the dutchman in town

October 23, 2014

alfred's meadow

The dutchman‘s work doesn’t figure in the North Park of our new city park  – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park  – but I feel he might enjoy this area more than where his planting, in the South Park,  is squeezed into something resembling a shopping mall. The river Lea makes its way flowing down from Hackney Marsh, in the north, bordered by sustainable planting that should encourage wildlife to enjoy the wetland habitats. Us mortals are also given habitats in the form of thousands of homes being built around the park.

north play

School parties find space for active leisure on Alfred’s Meadow. Good idea to incorporate decent spaces flowing down to the heart of the park – the river – with seating on the higher level. A well proportioned mix of mown amenity grass to rougher wild flower areas and young woodland. There’s space here for cyclists going to + from the velodrome (Hopkins Architects) and casual visitors just strolling or those bent on getting to more physical activity in the Copper Box (Ken Shuttleworth). The bands of planting, especially the dark red Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ looking very contrived. Good plant but wrong place. Something one might mark down on plan but then change . . . are they directional? The directional routes are clearly defined though. A mystery, but one that might resolve in due course . . .  someone having to keep the ground surfaces tidy  (blowing the loose white granite chippings off the bound gravel and tarmac strips) is poor design.

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north park

The soft informal areas are delightfully promising. Good work EDAW.

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carpenters lock

At Carpenters Lock, where the river splits into three channels, the levels are complex too. The reflecting bridge spanning the higher ground seems to be the belt that holds the two areas of the park together. An interesting feature. Some of my life at the moment is spent in a building designed by the same architects  –  not such pleasant experience. A brutal and rather clumsy building with the circulation issues of Tate Modern. The jury’s still out as the ‘snagging’ is ongoing. On the South Park, that surrounds the stadium, where the dutchman’s planting (jolly plan on left + 3D visuals of the Outdoor Rooms on right) has to work with all the clutter that developers think we need.  His planting needs wider borders and it would be good if the seating faced the borders so that visitors can enjoy and appreciate his prowess. I could go on but I won’t . . .

olympic park imagesCH7WA8RW   outdoor rooms

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out door rooms oudolf

outdoor rooms

. . . lights are strung across the main thoroughfare that links to the The World Gardens where plants collected from around the world now have a natural place within our UK planting palette.

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The Southern Hemisphere garden based on plants seen in the Drakensberg Range in South Africa in February and March – kniphofia and red or kangaroo grass, Themeda triandra alongside the small Cape grass, Chonodropetalum tectorum, from the restio family. More Gladiolus ( leftovers planted by the Velodrome then) and touches of blue Agapanthus inapertus intermedius with galtonias. All educational.

world gardens

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To the south of the stadium, Nigel Dunett’s pictorial meadows are show stopping . . .

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stadium

bow quarter

. . . with a view to Bow Quarter and an old home. Great exuberance and a marvellous finale.

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The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press’d
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
“Oh! Plung!” my tauten’d strings would call,
“Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.”
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You’d tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.  John Betjeman  The Olympic Girl

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

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .

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carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

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quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

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. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

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. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

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The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

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Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

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. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.

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“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

shard

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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shard opposite

. .  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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prunus sargentii

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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trinity square

mint street

. . . 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.

neo bankside

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

to human rights ferrari

Parque de la Memoria ( Memory Park) is unique in symbolism and unique among the eclectic mix of parks and green spaces in Buenos Aires. Carlos Thays planned most of the 19 – 20 C parks during the initial growth of this city as the capital of a large country facing industrialisation. In recent years, more contemporary open spaces have been slotted into post industrial developments such as Puerto Madero, along the Plata underlining the growth in the economy and changes in social requirements. Many of the new parks and urban spaces integrate abstract sculptures – this park has eight visually powerful pieces conceived and created within a broad collective theme of  Human Rights. This is not only a park but also a monument to the tens of thousands of Argentines that disappeared during the military dictatorships that spanned 14 years. It’s fitting that the site chosen is by the river believed to be the final resting place of many of the disappeared and also that it is adjacent to the University that many victims were associated with.

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The main access is uncompromising in its bleakness  – an immediate wake up call to the rationale behind the design – but transforms itself well into a user friendly open classroom when the young inhabit the park . . . .

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monument to escape oppenheim

light line

. .  distant horizons are incorporated into the linear framework. The river is wide here but the sense of the opposite shore, Uruguay, is strong although too distant visually –  the seen and the unseen. The personal memorial to those ‘lost’ is a series of concrete walls that vary in angle, height and length and define spaces that are sharply angled and sloping.  The names of those that disappeared during the dictatorships are carved into bricks attached to the walls making a textured surface that contributes to a sense of discomfort, tension and sadness – all suitable.

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The planting is chosen to underscore the symbolism as well as compliment the architectural feel of the park. A bosque of red budded Erythrina crista-galli, the national tree, and well able to cope with the harsh river side conditions plus the lack of management, stand in a asymmetrical group.

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bosque of erythrina crista-galli  (ceibos)

ceiba speciosa

Areas of grass are left long perhaps to discourage active play – a creeping geranium tinged the sward with a flush of pink similar in tone to the spectacular flowers on the Ceiba speciosa  . . . . .

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. . .  one installation that demands attention is the arc of 53 signs. Traffic signs that have become a visual language here display  information as though on a route through Argentina’s recent history of state terrorism (Grupo de Arte Callejero). . . .

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. . . and the dreaded Ford Falcon.

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The park spreads out into the river in a wide arc enabling immediate connection with the water as well as opportunities to gaze, rest and reflect.

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Pablo Miguez disappeared at the age of 14. This sculpture by Claudia Fontes was conceived specifically for this siting in the Rio de la Plata. If Pablo had survived he would be the same age today as the sculptor.

reconstruction of the portrait of Pablo Miguez  fontes

Libre de la memoria y de la esperanza,
ilimitado, abstracto, casi futuro,
el muerto no es un muerto:  es la muerte.
Como el Díos de los místicos
de Quien deben negarse todos los predicados,
el muerto ubicuamente ajeno
no es sino la perdición y ausencia del mundo.
Todo se lo robamos,
no le dejamos ni un color ni una sílaba:
aquí está el patio que ya no comparten sus ojos,
allí la acera donde acechó su esperanza.
Aun lo que pensamos
podría estar pensándolo él;

nos hemos repartido como ladrones

el caudal de las noches y de los días.

Free of memory and of hope,
limitless, abstract, almost future,
the dead man is not a dead man: he is death.
Like the God of the mystics,
of Whom anything that could be said must be denied,
the dead one, alien everywhere,
is but the ruin and absence of the world.
We rob him of everything,
we leave him not so much as a color or syllable:
here, the courtyard which his eyes no longer see,
there, the sidewalk where his hope lay in wait.
Even what we are thinking,
he could be thinking;

we have divvied up like thieves

the booty of nights and days.

Jorge Luis Borges Remordimiento Por Cualquier Muerte

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.

Studio-downie---Royal-geographic

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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serp catalpa

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

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In a village in Normandy, faded French Navy paintwork and glorious mixed tones of iris – I really don’t care about the chain link fence as the tones of the flags are so rich and complimentary. Cayeux irises maybe . . .

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. . . and they’re in a garden in Rue de la Messe. Beautiful calligraphy on the road sign – it’s France, of course. Further south on the Loire, more constrained planting here by the donkey stables in the Domaine of the Château de Chaumont-sue-Loire. The box balls sit in corten circles lining the well raked path network.

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And nearby in Blois, box and other evergreen shrubs are planted and clipped to form green pillows on the sloping bank between road and château.

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In the small park opposite, the planting is older, maybe early 1900’s, but thoughtful in the composition of shape and form. The tree planting in France always causes me to catch my breath in wonderment . . .

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. .  on the higher level are the Jardins des Lice with combinations of plant forms spread below the avenue of limes. This is the only part of the three parts of the Les Jardins du Château de Blois which remains incomplete but what is here is well maintained.

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The completed parts designed by Gilles Clément contain Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux. Below is the Jardins des simples viewed from the terrace above  – one of my favourite town parks – a gem of the contemporary treatment of traditional elements. Simple structure, cherries, crab apples, box + yew and decorative infill planting with classical limestone. So simple, yet so effective – it’s all in the detail.

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Another are that sits midway between Jardin des lices and Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux is the Terrasse des fleurs royales with the squares of iris – the flower of  Franςois I – at the end of the flowering season now but still effective with the papery brown flags en masse.

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Perfect planting of philadelphus to shoulder the gated entrance. And the view from Clos des simples zodiacaux to the established and mature trees below and, even more faded French Navy, showing me once again that style, finish and detailing are second nature here.

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Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l’abîme,
O Beauté? ton regard, infernal et divin,
Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime,
Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.

Tu contiens dans ton oeil le couchant et l’aurore;
Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux;
Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore
Qui font le héros lâche et l’enfant courageux.

Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres?
Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien;
Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres,
Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien.

Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques;
De tes bijoux l’Horreur n’est pas le moins charmant,
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques,
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.

L’éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle,
Crépite, flambe et dit: Bénissons ce flambeau!
L’amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle
A l’air d’un moribond caressant son tombeau.

Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l’enfer, qu’importe,
Ô Beauté! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu!
Si ton oeil, ton souris, ton pied, m’ouvrent la porte
D’un Infini que j’aime et n’ai jamais connu?

De Satan ou de Dieu, qu’importe? Ange ou Sirène,
Qu’importe, si tu rends, — fée aux yeux de velours,
Rythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine! —
L’univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds?

Do you come from Heaven or rise from the abyss,
Beauty? Your gaze, divine and infernal,
Pours out confusedly benevolence and crime,
And one may for that, compare you to wine.

You contain in your eyes the sunset and the dawn;
You scatter perfumes like a stormy night;
Your kisses are a philtre, your mouth an amphora,
Which make the hero weak and the child courageous.

Do you come from the stars or rise from the black pit?
Destiny, bewitched, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disaster,
And you govern all things but answer for nothing.

You walk upon corpses which you mock, O Beauty!
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances amorously upon your proud belly.

The dazzled moth flies toward you, O candle!
Crepitates, flames and says: ‘Blessed be this flambeau!’
The panting lover bending o’er his fair one
Looks like a dying man caressing his own tomb,

Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty! Huge, fearful, ingenuous monster!
If your regard, your smile, your foot, open for me
An Infinite I love but have not ever known?

From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden?   Charles Baudelaire   Hymn to Beauty

Downs in winter

‘Tracks, prints and paths’ is a phrase used by Robert Macfarlane describing Eric Ravilious’ interaction with the South Downs in Macfarlane’s book ‘The Old Ways’ but James Russell is the recognised authoritative voice on Ravilious. Many images from Ravilious in Pictures published by The Mainstone Press are appearing on the web just now so I thought to put together my limited narrative of the Footsteps of Ravilious day exploring the South Downs landscape that inspired him. An event organised by the Towner, where many of his watercolour drawings are in the permanent collection.

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Agricultural landscapes were his love . . . . .  and appropriately we started our day at East Dean Farm sitting by the pond that he used as subject matter. This view sets the scene well although now quite gentrified (someone has ‘lined’ the pond) and the farm is now used as a wedding venue as well as a rare breeds sheep farm.

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On to the chalk cliffs of Newhaven harbour and the west pier, where the tumps in the landscape (shown below) were made to house lunette batteries that protected the sea defences from invasion by Napoleon.

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My view out to sea and, below  ‘Newhaven Harbour’ a lithograph that Ravilious tagged as ‘Hommage to Seurat’.

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newhaven harbour

We follow the line of the Ouse to the north and start the slow climb up Itford Hill carpeted in cowslips . . . from ickford hill from ickford hill2

. . and reach the view of Muggery Poke, now abandoned, but a landmark for those who wish to fly . . . and float. All the four legs remain oblivious.

from ickford hill3

Ravilious experienced a busier use of the agricultural landscape. Mount Caborn in the distance.

Mount Caburn

Looking down from Bedingham Hill, signs remain of the old chalk pits and Cement Works no 2 that closed in 1968. Barges travelled up and down the Ouse carrying cement. Eventually this became a landfill site  – the black pipes that release the methane are still visible before the gorse and scrubby hawthorn reclaim the area. Ravilious made some studies of the pits, the workings  and the railway.

asham hse chalk pits.2JPG asham hse chalk pits

chalk pit

sheep ouse

The sinuous path of the Ouse is quite beautiful . . .

ouse cuckmere

. . .  as is the river Cuckmere in Cuckmere Haven – watercolour by Ravilious.  We drop down passing  Coombe Barn and The Lay turning up the track where the fever wagons were placed. And arrive at Furlongs, the home of Peggy Angus, but owned by a Mr Wilson who managed the cement works. Angus and Ravilious were great friends and she remains an important figure in circle of artists and craft makers here at this time. Furlongs was the gathering point.

furlongs

furlongs2

Ravilious considered that what he discovered during spells at Furlongs was fundamental : “…altered my whole outlook and way of painting, I think because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious … that I simply had to abandon my tinted drawings”.

furlongs water wheel

One water wheel is still in-situ by Little Dean . . .

water firle1

. . on to Firle where the lilac blooms were just breaking forth. And into the walled garden where plastic sheeting has replaced the green house glass. Military canes at the ready to support tomatoes and the almost exact point from where Ravilious made his composition for ‘The Greenhouse: Cyclamen and Tomatoes’.

firle 3 firle 2 greenhouse at firle

As the exploration came to an end, I thought about the changes in the landscape 80 years on since Ravilious had captured and executed his visions. A good deal of the South Downs is a National park and there are 37 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. This wikipedia link is helpful in understanding the changes in agricultural practice here. And to close, this front garden of one of the village cottages packed with aquilegia and bluebells retains a sense of the past – cottage gardens are back in fashion.

firle 4

Now a little bit of nostalgia. Below is a water colour drawing by Edward Bawden of his friend ‘The Boy’, Eric Ravilious in his Studio at Radcliffe Road’. They became friends meeting at the Royal College. Bawden, John Nash and Philip Ardizzone taught me at Colchester School of Art.  Edward and John Nash, both small in stature, were impeccably dressed  in tweed suits with waistcoats and perfectly knotted ties. I’m afraid we students were not dressed in a similar manner, after all it was the late 60’s  . . . flares and mini skirts. They would spend quite a while just giggling at private jokes – a sweet pair. I’m embarassed to say that we didn’t really know who these talented tutors were but we did respect and appreciate the knowledge that they imparted and their sense of civility. Bawden taught me to carve perfect circles with a lino cutter but mine were never up to his standard!

bawden

This post has connections with Ravilious too. And invaluable reading: ‘Eric Ravilious Memoir of an Artist’ – Helen Binyon and ‘Eric Ravilious Imagined Realities’ – Alan Powers.

A sulky lad scuffs idly through the scree

head down beneath a kite cart-wheeling sky.

Daedalus seals his art to set him free,

pinions fulmar feathers waxed and dry

onto the golden shoulders of his son.

‘Swoop down too low, the sea will drown your wings.

The great sun which fires my tears and stings

Your eyes’, Icarus stumble into flight,

Stretching his wings through a May soaring day,

Higher and higher from his father’s sight.

He reaches for heaven; suns flame his way.

Feathered keenings close a reckless flight.

A falling lullaby of dripping light. Pam Hughes Rite of Passage.

Chelsea foray

May 23, 2013

1bulbs

Rather shocked to see that I haven’t been to Chelsea for 3 years. Years ago, it was an event to look forward to – the development of show gardens, sound second hand book stalls where work by Sylvia Crowe and Nan Fairbrother could be found, the design tent (my home for many years) and mostly the delight of Beth Chatto’s stand in the Grand Marquee. Now, Twitter, Facebook et al tells us exactly what we’ll find so the sense of discovery doesn’t exist. The sun used to shine too, on the odd occasion. Yesterday, the place was packed. We shuffled around trying to poke a nose over shoulders of crowds that appeared to be looking at exhibits but of course were gawping at the TV celebs busy filming. Due to the heavy cloud and the bitter cold, I made straight for the flowers  . . .  inside . . . .

2 bulbs

. . classy stand created by Avon Bulbs. Deep maroon Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’, white fringed Tulipa ‘Daytona’, Allium ‘White Empress’ and Anthericum liliago major stood serene. Hard to miss is Sue from Crug Farm Plants – colourful gear and great jewellery  – manning the display of foliage rich specimens. Many are grown from seed collected from annual plant hunting expeditions. Show stopper here is Disporum longistyllum with black and green stems standing proud.

3 crug

4 west malling

As sculptural, but to be pitied, a large excavated tree on the East Malling Research Stand with all roots exposed. Folks edged around it nervously and were supposed to wonder at how ‘scientific knowledge can be focused on rootstocks and growing techniques, through to the modern application of genetic studies to advance fruit culture’. Boffins can be brutal! To the other extreme, opulence and pure decoration from the Far East but quite hideous . . .

5 eastern

. .  stonking lupins and touches of ethereal beauty  – geum, verbascum and ladybird poppies – created by Rosy Hardy

6 lupins

7 hardys1

The light’s quite strange inside the Grand Marquee and I’m nowhere in terms of photography which is a frustrating combination. Below is the evidence, oh dear. Beautiful and imaginative display of cascading amaryllis badly captured. This stand by the Dutch firm of  Warmenhoven showing their fabulous bulbs upwards and downwards ticked all the boxes for me and, amazingly enough,  for the RHS, and we hardly ever agree.

8 amaryllis

9 amaryllis

11 amaryllis

Well, outside I shivered but this lady carried off her outing with great aplomb and I did see a few hats and remembered Jane accordingly.

12 lady

13 nordfell

A few of the show gardens warrant some exposure here. Ulf Nordfell designed this for Laurent-Perrier. Simple, clean and classical. Sleek, calm and contemporary. Exquisite use of crafted materials – soft and sublime planting – all excellent. However, I much preferred his  Linnaeus Garden of 2007. And someone has just asked Why? Well, the narrative in that garden was strong, clear and compelling – that’s my answer.

14 nordfell

15 nordfell

Unfortunately for Ulf, he was partnered alongside this great spectacle seen below . . .

16 CB-H

. .  Christopher Bradley – Hole designed this  . . . he can do the narrative so well. And he courageously filled the space with plants and let us rest our elbows on green oak balustrade so we could breath it all in and, of course, admire his skill and that of the contractor.

16.1 CB-H

The inspiration cane from the English countryside  – field patterns and native plants with some Japanese overtones and a little Mien Ruys too perhaps?  But I didn’t mention that to him – next time perhaps . . .

17 CB-H

. .  the profiles of green oak and charred oak that wrap 2 sides of the garden have caused a stir.

18 CB-H

And something that caused another stir is The Trailfinders Australian Garden. On the rock bank and filled with glorious plants like Brachtrichon rupestris sourced from a nursery in Sicily. The chaps on the stand were thrilled with their Best in Show – such enthusiasm rubbed off all around.

19 trailfinders

20 trailfinders

21 nasties

The product stands at the show have their share of hideous rubbish  . . . a strange dichotomy . . . well designed ( mostly!!) show gardens and quite lovely plants on the nursery stands and pure crap on the product stalls. This ghastliness above loomed over the small ‘Fresh’ gardens where designers are asked to be brave and challenge preconceptions. Some achieved this and some didn’t quite. I liked this  – Digital Capabilities – where the concept of engagement of technology and physical space was explored by Harfleet and Harfleet. The degree of Twitter activity manipulated the movement of screens.

22 digital capabilities

23 after the fire

And this garden ‘After the Fire’ was also popular especially with me. After last summer’s spell in Languedoc and Provence enjoying the garrigue landscape, this little landscape connected completely. Regeneration of plant life following forest fires  . . . seed collected by Kelways and nurtured to provide some of the planting. Huddled amongst the burnt stems are members of the Mediterranean Garden Society from Greece and France

24 after the fire

25 recycled

Always interesting to see and learn how recycled materials can be used effectively as on The Wasteland but I didn’t understand the planting especially the siting of 3 blowsy pink rhodos! Echoes of the past.

26 recycled

But I did understand this stand of Sneeboer garden tools. Best thing to finish off with and good to see you again James  Aldridge!

27 tools

The following were not allowed in the house:

A lone glove, dropped.

The new moon’s crescent glimpsed in the mirror.

The sky-spars of an open umbrella.

There was also the rubic of May

and its blossoms. Granny barred the door

against hawthorn and the sloe,

even the rowan with its friendly acrid smell of underwear,

so that Bride the white goddess

could not dance herself in from the moor,

or too much beauty break and enter

her winter store of darkness.  Alison Fell  5 May

1

A misty start to Green Man Day this year. We wandered down the front  . . . 2

. . . and passed the pier shrouded in sea fog. But then the mass of metal hit us as the roar of exhausts filled the air . . 3

. . and on to Rock a Nore where the crowds milled around innocently, made up of small groupings catching up on the local gossip as well as meeting and greeting 12 months on. (Click on the bold to see the previous 3 years posted here + more info on the why, what and the wherefore of this event). here + here + here4 wigs 4 6 7

Jack is set free from the net hut and Mad Jack’s Woman dance around him before the procession starts with Mad Jack’s Morris waving hankies, slapping each others buttocks in a manner that brings to the fore many other British eccentricities . . . 8 9 10

. . the Gay Bogies, Hannah’s Cat, The Lovely Ladies and Green Participants enter into the spirit of the occasion . . . 11

. .  many costumes  are to be admired . . .

12 figures

. .  Giant figures enter into the procession at significant stages – but don’t ask me when or why. I like the ‘shy lady’ though with her coy glance . . .

13 figures

. . the Sweeps arrive looking dark, dusty and threatening . . . . 14 sweeps 15 sweeps 17

. .  the decoration of their top hats needs a closer examination – bits of everything cobbled together. 16 sweep headress

More hats and head dresses . . . easy to see above the mellay. headress 1 headress 2 headress 3 headress4 headress 5 headress6 headress 7

After the group of dark sweeps, more colourful costumes pass by including dogs suitably attired . . . 18 colour 19 colour

. .  there’s a good deal of drumming and banging of staves and some sort of dancing – quite a lot is about thrusting at opposing partner!

20 colour 21

My favourite well dressed participant (above) – different costume every year but always recognisable. Well done again, Sir. 22

It becomes difficult to differentiate between the ‘live’ and the model . 23 courthouse 24 courthouse

In the Old Town High Street, doors and windows have been adorned . . . . 25 door 26 window

. .  it’s a tight, narrow street, so the sound wells up and the excitement created by the enthusiasm of those in the procession and the onlookers blends into a fantastic festive eruption of movement and colour. 27 28 29

The costumes can be better appreciated from the rear. 30

Some in the procession appear resolute and determined . . . . . and others want to remain incognito. 31

Some appear swashbuckling and cavalier . . .

32

. . and some want a rest now and then.

33

The sea front fills up with more metal, leather, sweat and  . . . . the sense of anorak. 34

It’s a strange occasion! The so-called modern world of the machine meets the world of myths. 35 36

It is not growing like a tree in bulk, doth make Man better be; or standing long an oak three hundred year, to fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere; A lily of a day is fairer in May, although it fall and die that night- It was the plant and flower of Light. In small proportions we just beauties see: and in short measures life may perfect be, Ben Johnson The Noble Nature

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