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In 48:Eight – the gallery of The School Creative Centre, a symposium titled This Migration – the role of migration in the arts, our lives, societies and our future histories. The sculpted heads of first and second generation Londoners formed a silent last tier. Their individual stories could be heard through the headphones.

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A slide below that was used to explain the processing of personal information and how this can be translated into data – used by the border services as well as by those more creative. Francis Alys ‘ The Loop’, Yinka Shonibare ‘The British Library’, Xavier Ribas ‘The Fence’ + Anna Maria Maioino ‘Black Hole’ were used in a discussion on how certain artists deal with issues around migration.

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Not all the heads are inanimate and the colour of bone – some are the guests . . .

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. . . not in focus but that’s purposeful. Digital images of the Lost Land of Ubar. The tracking of a migration route – digital cartography. How beautiful is the earth. I found the whole experience of the session visual as well as informative and consequently thought provoking.

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Open Studios here on 19+20 September. The text comes from Geography 111 – an anthology of poems by Elizabeth Bishop.

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LESSON I.

Q. What is Geography?

A. A description of the Earth’s surface.

Q. What is the Earth?

A. The planet or body on which we live.

Q. What is the shape of the Earth?

A. Round, like a ball.

Q. Of what is the Earth composed?

A. Land and Water.

 

LESSON VII.

Q. What is a Map?

A. A picture of the whole, or a part, of the Earth’s Surface.

Q. What are the directions on a Map?

A. Toward the top, North; toward the bottom, South; to the right, East; to the left, West.

Q. In what direction from the centre of the picture is the Island?

A. North.

In what direction is the Volcano? The Cape?

The Bay? The Lake? The Strait? The Mountains?

The Isthmus?

What is in the East? In the West? In the South? In the North? In the Northwest? In the Southeast?

 

“First Lessons in Geography,”

Monteith’s Geographical Series,, A S Barnes + Co., 1884

finding the sea

January 5, 2014

A short bus ride to the south of Nimes lie the Étangs which form part of the only commune in the Gard to have frontage to the sea – where the beaches spread out from the small port of le Grau du Roi. In this landscape, reed covered marshes interlock with large cultivated areas as well as the stretches of salt pans that produce thousands of tonnes of salt a day at harvest time.

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Following a storm surge from the Rhone in 17C, a wide channel was formed, eventually made into a canal, creating a direct link to Aigues -Mortes to the north. In the port eclectic buildings line the south facing side of the channel  . . .

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. . .  a flashy intervention seems to have happened on the apex of the hôtel above but the old lighthouse retains a modest charm. Across the bay to the west sits la Grande-Motte with the show off architecture by Jean Balladur. He drew inspiration from the  pre-Columbian pyramids of Teotihuacan – Mexico – and modern architecture in Brazil, especially in the works of architect Oscar Niemeyer. Quite like it from a distance – but only as such. Within, it felt like a retirement complex in Florida.

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Elements within the port and the beaches offer up close quarter delights in the sharp light of a winter’s day  . . .

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. . and as the cirrus clouds waft overhead, their cumuli cousins await over the horizon. Ernest Hemingway liked this place enough to write some of The Garden of Eden here. I liked it too.  Au revoir et à bientôt.

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“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Ernest Hemingway  The Garden of Eden.

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”

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Small jetties stretch into Bahia Redondo of Lago Argentina laying west of the centre of El Calafate. The town is small in relation to the size of the lago – and nowhere near as interesting but then it doesn’t purport to be anything but a base for visitors exploring the glaciers. I’ve looked at these images many times and resisted using them in a post mainly as I have a feeling that pics are done and dusted when added to the narrative . . .  don’t want to let these go . . .

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. . . Laguna Nimez and Laguna Secondaria gently embrace the marshland and the dune landscape of the nature reserve in an organic formation and, in quiet contrast, to the urban grid of the paths, roads and the geometric building mass of the town. We came across this young lad smothered in a patch of anthemis covering land destined for development  . . . .

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. . . and then immersed ourselves in the wetland area  – with these larger inhabitants.

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Typical vegetation of Berberis heterophyllus and ‘neneo’ Mulinum spinosum. The small furry foliage of Senecio patagonicus forms the ground cover. El Calafate was named after the berberis (calafate) bush  – the landmark plant where the stage coach stopped.

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Calafate puro or jam is totally delicious and makes a good ingredient for ice cream. Song birds and small rodents feed on the berries too. So bog standard berberis that we use freely in supermarket planting schemes has, after all, a more personal quality. Good.

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Without resorting to lists – Snipe, Chilean flamingoes and black necked swans pad about and dip their beaks and necks into this watery ecosystem and the rush bird is also active within the reeds.  Finches, sparrows, wrens  and mockingbirds find protection amongst the calafate bushes. It is a list of course.

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Rather out of focus but fitting in with the colour background is a long tailed meadowlark.  A pair of young buzzards scan the ground for promising food. Other things fly here . . .

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. .   and early snow  cover sits on the peaks in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the north.

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Hummingbirds and blackbirds and two great poets. Poems to read and absorb in tough times.

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And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

*

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

Seamus Heaney   St Kevin and the blackbird

The hummingbird
in flight
is a water-spark,
an incandescent drip
of American
fire,
the jungle’s
flaming resume,
a heavenly,
precise
rainbow:
the hummingbird is
an arc,
a golden
thread,
a green
bonfire!

Oh
tiny
living
lightning,
when
you hover
in the air,
you are
a body of pollen,
a feather
or hot coal,
I ask you:
What is your substance?
Perhaps during the blind age
of the Deluge,
within fertility’s
mud,
when the rose
crystallized
in an anthracite fist,
and metals matriculated
each one in
a secret gallery
perhaps then
from a wounded reptile
some fragment rolled,
a golden atom,
the last cosmic scale,
a drop of terrestrial fire
took flight,
suspending your splendor,
your iridescent,
swift sapphire.

You doze
on a nut,
fit into a diminutive blossom;
you are an arrow,
a pattern,
a coat-of-arms,
honey’s vibrato, pollen’s ray;
you are so stouthearted–
the falcon
with his black plumage
does not daunt you:
you pirouette,
a light within the light,
air within the air.
Wrapped in your wings,
you penetrate the sheath
of a quivering flower,
not fearing
that her nuptial honey
may take off your head!

From scarlet to dusty gold,

to yellow flames,
to the rare
ashen emerald,
to the orange and black velvet
of our girdle gilded by sunflowers,
to the sketch
like
amber thorns,
your Epiphany,
little supreme being,
you are a miracle,
shimmering
from torrid California
to Patagonia’s whistling,
bitter wind.
You are a sun-seed,
plumed
fire,
a miniature
flag
in flight,
a petal of silenced nations,
a syllable
of buried blood,
a feather
of an ancient heart,
submerged. Pablo Neruda  Ode to the Humminbird

geography and geometry

July 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I climbed a ladder to . . .

Was it the moon or stars?

Was it to find a view,

A total world view of

Some magnitude? I had

Much daring once in love,

But daring balanced by

Hope and trust, I read

Of how wise men will try

Slowly to reach a state

Where there’s no argumnet

Man cannot know his fate

But he can face the rough

Returns, the storms of hate,

If only he will love

But love with purpose and

Direction. I can see

A ladder in my mind

A monument, I am free,

A moment understand. Elizabeth Jennings  I Climbed a Ladder

pagoda

July 6, 2013

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The term ‘pagoda’ is quite often misused, and surprisingly often misused by those in the garden profession. Many times I have heard contractors define a timber structure as a pagoda when it should be termed pergola. There again pergolas are often confused with arbours . . .  but enough now on terminology. This tiered structure  ‘La Pagode de Chanteloupe’ was built as a folly within a large 18C country estate on the Loire. The gardens were laid out in patterned formality to include the necessaries – vegetable, decorative, copses + groves – by the architect Louis-Denis Le Camus for a Duke.

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These gates and railings appear to be original, even though most of the infrastructure of the  estate was destroyed in the revolution.  Visible features today are the pagoda with semi circular basin, Petit Pavilion (concierge house) + 2 other pavilions in Louis XVI style – markers for the estate entrance. Until recently the long avenue of limes afforded a view from the small parking area by the road,  but now the first sighting is well and truly screened with hoardings – a shame – and the visitor is taken on a orchestrated route through ticket office, new Chinese garden and an area containing many traditional and rare children’s toys and games before being allowed through the gates and onto the shingle surround. The simplicity of this open shingle space in front of the structure is quite attractive not only visually . . .

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. . but also for those who want to play instead of absorbing factual info – 44m high, 7 storeys and each ring with 16 columns – with the main function of the pagoda being to follow the routes and actions of the hunting parties within the woods and forests of that era. The ladies, I imagine, were not invited to ascend and view – staircase is far too narrow for wide skirts!

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. . .

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from inside

The banister rail on the ground floor is cast iron  . . . . . .

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balcony 3rd floor

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. .  and mahogany on the higher levels. Looking through to what were the original garden areas – now fields –  it’s relatively easy to imagine the scale of the gardened grounds.

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Below shows a proposed ground plan showing the château outlined in red and the central axis to the water features with the pagoda (largish dot) to the right. Also a bird’s-eye view showing the formality and precision of the garden layout.

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Peering down from the highest landing  . . .

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. . . and up to the domed ceiling. Ah, the craftsmanship of the past. Mr Swatton could do it but not many others nowadays.

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There are just a few signs of garden features – just enough to feel the character and ambience.

‘A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,’

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Je veux, pour composer chastement mes églogues,
Coucher auprès du ciel, comme les astrologues,
Et, voisin des clochers écouter en rêvant
Leurs hymnes solennels emportés par le vent.
Les deux mains au menton, du haut de ma mansarde,
Je verrai l’atelier qui chante et qui bavarde;
Les tuyaux, les clochers, ces mâts de la cité,
Et les grands ciels qui font rêver d’éternité.

II est doux, à travers les brumes, de voir naître
L’étoile dans l’azur, la lampe à la fenêtre
Les fleuves de charbon monter au firmament
Et la lune verser son pâle enchantement.
Je verrai les printemps, les étés, les automnes;
Et quand viendra l’hiver aux neiges monotones,
Je fermerai partout portières et volets
Pour bâtir dans la nuit mes féeriques palais.
Alors je rêverai des horizons bleuâtres,
Des jardins, des jets d’eau pleurant dans les albâtres,
Des baisers, des oiseaux chantant soir et matin,
Et tout ce que l’Idylle a de plus enfantin.
L’Emeute, tempêtant vainement à ma vitre,
Ne fera pas lever mon front de mon pupitre;
Car je serai plongé dans cette volupté
D’évoquer le Printemps avec ma volonté,
De tirer un soleil de mon coeur, et de faire
De mes pensers brûlants une tiède atmosphère. Charles Baudelaire Paysage

More chasteness to my eclogues it would give,
Sky-high, like old astrologers to live,
A neighbour of the belfries: and to hear
Their solemn hymns along the winds career.
High in my attic, chin in hand, I’d swing
And watch the workshops as they roar and sing,
The city’s masts — each steeple, tower, and flue —
And skies that bring eternity to view.

Sweet, through the mist, to see illumed again
Stars through the azure, lamps behind the pane,
Rivers of carbon irrigate the sky,
And the pale moon pour magic from on high.
I’d watch three seasons passing by, and then
When winter came with dreary snows, I’d pen
Myself between closed shutters, bolts, and doors,
And build my fairy palaces indoors.

A dream of blue horizons I would garble
With thoughts of fountains weeping on to marble,
Of gardens, kisses, birds that ceaseless sing,
And all the Idyll holds of childhood’s spring.
The riots, brawling past my window-pane,
From off my desk would not divert my brain.
Because I would be plunged in pleasure still,
Conjuring up the Springtime with my will,
And forcing sunshine from my heart to form,
Of burning thoughts, an atmosphere that’s warm.

— Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

around the chateau

June 27, 2013

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In the Domaine de Chaumont – sur – Loire, there is an annual international garden festival which I ‘ve visited about 6 times since it opened 20 odd years ago; mainly to see the show gardens. Since the beginnings, other areas of the park have been developed to offer visitor facilities and to contribute to the big idea of making Chaumont a Centre for Art and Nature devoted to the “relationship between nature and culture, artistic creation and the impact of landscape, our heritage and contemporary art” – from the brochure. This year, I found it difficult to respond to and enjoy most of the show gardens (post to follow), but what I did enjoy was the selective siting of installations within other parts of the parkland as well as the creation of another landscape for more permanent conceptual gardens – the Prés du Goualoup. L’archipel (top image) designed by Shodo Suzuki  is here and is . . .

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. . . a development of his original Zen garden from early years of the festival (above). One comment was that the recent creation looked a little like a golf course. Land form is always difficult to integrate into large areas of flat grassland and maybe the strong principles behind this form of garden were sitting uneasily within this landscape – certainly with spreads of pretty wild flowers. I did find it calming however, which is important.

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wild flower edge + kawamata

The installation by Rainer Gross – Toi(t) à terre  – visible from the Loire and offering views of the river from the parkland. This blackened wood form appears to  have gently rolled down and settled itself in a discarded manner against one of the park trees . Great scale  . . . . .

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. . . and the partner, Toi(t) en perspective, hangs from the giant trees. Shapes inspired by the conical chateux towers, specifically Amboise, just along the Loire.

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Patrick Dougherty designed these airy forms which looked like willow and indeed parts appeared to be sprouting. Tactile, curious and fun.

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More serious work from David Nash – static, monumental, confident and not inviting – which isn’t a criticism just an observation. The cedars however, are monumental as well as retaining their graceful habit and character.

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Within the renovated stables complex – stupendous 19th C indulgence – sits Spirale Végétale. Patrick Blanc created a green wall  here many years ago – once seen never forgotten – where the workings were visible and so helpful to all who marvelled. He’s back again with this giant curving leaf form open to the sky. Many times copied but always falling short – his planting is his mark and my pix are poor!

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By the Hayloft Gallery, one of the old farm buildings, a touch of contemporary amongst a wealth of quite beautifully renovated traditional elements.  Corten steel to give you a rusty, grid pattern on your backside and uncomfortable to boot. So, the implication is not to perch.

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By the greenhouse, wiggley -woggley lines of box domes which are rather charming especially as they sit in the angular built environment – an image used in a previous post.

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Le Jardin de Yu Kongjian – Carré et Rond – re sited permanently in the new Goualoup area offers a curving boardwalk over water in an eyes down sort of way. More interesting in an eyes up way though is Nuage Permanent by Nakaya. The inside of a cloud within the birch grove. An imagined imagery controlled superbly.

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Aujourd’hui l’espace est splendide!
Sans mors, sans éperons, sans bride,
Partons à cheval sur le vin
Pour un ciel féerique et divin!

Comme deux anges que torture
Une implacable calenture
Dans le bleu cristal du matin
Suivons le mirage lointain!

Mollement balancés sur l’aile
Du tourbillon intelligent,
Dans un délire parallèle,

Ma soeur, côte à côte nageant,
Nous fuirons sans repos ni trêves
Vers le paradis de mes rêves! Charles Baudelaire  Le Vin des amants

Oh, what a splendour fills all space!
Without bit, spur, or rein to race,
Let’s gallop on the steeds of wine
To heavens magic and divine!

Now like two angels off the track,
Whom wild relentless fevers rack,
On through the morning’s crystal blue
The swift mirages we’ll pursue.

Now softly poised upon the wings
That a sagacious cyclone brings,
In parallel delirium twinned,

While side by side we surf the wind,
We’ll never cease from such extremes,
To seek the Eden of our dreams!  trans. Roy Campbell

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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

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