Letter to Monty

Dear Monty,

Grand designs and discovery.

31/10/12 Watched 'Grand Designs' filmed on the Isle of Skye. I remembered those amazing landscapes and quickly changing weather. I distinctly remember watching water plumes like smoke being blown from the burn back up the hill opposite the loch we stayed at. I have lost all my photographs of that holiday, all I have now are precious memories and some sketches and a couple of paintings, all the more precious for the loss, but not a jot more precious than the beauty of the place.

The place is life affirming, the house constructed during the film, was not grand but small - it locked into its landscape. The mountains dominate and dwarf the buildings on Skye.

2/11/12 Racing cold clouds - cold rain after a cold night with hailstones. Bright and breezy and no eggs from the chickens. I enjoyed the 'pootling' on Gardeners' World.

3/11/12 Bright cloudy sky - white topped hills - dog walked, leaves raked and a few remaining grapes fed to the chickens.
We travelled to Hay on Wye to buy bacon and some rhubarb and ginger jam. There was real art in the gallery windows and big cars in the car park.
Home to the valley, the Darren mountain dark above the gold trees. Autumn into Winter. Cig Moch and crusty bread with mediterranean pickle for supper. Whippet on lap and a good coffee.

Our neighbour was admitted to hospital and we were unaware, there was no hint of change, the routine was the same, the mountain remained dark, the trees on the 'patches' stood like burnt matchsticks against the cold sky. Pepsi the pony stomped his ground in the rain, the pigs in the wood, the rusting sheds, the sliding slag and the piercing bark of Llew barking at the night air. This life can be cruel to the best of neighbours.

I discover my Welsh garden over and over again - I see it every now and then. The familiar small plot suddenly becomes new and alive. Each season each new year it grows in stature and becomes more defined - I begin to see what I would want it to be.

It may be a small intimate space - but it is a theatre - a performance space with entrances and exits and no statuary save for trees. The drama is provided by the light, and from me pootling from time to time - cutting here hacking there - re-aligning seeing possibilities and admitting defeats.

The landscape becomes part of us if we let it.



  1. Nice to think of your garden as theatre Paul.

    1. Faisal, thank you, I admit it has only come to mind since visiting inspirational gardens like The Veddw and Plas Brodanw. I'm sure there are more out there waiting to be discovered. The book which gives some excellent glimpses of Welsh gardens is 'Discovering Welsh Gardens' by Stephen Anderton and new friend Charles Hawes. Published by GRAFFEG and available in UK on AMAZON.

    2. Paul, my favourite Welsh garden ( OK, I've never been to Wales, I don't know many ) is Plaz Metaxu. I know of few garden-makers who have the time/space/resources/willingness to engineer a landscape such as the owner here has.
      About 3 hours west of me, out of Melbourne, in what's called our "western district", predominantly wool-growing country, is an amazing garden I've visited, where the property-owner has removed any "garden", as such, and replaced it with views, in the way of Capability Brown. Vistas, treescapes are the order of the day. It is enormously innovative and relaxing.
      Very rare.
      PS Thankyou for the Stephen Anderton book.

    3. I love trees as you know, and one of the problems I agonise over is the need for cutting them down. There is a vista from my small garden over to a distant hill which has been lost to a burgeoning Sycamore. Vistas are important to me too, so I think I will be busy with the pruning saw ! I have looked up Plaz Metaxu, it looks very interesting, good reviews on Thinkingardens website.


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