Below Mont Lozère, in the Cévennes where sweet chestnuts abound, sits Le Jardin du Tomple described as a ‘jardin anglais’. A term that is off-putting to me after all I have Great Dixter, Sissinghurst Castle and any number of English gardens on my doorstep for a good part of the year. Certainly the garden has an air of informality with curving grass paths flowing around large mixed borders packed with mature flowering shrubs – hydrangeas, roses, camellias, cornus – perennials et al and there is just a small amount of typical Mediterranean terracing.  So my understanding is that it is the planting design that has defined the description. The garden is also described as ‘secret’. Well, it’s hidden away amongst glorious trees – pines and cyprus, poplars and châtaignes –  the access is difficult but that, in effect, makes it an intriguing objective. And it is worthwhile.

The key to any succesful large garden is the water source whether river, springs or bore holes and here in this area it’s a necessity. The river has its arm around the garden and the water from the surrounding wooded hills is organised into canals, bassins and an informal rill. The huge lumps of schist rock from glacial fallout dominate the water course and the garden . . .

. . . there is a traditional water feature and nearby a marvellous clump of Iris x robusta ‘Gerard Darby’  – a truly brilliant plant – evergreen here and with just enough moisture in a shady area to show to full potential.

Cornus kousa surrounds this small pigeonnier and many more varieties are being planted throughout the site . . .

. . . more typically English is philadelphus perhaps and roses everywhere; more than 350 and many old varieties.

Areas of  mown grass offer easy circulation and a chance to enjoy the wilder, meadow type grassland.

On the wall of the mas is a collection of old implements hung in a decorative manner . . .

. . . equally decorative is the echeveria planting within the dray stone walling. I will be copying this, thank you, and maybe the setting to rest of old gardening tools too. So summing up and to answer my own question, a succesful juxtaposition of English and French garden styles – quirky with a personal touch created by the mother and daughter owners, Françoise and Véronique, much to see and admire  – and hurrah for their use of plant labels.

Visit it in the dark. Cicadas

Are inside your head as your hand

reaches towards the bark: you feel

The latent heat first then the surface,

Scrubbed with lichen you can’t see

But know from the fizz where touch

Meets memory. Before all this,

the scent, which is anti-language

(only, as it drifts into your body

the words slip in, as well),

and made of earth, air, sun

and human consciousness. Jo Shapcott     Of Mutability   Cypress

to esplanade

In Nimes, it’s feria – a great big party based around the bulls . . . bull fighting . . . bull running . . . and other bull events. These are not for me but I do like a festive occasion.  On the way up the esplanade through the stalls of food and of clothing, I came across young girls perfectly turned out but hanging around in informal queues  . . .

flamenco 1

flamenco 2

. . . waiting to take the stage and perform with their instructor, or was she a judge? Whatever she was big personality . . .

flamenco 3

. . . we were all transfixed by her charisma.

flamenco 4

esplanade fountain

Around the fountain, horse men and woman, from Uzès perfomed with impressive skill . . .

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horse skills

horse skills 2

. . . and another formidable horse woman was also centre stage.

in charge 2

Crowds overflowed into the street around the bodegas . . .

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bodegas 2

. . . full of bonhomie. Beer and sangria flowing but no one seemed to show after effects . . .

concerts 1

. . . and musicians started impromptu concerts . . .

concerts 2

concerts 3

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. . . full of fun and some performers showing superb skills.

bodegas 4

arene

It opens, the gate to the garden

with the docility of a page

that frequent devotion questions

and inside, my gaze

has no need to fix on objects

that already exist, exact, in memory.

I know the customs and souls

and that dialect of allusions

that every human gathering goes weaving.

I’ve no need to speak

nor claim false privilege;

they know me well who surround me here,

know well my afflictions and weakness.

This is to reach the highest thing,

that Heaven perhaps will grant us:

not admiration or victory

but simply to be accepted

as part of an undeniable Reality,

like stones and trees. Jorge Luis Borges

 

at lunchtime

June 6, 2015

place de l'eglise

France still closes down at lunchtine 12-2pm. Quite civilised and to be respected. Very pleasant sitting in Place de l’Eglise in Fontvieille – a small town that appeals more and more . . .

rue de lion

. . . wandering around the old streets, intrinsic compositions can be seen, admired and recorded.

lion gargoyle

pelargoniums

olive and stone

echeveria

pot garden

A garden of pots – well tended plants, all thriving and with somewhere to sit and admire them . . .

chairs

. . . and a green roof, which some might say is just ‘les mauvaises herbes’.

green roof

platane murie

Mûrier platane foliage on neatly managed trees shading a small modern square – very inviting – and just close by, in contrast, spreading branches of an ancient plane tree form a ceiling by the quarried stone face of the old town wall.

small square

stone quarry

skate 1

In the château gardens, now the town park, all ages are catered for. The home of Alphonse Daudet, the writer, now a museum dedicated to him and his work  – most notably “Les Lettres de mon Moulin”. Water courses run through the parkland where holm oaks and pines cascade over lauristinius and broom providing a simple vegetation matrix

canal

view to windmill 1

windmill 1

Following one walking route (there are many others to Les Baux, to San Remy and to Eygalieres) around the top of the town, the landmarks are three windmills named after their owners – Tissot-Avon (2 owners), Ramet and Ribet also called St Pierre and also also called Daudet’s mill with sails completely restored.

windmill 2

windmill 3

windmill 3 whole

windmill 3

rather fell for it and the whole area of Les Alpilles.

windmill 3 detail

J’ai dans mon coeur un oiseau bleu,
Une charmante creature,
Si mignonne que sa ceinture
N’a pas l’epaisseur d’un cheveu.

Il lui faut du sang pour pature.
Bien longtemps, je me fis un jeu
De lui donner sa nourriture:
Les petits oiseaux mangent peu.

Mais, sans en rien laisser paraitre,
Dans mon coeur il a fait, le traitre,
Un trou large comme la main.

Et son bec fin comme une lame,
En continuant son chemin,
M’est entre jusqu’au fond de l’ame!….  Alphonse Daudet L’Oiseau Bleu

 

drift garden phellodendron + salvia p rain1

” I had the idea of creating different garden rooms but on a big scale” says Piet Oudolf. The walled garden at Scampston Hall is where this idea was carried out. Within a geometric structure, the informality of the planting spreads through and harmonizes the experience of the journey  – from room to room. Rivers, drifts and flowing lines are the theme – just enough and, not so much, as to dampen or annihilate. Unfortunately, these images show clearly that the air was laden with Yorkshire moisture on this visit, so water is all around  . . .

drifts of molinia poul peteresn3

. . . . curving ribbons of Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’ are woven through the mown turf base layer in the Drift Garden. As the grasses grow, the dynamic changes into a soft meadow landscape  – the initial pattern is hidden. Low seating beneath the Chinese cork trees (Phellodendron) is surrounded by Salvia ‘Purple Rain’  – all quite delicious and showing that simple’s best.

drift garden phellodendron + salvia purple rain2

 

spring box border - beech hedges + geranium 'brookside'4

Mature beech hedging rings the exterior of the garden rooms – visible on one side of the Plantsman’s Walk as well as within in the Spring and Summer Box Borders . . . .

beech hedges katsura grove13

katsura grove astrantia claret,geranium rose claire

. . .  Astrantia m. ‘Claret’ punctuates pink Geranium ‘Rose Clair’, or is it the other way round? Woodland plants froth and spill under the Cercidiphyllum trees. A well-known Oudolf device of a central geometric  shape, in this case, an oval, is positioned here filled with Molinia ‘Transparent’  – the arching habit disguises the formality of the pattern. A sense of formality is retained all year however, in the Silent Garden, where columns of yew are firmly entrenched within square clipped bases – the only feel of movement here comes from the water surface which hardly ripples . . . a very poor photo. This is said to be a room with a calm atmosphere  . . . I’ve made it look depressing.

katsura grove, molinias to spring box border5

 

silent garden recatngular pond7

 

the mount view8

Cherry trees and a flowery mead circle The Mount which is worth ‘mounting’ to appreciate the whole scheme and understand how the rooms connect and balance  – just like looking at a master plan. Oudolf comes into his own with the Perennial Meadow – a traditional quincunx filled with naturalised planting. Groups of plants and individual species appear to be scattered in a graceful manner but rise up and blend into a powerful almost musical performance . . . even in the wet.

perennial meadow, trifolium rubens, phlomos, thermopsis9

perennial meadow, knautia, salvia + thermopsis10

perennial meadow salvi, allium schuberti, phlomis,amsonia11

perennial meadow rudbeckia occ,thermopsis caroliniana, salvia blauhugel12

Rudbeckia occidentalis wafting around above yellow Thermopsis caroliniana and Salvia ‘Blauhugel’  – quite splendid. A pleasing little gate too from which to exit – Yat is Yorkshire dialect for gate.

cut flower garden to veg garden14

One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee,
One lesson which in every wind is blown,
One lesson of two duties kept at one
Though the loud world proclaim their enmity–

Of toil unsever’d from tranquility!
Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplish’d in repose,
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.

Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring,
Man’s fitful uproar mingling with his toil,
Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,

Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting;
Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil,
Laborers that shall not fail, when man is gone.
Mathew Arnold  Quiet Work

 

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.

boulevard victor hugo

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 .. .

jardins de la fontaine

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

jardins de la fontaine 2

jardins de la fontaine 3

jardins de la fontaine 4

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

jardins de la fontaine 5

jardins de la fontaine 6

jardins de la fontaine 7

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.

jardins de la fontaine 8

jardins de la fontaine 9

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 . . . .

murmuration 1

murmuration 2

murmuration 3

. .  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.

abribus1

abribus 2

“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 

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

pagoda

July 6, 2013

across lake 2

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.

entrance

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 . . .

beach

. . 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!

view up 1

. . .

view up

from inside

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

staircase 1

balcony 3rd floor

bannister

. .  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.

to garden

once garden

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.

plan_du_domaine__du_chateau_et_des_jardins_reguliers

Le_chateau_de_Chanteloup_Van_Blarenberghe

stair well

Peering down from the highest landing  . . .

ceiling dome

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

garden items

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,’

across lake landscape

across lake

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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)

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