . . while glittering stipa shimmers against a darker background in a more enclosed area . . .

stipa

lythrum

. . . lythrum, indigenous to the ditches here in Hérault, provide some flower colour. I was hoping for more colour but in truth, I should have planned an earlier visit. Next year a return in May perhaps and then better photos? Lovely garden Nicholas and Agnès and tasty lunch too.

arch final

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Rainer Maria Rilke   A Walk Poem

 

à l’abbaye

January 4, 2013

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A few of the visitors to this blog know that I am house hunting – an occupation that, on reflection, seems to have taken up a good part of my life. Being one of those unfortunates who, whenever they travel and visit new places, decide that this is ‘it’ finally. Whether Africa, the Far East, South or North America or Europe, my initial reaction is to immediately decide to decamp and make a new home as fast as possible (my problem is that I feel a complete and uncomfortable stranger in my homeland).  So, quickly back to the point, I thought to spend time in the Luberon (maybe this would be ‘it’), an area that on paper ticked the boxes, and naturally, see Menerbes. Some friends were quite scathing about this town that benefited? from the Peter Mayle experience and I discovered that my friends have good judgement. Too much gentrification and tweeness mixed up in one decorators pot for my liking ( purposefully no photos here). Also sad to see that someone decided black limestone should be spread over all flat surfaces giving a totally urban effect and with little differentiation to road and pavement. Town councillors of Menerbes need to visit St Remy -de- Provence and Avignon to note good use of materials and craftsmanship. We are great meddlers and consequently, destroyers. But, turning a negative into a positive, just close by the town on the opposite side of the valley sits the Abbaye de Saint Hilaire – the history and narrative of this building and surroundings –  brought back my faith in mankind.

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Ancient man inhabited this wooded land area of cork oaks and now pines  – it’s easy to see why – perfect hidden but confident in the outlook with natural water source and gently sloping land suitable for cultivation – so perfect example of the prospect and refuge theory. The Romans built the Via Domitia close by and there is documented reference to a Carmelite convent built on the site in 13C. Cistercian monks constructed, farmed, and prayed here in the footprint of this building in 15C. A fresco in the side chapel, finely executed stairs and the courtyards remain from this time as do the boulins – holes for the roosting birds – in the dovecote part of the courtyard walls. The monks would also have grown olives, vines and had a supply of fish on hand.

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In the mid 20C, the abbaye was bought by a couple who faithfully restored it to the original 13C layout and construction. Inside the walls, the privy garden retains the original character even if empty of monks in habits doing what they had to do . . . .

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. . . there’s an element of the ‘clipped balls’a la Vezian but that’s to be expected. The spaces are still simple and so easy to absorb, comprehend and enjoy and perhaps the restfulness will melt away in this landscape ?

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Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky. Rainer Maria Rilke

fin de l’annee

January 1, 2013

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Many of the last hours of the end of the year were spent wandering around Avignon – discovering, admiring, absorbing – and doing some stocktaking. Place Saint Pierre, tucked behind the church, forms the smallest of cross axes and has quickly become a necessary cut through.  Strange window decoration close by . .  macabre

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. . . the bell tower by Place des Carmes is topped with intricate metalwork – fine contrast to the simple architecture and stonework.

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Golden rays surround cherubs carefully transporting the head of John the Baptist to some holy place on the facade of the Baroque Chapel of the Pénitents Noirs de la Miséricorde. More macabre goings on . . . . my last post showed images of the public space by the Place du Palais . . .

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. . . the smallest family member got to grips quickly with the spacious areas here on his way up to the playgrounds in the Rocher des Doms and, hopefully, banked the architecture of  the Conservatory  ( beautiful frontage and originally the Papal Mint) for future reference.

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What we thought were scarecrows in the small Papal vineyard turn out to be installations by local art students – decorative and functional. The magnificent supports to the old pine have the same qualities to my mind.  Returning down to Place de l’Horloge, the Xmas market is still in full swing around the Carousel. The owner is quite grumpy but, all those who try it out and also their proud relations who applaud, smile and make up for his poor attitude. The interior of the roof has salacious scenes from classical myths – a good bit of nudity to warm up minds at this cold end of year – but a little incongruous.

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Final sunset to herald a New Year – looks promising if only for the short term.

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Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky. Rainer Maria Rilke

Low late autumn light floods the landscape and transforms and changes the balance . . . .

. . even cast shadows become extras on the stage and part of the metamorphosis..

Forms of plants reemerge – just standing naked  – but still adorned with jewelry  . . .

. .  humble fruit trees so full of character . . . .

. .  supported, just, or expertly trained in some cases.

Even suburban cotoneaster becomes a thing of beauty. And the grasses, well . . . . ornamental . . .

. .  and dipsascus showing nature in roughness and beauty.

I think Rilke might have liked this subtle changing vision and ‘transparency’.

Before you can count to ten

everything changes: the wind flicks

clarity out of even

the high thistle stalks

and flings it in my face,

so close it can’t be seen.

A precipice

on a border mountain

gives more certain footing

than this spot where

long grass displaces itself

overnight,      in wind, in rain,

lies down under the clear air

as if stroked

by the hand

which made it up. Jo Shapcott (after Rilke)   Caety Traylow

À côté de la gorge

July 20, 2012

Roger Deakin’s  text on the chestnut woods in Hérault in Wildwood, was the inspiration for this outing but not exactly following in his footsteps. It proved to difficult to locate his sweet chestnut heaven. Olargues is a market town in the centre of the chestnut area. It sits on the  river Jaur between the Caroux and Espinouse  mountains. Very attractive from a distance and also within. Big blowsy blue hydrangeas setting off the orange trumpets of a campsis.

The railway bridge in Olargues was built in 1889 by Eiffel! To span the river and ensure that the famous fruit from this area reached the Paris markets by the next morning. Railway now defunct but bridge forms part of a Voie Verte (greenway for cyclists)

Gorges de Colombières, just nearby, and on the Orb river was our chosen chestnut heaven. Part of the Haut Languedoc Regional Park, which includes prehistoric traces of troglodytes and most likely wild boar.

Dry stone walls retaining the terraces of chestnut trees wind along the narrow paths leading eventually to 850m.

The route is shaded and circuitous – sounds of fast flowing water, the odd echo of folks calling out and some birdsong  – bring another element to the magical journey . . .

. . . blechnums poke out of the stonework at eye level  . . .

. . . and much lichen as little pollution!

In the open ledges, heather in flower . . .

. . .  and within the wooded areas, dead limbs have crashed down – some are felled but some left to rot –   and a beautiful majestic final offering.

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces. Translated by Robert Bly  Rainer Maria Rilke

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