Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits

The weather is perhaps a little inclement to be visiting gardens, so what better than to stay warm and look at art. The Garden Museum is holding an exhibition of Lucian Freud’s paintings of plants and gardens. You will undoubtedly know Freud for his portraits and vast landscapes of flesh, rather than matters horticultural, but this small exhibition, the first of its kind is brilliantly curated and well worth a visit. Freud was neither a plantsman nor a gardener, however, this exhibition shows how plants played an important part of his life, and how he captured his plant subjects in his inimitable style, similar at times to his treatment of humans.

Painter’s Garden, 2003-2004

Freud had a garden which his studio assistant David Dawson described: “he planted things and then let them grow, grow, and grow. He never touched anything because he wanted the garden to have a sense of real of naturalness.” ‘The thick and unruly growth offered him a sense of a lush and enclosed private space, gritty and understated.’ I can only imagine he would have welcomed the re-wilding movement.

But let’s begin at the beginning. Lucian was born in Berlin, the middle son of the Jewish architect Ernst L. Freud, who was himself the fourth child of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Lucian was named after his mother Lucie Brasch who had studied classical philology and art history.

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His mother kept several of his childhood paintings including this small picture of a pot plant, the familiar Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera which he drew in some detail when he was eight years old.

The family escaped the Nazi regime by moving to London in 1933 when Lucian was 10 years old. It must have been a confusedly uprooting experience and perhaps it was little wonder that he became a disruptive pupil.

At age seventeen in 1939, he was one of the earliest students to attend the recently-formed East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton End in Suffolk.https://gardenmuseum.org.uk/the-garden-museum-announces-plans-to-revive-cedric-morris-suffolk-home-benton-end-as-a-centre-of-art-and-gardening/ It was run by Cedric Morris and his partner Arthur Lett-Haines. The school prospectus described the school as “an oasis of decency for artists outside the system”. Lett-Haines taught theory, whilst Morris taught by encouragement and example. Morris was hugely interested in plants and Freud enjoyed his unconventional and experimental method of teaching. In 1941 he served as a merchant seaman in an Atlantic convoy journeying to Halifax, Nova Scotia, only to be invalided out of service in 1942. For a short while after that he attended The Goldsmiths’ College.

Gorse Sprig, 1944

The Garden Museum explains that ‘Freud saw beauty and truth in the seemingly unremarkable, the overlooked, and the imperfect. He painted weeds and the straggly potted plants that followed him from home to home throughout his life. He rarely idealised plants but instead concentrated on the architectural form and linearity, their texture and even their crumbling and decaying flesh.’ While Freud portrays in great detail the spiny nature of the Gorse Sprig, there is only a suggestion of the bright yellow flowers. The painting was included in his first solo exhibition at Alex Reid and Lefevre Gallery in 1944.

The Glass Tower

Freud received several commissions to illustrate books. In 1944 Freud was paid £40 (£2,270 in today’s money) to illustrate Nicholas Moore’s edition of poetry The Glass Tower, using a palm tree that he had purchased from the Loudon Road Nursery. He gave the book a striking cover. Other books included James Pope Hennessy’s Aspects of Provence and The Baths of Absalom. He gave the book by Claire Joyes Claude Monet: Life at Giverny to artist Sophie de Stempel who sat for him over a period of eight years. He loved the book and Monet’s garden.

Ill in Paris, 1948

This portrait Ill in Paris, 1948 is of Kitty Garman, painted just before they were married. Her face takes centre stage with the rose. The Garden Museum identifies this as ‘the starting point of later plant and human encounters in which the artist casts the plant as equal to the sitter or placed the plant in the foreground.’ Freud and Kitty were divorced in 1952.

Still Life with Zimmerlinde, c. 1950

Freud’s second wife was Caroline Blackwood who he married in 1952 and to whom he dedicated Still life with Zimmerlinde, c.1950. Zimmerlinde is the German name for Sparrmannia africana a houseplant also known as the Cape Linden Tree. Zimmerlinde refers to the origin of the plant native to South African Cape, as well as the similarity, in particular the shape of the leaf, to the Linden (Lime) Tree. All Zimmerlinde painted by Freud are said to be descendants of plants originally grown by Sigmund Freud in Vienna which he brought to London after fleeing the Nazi regime, and have been propagated and shared by members of the family ever since.

Cyclamen, 1964

With his wife Caroline, Freud bought a secluded, stone seventeenth-century manor house in Dorset, where in the dining room he began a mural of cyclamen. After his divorce in 1959 he made London his home where he remained until his death. He became fond of white fragrant flowers, although he rarely painted them. He would rise before dawn and visit Covent Garden Flower Market and buy huge quantities of flowers for the house. Cyclamen were his favourite and would brighten tables and mantlepieces in Autumn.

Small Fern, 1967

The exhibition explains ‘This highly unusual composition encapsulates Freud’s originality in approaching plants.’ Not a ‘showy’ plant adorned with flowers, is it the position, placed on the floor and seen from above, that draws our eye to it?

Wasteground Paddington, 1970

Many of us may have glimpsed this view from a window and probably not given it a second look. Freud looked at it in detail, bringing the feral buddleia and bushes to life amongst the rubbish-strewn backyard, and painting a sort of anti-garden. It is a ‘brutally honest portrayal of the hardship that urban life can entail for both humans and plants’.

Two Plants, 1977-1980

In 1977 Freud moved into a new studio in Holland Park. Two Plants, 1977-1980 portrays Helichrysum petiolare, the liquorice plant and Aspidistra elatior, the cast iron plant. This painting began as an opportunity to become accustomed to the lighting quality of his new studio. Over a three year span he wanted to capture the movement of the plants in how they died, regenerated, and produced new leaves. Two Plants could be described as a botanical painting but it is also a plant portrait portraying a period of time that neither photography nor film could capture. It is also painting that you would be forgiven for looking at for hours.

Landscape, c. 1993

This detailed etching of a piece of turf is a rare work. Freud’s focus is shifted away from the individuality of a single plant. The title of the work underlines the move from the singular to the plural and examines the texture and chaotic arrangement of the turf close up. He started work on this etching while on holiday in Tuscany, bringing the turf back with him to London in order to finish the work.

After Constable’s Elm, 2003

In the 1930s when Freud was at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing he had attempted to copy John Constable’s work but found it too difficult. In 2002 he was asked to curate an exhibition about Constable at the Grand Palais in Paris. His selection featured less known works of art like The Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree (1821). He returned to the challenge and reinterpreting Constable’s work, dropping the word Study in order to emphasise the individuality of the plant from the technicality that a study might imply.

We return to cyclamen. In 1959, Freud was one of the first guest to be invited to Chatsworth House when the 11th Duke of Devonshire moved his family back into the vacated property. In one of the small private bathrooms he began another mural of cyclamen, flowers, buds and leaves. The estate greenhouse supplied pot after pot of flowers for him to paint. It was never finished and as he left behind his paints, it was thought that he might return to complete the bathroom.

Garden in Winter, 1997-1999

The Garden in Winter is surely an appropriate title to end this blog. The curator writes ‘Freud’s garden in Notting Hill had become a wilderness bursting with unbridled energy. It was overgrown and impenetrable and yet, at times during the day, brilliantly bathed in glistening sunshine. There was a glory in Freud’s vision of what most would consider a gardening nightmare. The artist’s search for truth wherever it might lurk became ever so poignant in the poetic roughness that makes the garden paintings and etchings from this period so memorable. With the buddleia at its centre, unkempt but enduring, Freud’s garden couldn’t be more at odds with traditional gardening and garden painting.’

During these cold months, while making your plans to visit gardens https://findagarden.ngs.org.uk/ I encourage you to visit this exhibition on now at the Garden Museum until 5th March 2023 https://gardenmuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/lucian-freud-plant-portraits/ where you can also enjoy a delicious lunch.

*******JAN 2023*******

Caldrees Manor, colourful with a touch of humour.

The garden at Caldrees Manor is one of the last in the season to open for the National Garden Scheme. Situated not far from the A11 in Cambridgeshire it was the ideal place to meet up with friend Leslie.

Although parking was in a field away from the house, we could not help but admire this welcoming driveway with its elegant centrepiece situated in front of the house and surrounded by a delightful planting of shrubs.

We had come for a guided tour with Will who with the garden owner John, has been responsible for creating this large garden over the past twenty years. He takes us through the gate and around to the other side of the house.

A verdurous space appears before us framed by the rose arch; there is a lot going on, but instead of descending through and down the steps, we turn right towards the summer house.

This ornamental folly with its generous door surround, and windows seemingly wide-eyed, is surrounded by a rich planting of summer flowers now coming to an end but there is still a good display for the time of year and we particularly commend the combination of michaelmas daisy, hydrangea and pennisetum.

Brunnera is such a good plant, its blue flowers on show for weeks in the spring and the silvery leaves continue to be a beauty defying any attack from slug or snail.

Will and his wife Jacqueline https://www.jwlandscapes.co.uk/ have their own landscape business and this is their flagship garden. This brick bridge was one of the first features that Will built.

Pergolas bring variety and height, and act as partitions from one area of the garden to another. We leave the more formal area and enter the acer glade,

where a great variety of specimens are grown, some still green whilst others are on fire with colour.

The leaves are as beautiful on the ground as they are on the tree. We follow the path through the metalwork arbor into the hydrangea area unperturbed by the summer’s drought.

The air is filled with the scent from a viburnum; it’s a wonder that this insignificant flower produces such a fragrance.

Here too is the sound of rushing water, its source not apparent at first, until we find it gushing from a pipe. There is no shortage of water here as we are apparently standing on a giant lake and the water is being pumped from a borehole.

Wooden signposts guide the way, beautifully carved; we love the papilionem touch at the top.

Silver birch planted in a group is an acknowledged theme and it works well here underplanted with cornus sanguinea ‘midwinter fire’ and bergenia.

As summer flowers fade, the sculptural blooms become more pronounced.

There is a touch of humour in this garden as the quite unexpected appears through the jungle of greenery,

and is that really a water buffalo I see at the side of the pond?

From the winding paths in the old wood we enter an open space where a new wood has been planted. It is pretty impressive seeing that it is just three years old. How will it look in another twenty?

This new wood has such a different feel and we love the splash of sculpture at the end.

Returning towards the house we walk through the fairly recently created Japanese garden; plants, rocks and gravel carefully considered in the design.

From here we can go towards the orchard, along the drive which is neatly edged on one side with silver lavender, and on the other, scattered seedlings are allowed to grow but carefully controlled,

and return to end our tour between the Japanese garden and the pond at these beautiful carved wooden conkers; smooth shiny polished surfaces, there is an irresistible urge to run your hands over them.

Heading back for the much needed coffee and cake we pass the quirky topiary, and then there is a sudden sound of a distant crash. Will looks concerned.

Despite there being no wind, the noise is of a fallen tree that has crashed across the path. Not what you want on an open day but no harm has been done and there are plenty of other paths to take, and different areas to explore. Such a variety of species to admire, and sculptures to search out, we have enjoyed our time, and it has been a great place to meet; why don’t we do this more often ? We both agree and promise to meet up in another garden next year.

You can find lots of lovely gardens by ordering a copy of next year’s garden visitor’s handbook https://ngs.org.uk/shop/books/garden-visitors-handbook-2023/

Caldrees Manor opened for the first time in October 2020 and by opening its very private gates has raised a trug-load of funds for the National Garden Scheme. It is taking a year off but am sure it will open its gates again for many more visitors to enjoy in the future.

*******2022*******

A touch of Spring at Ivy Croft

It was a joy to be out visiting gardens again and on my way driving to Hay-on-Wye for a jolly weekend, I found a garden open for the National Garden Scheme just the other side of Leominster, and very conveniently for me it was open on the Thursday.

You do not need to be a gardener to know that gardens opening at this time of year are all about snowdrops, and you don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy them. At Ivy Croft splashes of welcoming snowdrops appear all around the garden, either in the borders where they seem to be nudging those perennials to hurry up and push through,

whether in clumps or drifts, growing in grass or under trees, snowdrops look so appealing and just give a little ray of hope.

These were keeping warm growing up against the house. Garden owner Roger could not remember the exact name of these ‘Galanthus elwesii, a comfort to me that even the experts can get the labels muddled.

We begin our exploration of this four acre garden with the area by the house. There are those familiar winter gems all around and growing near the front door is the divinely scented Chimonanthus praecox also known appropriately as Wintersweet. I regret taking the saw to mine and if you have not got one I urge you to go and buy one.

Below, the handsome clump of soft blue winter-flowering iris catches my eye. These Algerian iris Iris unguicularis flower from November through to February, the individual flowers look quite exotic in a vase.

All gardens look a little bare at this time of year but as we venture to the front of the house an elegant seat and stone troughs add another dimension,

and to embellish the scene there is nothing like a touch of topiary …

You can see how evergreens are a necessity in any garden particularly in winter; here they soften the hard landscape and guide you along the path past the reddish brown stems of the Acer griseum.

Every Spring I mourn the fact that I have not planted enough hellebores, and as Spring gathers apace, I simply forget. These just look so heavenly.

We need some colour at this time of year and what better plant than these cheeky cyclamen emerging out of the grey stone.

Walking away from the house, the vibrant stems of the Cornus draw us into the wilder area of the garden. Wild it may look but I know these parts of the garden can be a lot of work.

I can’t help but admire the green of the conifer, its branches elegantly flowing down to the ground and am surprised to find it is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Impricata Pendula’. If you check out The Woodland Trust website it cheerily informs you that the wood is rot-resistant which is popular in Japan for making coffins.

Gardens are not all about flowers; Roger uses woven willow in several places in the garden, either as a screen or as a quirky seat arbour.

and it is easy to forget the beauty of the small cones of the deciduous common alder Alnus glutinosa,

whilst the evergreen Garrya elliptica, drips with silver tassels. This is a bush which I find suffers the cold but dislikes the wind.

The garden was created some 25 years ago and has an air of maturity about it. Neat paths wander through wintery shrubs and trees, glimpsing every now and again the promise of spring,

and out in the open while the lawn looks so verdant and trim, the ornamental grasses seem to be experiencing a bad hair day.

How a drop of paint gives a simple wooden bench a touch of vibrancy, a focal point in a spacious area; the blue seems to blend harmoniously with the bright green.

A Mulberry is the central feature of the working vegetable garden, where paths are sensibly wide and firm waiting for the laden barrow to pass through the organised beds.

Surrounding the vegetable garden are trained fruit trees, one adorned with the mysterious mistletoe, which grows quite prolifically in the orchards around the county.

It is difficult not to admire this splash of Hamamelis mollis; several varieties grow in the garden, but this is near the car parking area and the scent is uplifting. To the right are the pleached limes underplanted with ‘oh so perfect’ box balls.

Behind the parking area is the whitest of birches contrasting with the evergreen fine yew buttresses, and what a perfect way to cheer up an unremarkable building. I am inspired to recreate the idea.

Roger is a true galanthophile and has collected and cultivated quite a selection: they are clearly labelled boasting endearing names. My friend Jill falls for a beautiful yellow ‘Treasure Island’ until we notice the price. To be fair it is not an unreasonable amount as some Snowdrops can reach staggering prices but we just aren’t in the market. So she goes for a different yellow, Galanthus ‘Spindlestone surprise’ while I settle for the ‘Godfrey Owen’ with its six outer petals, and also the virescent ‘Rosemary Burnham’, whose white petals look as though they have been brushed lightly with green.

Ivy Croft is open for the National Garden Scheme for Snowdrop Thursdays throughout February and March, and is open throughout the year. For details of this garden and other snowdrop gardens near you check out https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/14669. To see Roger’s list of snowdrops and some lovely photographs of the garden in summer, go to http://www.ivycroftgarden.co.uk/. I hope to pass this way again.

*******2022*******

Houghton Hall Walled Garden; all wrapped up and waiting. (3/18)

 

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Last month Norfolk NGS was privileged to be invited by the Marquess of Cholmondeley to launch the 2018 booklet in the Stable Cafe at Houghton Hall. Nationally the NGS is the single biggest donor to Marie Curie and over delicious plates of sausage rolls and cake we listened to eloquent speakers from the charity who endorsed the very great need for us all to continue to open our gardens for the scheme.

There had been a light dusting of snow that morning and the stable block appeared to have been built from gingerbread rather than the local carstone. Set in an arcadian parkland the naturally white deer roam freely.

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Houghton has been supporting the NGS since 2004, closed during the winter it was a great opportunity to gain an ‘out of season glimpse’ at what goes on in the old kitchen garden behind the closed garden gate.

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It is seemingly the dormant period and head gardener Ollie was away on holiday but there was much industry behind the high walls.

At the entrance the wall flowers are biding their time, embedding the wheels of the cart into the gravel; it is a gentle reminder to us all that access for wheelchair users is not as easy as it might be. However here at Houghton they provide electric buggies.

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I usually begin my visit at Houghton by turning left but today I headed right drawn by the clumps of large snowdrops,  their flowers dropping like pearl earrings, elegantly white against the rich dark soil in the border.

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Within these walls Lord Cholmondeley, helped in the early years by his then head gardener Paul Underwood and later by the designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, has created a living memorial to his grandmother, Lady Sybil Cholmondeley.

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Sybil Sassoon, Countess of Rocksavage by John Singer Sargent, oil on canvas, 1913

The five acre garden is situated just south west of the stables; the bold and beautiful architecture has a solid presence throughout the garden.

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Divided into different gardens, hedges of beautifully kept beech and yew act as the inner walls. Peering through into the formal rose parterre the central statue is shrouded as protection from the Norfolk winter. Imagine the work in pruning those one hundred and fifty glorious roses.

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The olive trees collectively stand by, waiting to be positioned for the summer visitors, their clean terracotta pots soak up the weak winter sun and some warmth from the greenhouse.

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Inside there is much being propagated. Overlooked by the outrageous Strelitzia reginia, is it a wonder that this is called a Bird of Paradise, you might be forgiven for thinking it really is an exotic bird.

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The double sided herbaceous border looks spectacular in the summer;  this morning the clean lines, smooth chunky buttresses, razor neat edges,  and the well-mucked brown earth are testament to the bold design and high standard of horticulture. The lawn is rolled out like a spotless carpet before me, little wonder  I have been requested to keep off.

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Ragged yew balls atop the clipped pillars,

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the box is unclipped too, the idea to help prevent the dreaded blight.

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Less susceptible to pathogens and pests is the Holm oak Quercus ilex, clipped into shapes reflecting the fine finials on the stable roof.

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The long oak pergola covered with wisteria is being pruned today ready for that dramatic display in April and May. To the side are peony borders mixed with regale lilies, an idea the Bannermans reproduced from a visit to the grand chateau Vaux le Vicomte.

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Pruning is cold work but it is coffee time and I am honoured to be invited to join the team in the sheds, secretly hidden behind the greenhouse. No boys shovelling coal here now,  just a myriad of lagged pipes.

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Even the area behind the sheds is a delight and although the Cholmondeley family have a private garden north of the house, it is through this gate that his Lordship enters the garden.

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Another hidden area beyond the walls; is this what makes the garden a horticultural triumph? The tops of the fruit cage are showing above.

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Rustic and strong, the netted structures house a selection of fruit bushes,

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and a clematis softly clambers over the aged wood the wispy seed heads look lovely against the blue sky.

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Green corridors separate the garden spaces. The long vista provides another view of the shrouded statue in the rose garden, and to the left

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is the croquet lawn where the Houghton Cross  has come to rest; made of slate it is a creation by Richard Long.

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Stepping back into another space I find each compartment has different styles of planting, contrasting textures and a change of atmosphere.

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I am surprised to find rabbit guards in here but gates can be left open, and we know it does not take long for our furry friends to find their way in. This is the productive area; on the ground are step-over apples,

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trained against frames are apple tunnels,

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and in the orchard are the old apple trees.

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The thin layer of ice formed on the water surrounding the meteorite fountain shows it is a cold but clear morning,

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and in the corners of this area, swirls of box encircle the outstretched arms of the lime.

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This is the most southern path along which is placed the rustic summerhouse,

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which has fine views back down the herbaceous border towards the greenhouse. How can that grass look so good in February?

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Just when you think you have seen it all, through the horizontal branches the vertical trunks signify there is yet a further space;

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with pleached limes and obelisk, I can feel that formal french influence again.

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A muddle of ghost-white stems of rubus cockburnianus is the only disorder in such a perfectly ordered garden. In spite of it being winter there has been much to enjoy; the pleaching, the pruning, the twining and twisting, the structures and textures. The peace.

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Returning to the entrance the inanimate ancient stone lying heavily on the ground appears today to have almost human features.

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This of course is only one part of this beautiful estate. I leave slowly via the back drive and admire the natural drift of snowdrops, early signs of Spring and only a matter of time before the gate is open in time for Easter and we can explore the rest of the gardens and the park. Houghton Hall.

 

 

 

 

Repton and his business

It is the bicentenary of the death of Humphry Repton, he of the Red Book fame. There are many events organised and gardens gates opening throughout the year. This piece was so interesting that I am reblogging.

The Gardens Trust

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  If you hadn’t already realised 2018 is Repton Year, when we’re commemorating the life and work of the last great landscape designer of the eighteenth century.  Unlike the Festival for his ‘predecessor’ Capability Brown there is no great central nationally funded organization. Instead Celebrating Humphry Repton  will be a collaborative effort, which, even though although it can’t match the funding of CB300,  looks certain to match the enthusiasm and spread of interest nationally.  County Gardens Trusts and other groups will be arranging events around the country throughout the year to celebrate Repton’s work. You can find a list – continually being updated – at this dedicated webpage on  The Gardens Trust website.  If you would like to get involved or receive updates email repton@thegardenstrust.org. The more people who join in, the better the celebration!

And of course the blog is going to play its small part.  Repton has…

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Pembroke College, a peaceful and pretty peramble. (1/18)

It is just over a year ago now that I began to blog about my garden visits. The first was Robinson College, Cambridge and I remember being surprised it was open on 2nd January. It is still very much open for the NGS and I thoroughly recommend a visit:  Robinson College

However finding myself back in Cambridge in that awkward time between Christmas and New Year I stumbled across yet another college garden. Having spent a happy morning in the excellent Fitzwilliam Museum I was just wondering what to do next and how to avoid the throng of ‘salesaholics’, when I found the 14th Century gate of Pembroke College conveniently open.

The site is made up of a series of interconnecting enclosed spaces and the well established gardens are very much part of the fabric of the college. I  entered via the porter’s lodge on Trumpington Street (just left of the horses below).

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Bird’s eye view by David Loggan 1690

Pembroke is the third oldest College in Cambridge and I began in the medieval Old Court. It was indeed a haven of calm, away from the jostling crowds of shoppers.  The lawn, like green baize, stretched out serenely, so smooth it was of course strictly out of bounds.  So I followed the paving  right handed and walked towards the chapel.

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A group of agaves huddled together seem to wave at me, and cause me to pause for a moment to read the many names on the war memorial tablet. The chapel here was Christopher Wren’s first building.

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The upright growth of the Juniper ‘sky rocket’ seems to echo the tall chimneys, and although the little gate is closed,

 

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access to the next court can be gained via a ramp; a simple feature and one I wish more gardens would employ; unless you have a wheelchair you have no idea of the importance.

So many roses are still flowering in December and will look even more colourful together with the catmint during the summer months.

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Behind the chapel is the Victorian Red Building; four petalled flowers in stone grace the lower parts of the building,

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whilst in the border across the lawn the real white petals of the hellebore are bright against the dark soil.

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The crab apples of Malus robusta Red Sentinel look as fresh as they might in the autumn.

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Moving round to the library lawn, I should show you the entire fine statue of William Pitt, who sits with his back to the library, but it is his foot that fascinates me pointing as it does towards the neat square turf.

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The gardener has been here for 50 years and the many varieties of well-tended shrubs cheer up a corner here and there and providing interest during these bland winter months; either grouped together,

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or planted singly, like the bold and trusty evergreen Aucuba japonica, with its splattered leaves… did someone once spill their cream?

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Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ illuminates a shaded pathway,

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and the bluish-leaved melianthus major makes a handsome combination with the purple-leaved pittisporum.

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Nearby the berries of Nandina domestica are abundant and joyful. This is a plant that I had never previously come across, and am grateful for the coincidence that it is profiled in this month’s The Garden magazine.

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I thought these were outdoor decorative christmas baubles until on closer inspection I realised that they were the dried fruits of the pomegranate, punica granatum. 

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Moving northwards away from the library court is an informal area, known as the Orchard.  Medlars and mulberry grow behind the viridescent round pond which was created from a wartime water tank,

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A great avenue of mature London Planes, their upper boughs a tangled pattern against the wintry blue sky.

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An arbor provides a little mystery to the entrance of the Master’s Lodge. Whilst the nearby Fellows’ Garden remains closed today,

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the Foundress Court bordered on two sides by the newest accommodation, is wide open and the Henry Moore Figure in a shelter 1983 is for all to admire.

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Foundress Court has a strong connection with Nihon university in Japan, something which is perhaps suggested in the design of the inner courtyard.

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A simple pot, almost a modern still life, does much to break the monotony of the smooth walls.

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Leaving the new build I walk towards the ancient bowling green; considered to be not quite the oldest in Europe it is however unique in having a ‘rub’, that is the ridge that runs down the centre. The green is only for Fellows to play which they do with wooden bowls that go back to the 18th century and are sliced rather than spherical. Notices implore us not to walk on this precious ground but there are plenty of benches placed all around for those of us who must be content to sit and admire.

The aged tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera is bursting out of the paving.

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Over the hedge is New Court, originally built in the fourteenth century when it was known as First Court, where students play croquet on the lawn. A delightful area, it is surrounded on three sides by a low stone wall border made up of many unusual plants complimented by a delicious variety of decorative shrubs against the court walls:

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The graceful catkins hang down from a Garry elliptica, 

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and the silvery grey Teucrum fruticans flows down to the paving.

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A splash of colour is provided from the bright berries of cotoneaster.

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Ridley’s Walk is named after Bishop Nicholas Ridley, one time student, Fellow and Master who was martyred in 1555 for his faith. I am sure the Bishop would be pleased with the diversity of plants growing along the walls which even includes a mature banana tree, Musa basjoo; obviously happy in the warmth of this corner it has  been known to have borne fruit.

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The walk leads into the final garden, Ivy Court. Simple in its layout with ten clipped yew, and four grass quads, there is in fact not a single leaf of ivy.

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Another cunningly devised ramp takes you up into the arch.

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Disabled access in fact ends here but it has been a delightfully easily-accessible garden, with it gentle ramps and smooth paths of generous width.

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I am back at the beginning in the Old Court. Many Abutilon grow against the warm walls of this ancient college, and on this chilly but bright day this little gem looks particularly charming as it grows through the branches of a ceanothus.

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And finally, there is the Solanum jasminoides, a member of the potato family; it looks most decorative on the window ledge under the reflecting pane of glass.

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So much there has been to enjoy in this garden in mid-winter, and it could be said that if I had been allowed, I would have found many flowers to pick for a fine ‘nosegay’ today.

With new notebook in hand and a camera from Father Christmas I am all set to visit the many gardens to be open in 2018…

 

——-Jan 2018——-

Stoke Mandeville, Horatio’s Garden. (90)

For The Ninetieth garden I was invited to see a very special garden at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

The day of the visit, last Monday the sky was a dull grey and there had been heavy snow the previous day.

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The Hospital is famous for its National Spinal Injuries Centre, one of the largest specialist spinal units in the world. Just outside the entrance is this life size (5’6″/1.70m) statue by Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttman. Affectionately known as “Poppa”  he was the global founder of successful spinal cord injury treatment. The government asked him in 1948 to set up the specialist spinal ward which then expanded into this amazing centre. He is also father of the Paralympic Games.

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The garden has not actually been created yet, but the intention is to transform this a rather bland paved area adjoining the Spinal Care Wards into a garden; and so bringing a touch of nature and beauty to patients and their families in an accessible oasis of calm attached but away from the clinical environment. This will be Horatio’s Garden.

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Photo from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Same site but a rather different scene that greeted us last Monday!

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Horatio was a young man who was a volunteer in his school holidays at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, Salisbury. He and his father, a spinal surgeon at Salisbury Hospital came up with the idea for a garden and Horatio organised a questionnaire to find out what the patients wanted. Horatio was never to see the garden which was created in his memory after he was so tragically killed at the age of 17 by a polar bear in northern Norway.

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http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/

Horatio’s Gardens have been completed in Salisbury and Glasgow, and now Stoke Mandeville is the latest creation. The ‘L’ shaped site is situated in the middle of this busy hospital.

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 08.30.12.jpg Garden designer, RHS Gold Medallist and great gardening guru Joe Swift was on hand to explain his design.

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This is the projection of his perceived plan:

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Picture taken from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Excavation work started back in August when Sir Robert McAlpine generously supported the removal of 1,800 tonnes of spoil. The tyre marks show the route of the trucks and lorries that exited the site through the public car park.

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The site was levelled and is being prepared for the permeable bonded resin paving to be laid, providing a smooth surface and making an easy transition from ward to garden for the patients in beds and wheelchairs.  It is not always easy when you first have to encounter being in a wheelchair and this outdoor area will assist in gaining confidence.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Today a trench was being dug through the heavy clay for the drainage.

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Of course no site comes without its problems. First the lengthy business of moving the huge NHS power generator; tucked around the corner it is now sporting a smart new turquoise colour which helps it blend in with the building behind.

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It is difficult to imagine but this will be the water feature,

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Computer graphics show an elegant raised pool at a height suitable for wheelchairs. I’m afraid you will just have to imagine the sound of the gentle flow of running water.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Perhaps the red kite soaring above was taking advantage of a bird’s-eye view.

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The view from above shows the flow of the design with curves providing intimate bays, a place for those private moments never realised whilst on a ward. Spinal injury patients often need to endure a long stay in hospital.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

This unremarkable area was where the generator once stood alongside the brick wall;

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it will soon to be the garden room. Being built off-site, it is expected to be installed in the New Year. Light and airy,  here patients will be able to enjoy the garden even when the weather is inclement. Kitchen facilities will enable them to make a cup of tea and perhaps share lunch with visitors.  Those who wish to, will also be able to participate in the volunteer-led activities that the Horatio’s Garden charity organises.

Outside the garden room a communal space will be used for informal social gatherings of patients perhaps for lunches or even live music.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Nearby an accessible spacious greenhouse will be built. Specially equipped for patients to help with the gardening, it will be used to propagate plants for the garden and give an opportunity for patients to get involved with working with the head gardener and volunteers or just come and chat and watch. Regular garden therapy groups will use the greenhouse and the raised beds, for therapeutic activities. Herbs, salad leaves and fruit will be grown for patients to pick and enjoy.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

Horatio loved apples and so they will be well represented amongst the variety of trees that will be planted throughout the garden.

Further round the corner is the paediatric ward where the proposed garden will be used by children with spinal cord injuries giving them and their families a beautiful natural space away from the difficulties of hospital life.

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Picture borrowed from http://www.horatiosgarden.org.uk

The gentle driving force behind Horatio’s vision is Dr Olivia Chapple, Horatio’s mum. Relinquishing her role as a General Practitioner she now volunteers full time for the charity not only as Chair of the Trustees but also as a porter pushing patients in their beds out into the gardens. Joe is enthusiastic about the garden and Olivia is eternally grateful for all the support her vibrant charity receives. I left Joe in a site meeting and Olivia interviewing for the important role of Head Gardener.

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Every charity needs support, and there are plans for gardens at Oswestry and London. Giving is so easy…

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The National Garden Scheme has donated £130,000 to this project. It is an inspirational concept and with such a brilliant and sympathetic design it cannot help but bring a sense of well-being to the many spinal unit patients.

What a great finish to my Ninety and I do so look forward to reporting on its completion in 2018.

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——-90——-

The Manor House, Bledlow; sculpture and setting (89)

Back in May we stayed with friends in North Buckinghamshire and they suggested we might visit Bledlow Manor, the home of Lord Carrington. A beautiful drive through the Chilterns brought us to this lovely estate and we were able to park under the line of flowering chestnut trees.

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The house had been in the family since the end of the 18th Century and when the Carringtons moved here in 1946, it was in need of much renovation. There was no garden of mention at that time and work did not begin in that area until 1969. Created together, it was Lady Carrington who had the interest in plants; her obituary in the Telegraph in 2009 reported “My wife,” Lord Carrington always said, “is the plantswoman,” adding (in a reference to her encyclopaedic knowledge of botanical names): “She doesn’t really talk English, she talks Latin.”

Lord Carrington, the last surviving member of Churchill’s cabinet, and just short of age 98 was standing outside the front door ready to greet visitors. After exchanging a few pleasantries we slipped through the tall pineapple-topped gate posts to the right of the house.

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We decided to head straight down to the water garden, known as the Lyde Garden, and just for the moment snatching a view of the terrace running in front of the house,

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and swiftly passing the armillary sphere to the right, with the intention of returning to this part of the garden later on. The yew and box are trimmed like perfect cut slices of cake.

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The Lyde Garden is situated across the road and is actually accessible at all times of the year. Well-made steps guide us down through the leafy wilderness,

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and at the base level the path bends gently round and through an oriental wooden structure,

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from where you can sit awhile and enjoy the peace and the circular pond, the centre of which has a group of metallic flowers poking up above the still waters.

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The river Lyde rises here and is a tributary of the Thames. Originally watercress beds, it is now planted with ferns, gunnera and hostas.

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Cool and watery, the weeping willows have now replaced the diseased wych elms.

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Crossing back over the road we arrive onto the lawn in front of the charming Adam house which sits gracefully amongst low summer borders.

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At one end of the lawn are crisply cut buns of yew,

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and at the other, ornamental fish ponds surrounded in brick, a design which perhaps reflects the time of construction.

The garden is not just about the plants but is a glorious setting for a fabulous collection of sculptures which the Carringtons began collecting in the early 1990s.

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The first piece of art, strategically placed and called ‘Primitive Form’ is by the Italian born Marzia Colonna. Today it has been enhanced by outstretched arms.

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Purchased in 2005 it fits perfectly amongst wedges of box where it can be viewed from all angles.

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The brick pathways lead out into an open, less structured area. Mown lawns sweep around borders packed with a huge variety of shrubs.

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Then around the corner we meet gorgeous ‘Gorilla’ by Michael Cooper and made from Belgian fossil marble commissioned in 1993. Lord Carrington explains how it came about:

“Michael Cooper is a friend and near neighbour of mine and, some years ago, I asked him whether he would be prepared to do a piece for a new garden I was making at that time and in which there was an empty plinth. ‘I will do you a gorilla’, he said and there it stands, or rather sits, today – greatly admired and loved by all the children who visit the garden during the summer. Michael has the most wonderful talent for portraying animals, as those of you that have seen his sculpture in many public places will know .”

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The Carringtons were keen to support young artists, and this piece was commissioned in 1991 when Alastair Lambert was still a student at The Royal College of Art.

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Paul Vanstone was also still a student at the Royal College of Art.  Vanstone recalls that following a visit to the College in 1993, Lord Carrington invited him to the garden and after spending a day there he commissioned Fallen Angel.

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In 1998 Barry Mason’s Water Sculpture was added to the collection. Mason’s early work was conceived to be installed in landscape settings rather than art galleries. This catches the sunlight as it magically spins around.

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Some way from its homeland and happy amongst the cow parsley, “Rainbird”, a Ground Hornbill is by the Showa sculptor Saidi Sabiti. It was purchased in Harare in 1993.

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It was a charming moment when I saw a child hop up and sit for some time on one of these ‘Three Fruits’. Enjoying their natural shape, he rubbed their smooth surface with his hands. No restrictions of an art gallery here. These were created by the British artist Peter Randall-Page in 1991,

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who also produced, four years later ‘pomegranates’.

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Sheep can be heard grazing in the field beyond, and Red Kites fly overhead. John Robinson’s (1935 – 2007) ‘Immortality’ in polished bronze was purchased in 1992. Robinson describes its conception:

“Soon after my mother’s death, our eldest son married, and as these things go, after a while his wife was expecting a baby. My position had suddenly changed. Instead of being the middle generation, I became the older one, a grandfather. I began to think of doing a sculpture that would capture the passing on of the precious flame of existence within a family, and I needed a symbol.

I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind. I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey through generations, but also the scroll on which all of life’s experience (DNA) is recorded. “

 

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‘Rondo’ is by Charlotte Mayer and was acquired in 1997, A Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors,  she says:

“A work of art should speak for itself. It should need no verbal description although a title may give a subtle hint of what is in the sculptor’s mind”.

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I never discovered who this was by, small but not insignificant nestling by a buddleia; perhaps its identity will be revealed.

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Nestling amongst the shrubs since 2006 is ‘Torus’ a piece by Jonathan Loxley, who usually now works in marble.

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Perfectly positioned in a small clearing is the serene ‘New Renaissance’ created in 1993 by Patricia Volk, the Belfast-born ceramic sculptor.

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Terence Coventry’s ‘Avian Form’ has stood here since 1999. Lord Carrington happened to be nearby when we were admiring it, and jokingly he said ‘he doesn’t like you, you know’. And perhaps he was right.

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Oh, and this little figure is actually alive. Lord C names his wire-haired dachsunds after prime ministers; having already a Margaret but before Theresa, he decided on Dame Norma Minor, ‘”well, she couldn’t be Major” he laughed.

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A fleet of wheelbarrows raised against the hedge are almost an art form.

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Skirting around the tennis courts we come into the south garden. A magnificent metal bowl decorated with swirling fish stands at the head of a double row of viburnum carlesii which lead up to a sunken pond,

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where ornamental herons are enjoying an afternoon’s fishing.

DSCF0949.jpgOver the hedge is the two storey gazebo; made of Buckinghamshire material it was inspired by a visit to Hidcote.

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Steps lead up from this south garden to a small enclosed area. From the raised urn you walk diagonally across to arrive at the front of the house where we originally entered.

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Tea is served in the open cart sheds and today there is a specially large cake in celebration of 50 years opening with the NGS.

Time is running out and we have not seen half the garden yet. We race back across to the armillary sphere where we turn right through the archway in the yew hedge. Here is ‘Coracle’  by William Pye commissioned in 2001. Its gentle ebb of water is mesmerising.

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In the next section of garden this unidentified piece at the end of the brick path seems to dance, its outline lifted by the dark background hedge.

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We wonder at the rhythmical design of this slightly oriental trellis.

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The map describes a snail garden and we think we have found it.

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Another set of pineapple-clad gate posts welcome us into the walled garden where a haze of lavender lines the path up to the gazebo.

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It can’t all be works of art; there is a practical side to this garden too. Over to the left rows of vegetables, not yet in full production, are being prepared, and over to the right the alliums are flowering with the peonies still tightly in bud.

In the centre of the wall is the a mural of  Vertumnus, God of Vegetation: painted in the manner of Guiseppe Archimboldo, it is by Owen Turville.

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Out onto the lawn near the main entrance is Barry Mason’s Oculus. Originally commissioned by English Heritage as part of the ‘Year of the Artist’ celebrations it was sited in the ruined nave of Hailes Abbey near Cheltenham and was donated to Lord Carrington in 2003.

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Photo taken from https://www.ngs.org.uk

Only 2 gardeners look after these noble acres and it really is time to go now for they are sweeping up behind us and the shadows are long. We purchase some honey and say our goodbyes. The great man is still here and must be pleased with his 350 visitors or so,

I say once again ‘you don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy a garden’. Here the garden is not without its many features of herbaceous borders, mature shrubs and hedges, fine lawns, ornament, parterres, topiary and water but it also combines as a gallery.

An inspiration and a visit hard to beat.

——-89——-

 

 

42 Falconer Road, all a twinkle in Bushey. (88)

When I began my Ninety Garden Adventure back in January, I did not imagine that there would still be gardens opening in November. The entry in Gardens to View appeared encouraging if not a little intriguing especially with the opening time advertised as 4pm. I could not resist a visit on my circuitous route to London.

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The short description of course just acts as a guide; you really have no idea what lies behind. There was no garden gate and a few of us gathered outside, a little confused by the change of time from 4pm to 5pm. Owner Suzette answers our knock and expresses her dismay that it is not yet dark but invites us in through to the conservatory.
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I feel more like a guest than a visitor;  it reminds me of the 18th Century when garden visitors would apply to the property beforehand and then would often be shown around by the owner who acted rather as the host.
The orchids are beautiful in the conservatory and it is like entering an antique shop which then extends out into the garden.
DSCF6841.jpgI was grateful that I had arrived early because I could take advantage of the last of the natural daylight. While the family were setting up the illuminations, I wandered around absorbing the eclectic contents of this small and cunning space. Knick-knacks and plants clamber up the wooden steps;

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china jars are arranged on the small ornamental metal shelf set against the fence amongst the trailing ivy.

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In a corner area the myriad of bejewelled hangings dangle from the confusion of wisteria, and are accentuated by the mirrors behind.

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Bird cages are everywhere, either small and propped on posts surrounded by bamboo, hydrangea and richly-coloured acer,

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or simply upon the ground looking slightly oriental.

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This little collection is suspended gracefully together and is just starting to glow in the fading light.

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Small statues gather on the miniature bridge,

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and the old gardener’s boot is providing a convenient home for a succulent,

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Plants overflow from the old metallic watering can,

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nearby to the miniature ones arranged and “sedumed” on a glass-topped table.

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Carefully stepping through the paved garden there is so much to see. By the side of a rhododendron sits a rusty old stove,

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and the clock defies time with its hands set permanently at twenty three past twelve.

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Low walls are built with a collection of artifacts,

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and there is just room for a small hexagonal glasshouse.

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Having been absorbed by the myriad of cages, chimney pots and curios, I reach the end of the garden and retrace my steps to await the approaching darkness.

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Back inside I am able to admire the photographs displayed of the garden decked in its summer dressing, elegant and floriferous. Suzette generously opens over two weekends in July and August and has been doing so for the NGS for over 5 years.

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While I wait for the brightening of the lights outside, I gaze at the collection of bird cages hanging inside and wonder what the generic name for such a collector might be.

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Just outside the conservatory things are starting to glow, it is hard to distinguish the difference between light and lobelia.

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I knew this would be a tricky one to photograph but woh, I am not quite sure if it is a result of the mulled wine or inadequate equipment.

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Ah ha, it all become clearer as I switch to iPhone, and the garden takes on a warm and magical look.

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More visitors have arrived and the children ooh and aah as they gaze at the glitz and the glow.

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Bird cages flutter into light,

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making a pretty sequence throughout the garden,

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In the dark there is  a different atmosphere and some ornaments remain familiar whilst those previously unseen, appear in the show.

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The glasshouse retracts behind the twinkle of green lights,

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and looking back it is proof that gardens need not be necessarily just about plants and it is obvious the visitors are just loving this evening display.

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I return to the conservatory once more where just outside green lights dance around the naked stems of the wisteria,

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and inside it there is a warm glow.

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Suzette has shown such generosity. It has been a magical visit, something just a little bit different and entertaining for all ages. I can’t help thinking if we want to encourage the next generation into the garden we might all take a leaf out of Suzette’s book and be a little bit more imaginative in our gardens at night time.

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——-88——-

Lakeside House, a welcome and watery restoration. (87)

The calendar of garden visiting is on pause now, and with the skiing season fast approaching one of the gardens I look back at with fondness, is the extraordinary garden at Brundall, once known as ‘The Switzerland of Norfolk’.

The garden was created in 1880 by a Dr Beverley who, along with planting an arboretum, dug out a cascade of ponds as seen in the centre of the postcard below. An entrepreneur named Frederick Holmes-Cooper then purchased the grounds in 1917, built a new house for his family which he called ‘Redclyffe’ and set about making  ‘Brundall Gardens’ a visitor attraction with a fine hotel and restaurant.

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Postcard 1920

In 1922 it was reported that 60,000 people flocked to see the gardens. Visitors travelled by bicycle, foot, rail and river disembarking at the jetty just by the restaurant.

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Postcard advertising day trip to Brundall Gardens

Of course I arrived by car, and it was a cold day back in April. The garden, much reduced in size now is owned by Janet Muter. In the mid 1980s she and her husband bought a newly-built house on the site, just above the cascade  and set about restoring the garden. It had suffered much neglect since its closure in the 1930s and subsequent requisition during the war when the property was used as an enemy aircraft plotting station.

I was very touched when Janet presented me with the book, Rescue of a Garden that she has recently written about the fascinating history of her garden.

So I cannot resist starting our tour with a picture of the house taken from the book showing the building in 1986, which she describes amusingly as ”A house undressed”:

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Rescue of a garden by Jane Muter

No longer so naked, it is clothed in mahonia and clematis armandii,

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and an attractive little border softens the hard landscape by the front door.

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From the house we cross to the other side of the roadway which is in fact the drive to the neighbouring house. I have to confess I am a little confused; a rustic hut but where is the lake?

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Crossing back over towards the house I admire the mixed planting in the flower bed, and continue to wonder at the apparent lack of water.

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Then, walking through the trees towards the south side of the house, I realise that this has just been the warm up. The curtain raises and as I look down, the spectacle unfolds; a series of three delightful ponds descending to a lower lake.

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I am standing upon the patio where a collection of colourful acers grow in pots. You can see that the grassy slope falls away very steeply.

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We gently follow the path down on the right-hand side admiring the mixture of mature trees and shrubs, some in flower, that have been planted over the years.

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The large-handled pot points the way and its shape is complimented by the planting around it. Perhaps a gentle reminder that this was a site once inhabited by the Romans.

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The first pond is the smallest. There are no straight lines in this garden; pool, plants and pots smoothly flow in a curve. On occasions, a fountain plays in the centre.

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The path leads away from the water’s edge down through swathes of ground cover; vinca, pulmonarias, lamium and ivy dotted with white honesty.

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Bluebell flowers are just emerging and I catch glimpses of water  through the branches,

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and finally at the furthest point we venture out through the trees to arrive at the lily lake at the lowest level.

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Large and untamed, the lake was almost inaccessible in 1985.

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The Muters cleared fallen trees, excess reeds and rushes. Janet has always been mindful of the wildlife, the enjoyment of which is an important part of this garden. A beach was created and the gravel path seems to ebb and flow in harmony with the water’s edge.

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There are some lovely gems planted on this side; the exquisite aronia melonocarpa

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and pinky darmera peltata, its large leaves yet to grow.

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Popular primula japonica is very content here.

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Water lilies spread out in a Monet manner across the lake from the far side, where the sound of a railway can be heard as a train rattles by.

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After a while we ascend the side of the lower pond where sweet woodruff grows amongst the fresh green unfurling fronds of the ferns.

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At the top of the lower pond we cross over and look back. It is deep and requires dredging every year.

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The middle pond is in fact in the care of the neighbour. Annually it is drained to remove the leaves. These water gardens do not just flow timelessly, they need maintenance. There has not been much rainfall in recent months and so the water level is low.

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The top pond has a variety of plants emerging around its edge and it is the selection of euphorbias that catches my eye today,

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with the ajuga edging the carrstone wall. The stone would have originally been brought over from the western side of the Norfolk.

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An old tree trunk supporting a climbing rose combines with an ancient pot to provide a touch of antiquity.

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We are grateful to have steps to climb this last part but I worry that I have kept Janet outside for too long. A hardy type as she might be, she is an octogenarian and it is a chilly day.

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We pause on the top step to take in one last look over the haze of light blue periwinkle. I am in awe as to how someone can garden on such steep terrain.

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Watery and wonderful, this can have been no easy garden to restore and maintain. It is hard to believe that for half a century it was hidden away by undergrowth. With careful restoration and a lot of hard graft, the Muters brought it back to life and while enhancing the beauty with their love and knowledge of plants, they have encouraged not only the wildlife to return but also the visitors. I quote from Janet’s book:

‘And in 25 years of opening my garden I have never known anyone leave litter or steal so much as a cutting, well not when I was looking anyway. Whilst rescuing my garden it has helped to raise thousands of pounds for many charities, but mainly for the National Garden Scheme.’

Lakeside House opened for two days this year over the May Bank holiday and raised nearly £3,000 for the NGS.

We are of course very grateful to Janet who will be opening next year by arrangement only.  In the meantime you can enjoy this wintery scene and do read the book; it is an interesting story.

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——-87——-