Saturday, 24 May 2014

Foreseeing ramifications

Dear Monty,

I'm not sure that what I write makes any sense at all, I know I confuse Charles Hawes, and I am in awe of those who write well. But life and our actions and reactions to its ebb and flow are sometimes difficult to make sense of, so I suppose this is a way of working things out.

What follows is a record of responses over three days from last week to the environment both wild and gardened and having space to listen to what was being said.

17/5/14  Birdsong, streams and the movement of sea air through the trees - the only sounds to greet the senses this morning. I'm on a journey up to the top of the mountain, I need to go there, I have no plans or specific thoughts, I'm on the way to commune with angels. An adder basks on a sunny bank along the path, and cuckoo calls drift in echoes from either side of the mountain, and I'm softly buffeted by the wings of fritillaries.

Oh Carn Ingli !

From up here in the still of the morning I hear posts being hammered in the distant fields above the Gwaun Valley. Everything sounds near,

Raven wings
The sea
The bubbling curlew.

Completely alone save a narrow dog
I feel the curves and dips
The broad common
The granite outcrops

A place where prophets sing songs
This mountain is alive with God
No need for huts or stones or crosses.

19/5/14   Humid day - even after a thunderstorm. Hopeful? - No not a hope so much as an unfulfilled longing that you know in your logical mind is never going to be fulfilled - it can never be fulfilled by another human being. So we distract ourselves with good things and sometimes not so good things.

I began to see you in my youth - you revealed yourself even then - small excerpts of your character your soul your love - long before I met you.

Here I am in the quiet beauty of this holy place
Seeing jewels in the turquoise interior of a discarded eggshell
In the verdigris of washed up - beached copper wire
And in the golden pebbles.

These and the simple joy of birdsong
The scent of hyacinthoides non scripta
The pounding stream that pounds with my heart
Riches beyond measure

Who finds love ?
Who finds satisfaction in all things ?
I suspect no-one ever experiences lasting peace on earth - not even those who find the author of peace.

True rest comes later
Now we have trouble
Each day bringing enough of its own.

We are like tides
Sometimes we ebb and flow in calm silver pools
Other times we rage with foam stirring up sand and mud
Flotsam and jetsam

20/5/14  We spend days, weeks, months, years building - building

We build empires
And then we watch them crumble beneath our feet
Yet we continue to build.

History tells us that empires fall
Yet we continue to build

Refreshed by sitting on the mountain again
Hills draw me
I draw hills

Uplands with heathers cropped by sheep
Young tender ferns.

I wait for God to speak - and he does

At the top of Carn Ingli I watch an iridescent moth with antennae as long as cat whiskers
Crawl about the granite - as though aimless
Iridescent on a dull day
Dull but with moments of sudden light.

Who condemns us now ?
Our judgement is all wrong

Today I felt the hill was against me
I fall into gorse spikes
Toff pulls on the lead worried by sheep
My legs tired
My head confused
Why does my body yearn - when it is crumbling ?

There is life beyond life
I will live in my shed and find God

We all have an instinct to search
What other beast does that ?
Like this moth they exist in what they are
For brief moments or long upon the earth.


Monty you once said to me 'more power to your creative elbow'. I'm sure you meant that from your soul.
I suppose some would regard me as sad ! I am sad a lot of the time - but also immensely happy. We cannot give this kind of happiness directly to one another because this kind is deeper and is ironically without words.
Gardens and art come the closest for me in terms of passing on this type of happiness, although I know they can make some people bad tempered if they are praised blindly, we are all critics, but there is a joy beyond criticism in the making of a garden no matter what the size or ambition, it is a temporary joy and that is part of its fascination for me.

As a post script I add these photographs of Dyffryn Fernant  It made me happy.


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review of the coal tip garden on this wet and cold morning

Dear Monty,

There has been a great discussion on as a result of an interview with John Sales by Anne Wareham on the subject of design. It is worth having a look at. I was heartened that even though I'm an amateur garden maker like yourself Monty, that we too can be capable of bringing forth a design out of the ground with the aid of nature and an eye and a respect for our place within this paradise.

I admit to my ignorance and pretension to grandeur, but like so many of us I just love the grounding and the joy and frustration that this 'slow ballet' or 'slow sculpture' of growing, pruning and cutting, 'success' and 'failure' affords.

Instant gardens do not really exist, they are just brief fleeting moments of perfection.

For what it's worth here is a quick tour of my embarrassing garden on this cold wet day in May. (all photos taken on Sony Xperia)

If you don't like pink look away now

The euphorbia polychroma is a little bit of Kentchurch
This isn't chocolate soldier is it Tristan ?

Another Kentchurch plant settling in
New terracotta pots at last, will need to save for a few more.

A mini Veddw tribute (but not as sharp - yet)

That is the garden as it is now Monty. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Art and Craft

Dear Monty,

This feels like a one way conversation now you are twitterless.

There is something about getting older that brings to the fore a sense of the past, the future remains open to possibilities as yet unknown. I have respect for my roots in the ancient past, but also have an appreciation of the contemporary.

The craft of making has to a large extent left the artists hand and is instead given to others to make - doubtless talented and skilled. This has always happened, masters had their pupils. But there is an integrity to a vision being made visible directly by the artists hand and eye.

A painting for Tristan

I am new to gardens - but it is becoming clearer to me what I like or prefer to see in a garden and it involves a sense of structure, the art and craft of garden making. There are a mix of elements which please my eye in my still immature garden. Old newel posts in oak as finials on my raspberry supports, the uprights of which mimic the verticals of the telephone and electricity poles the other side of the hedge in the lane. An old u-shaped piece of iron painted gold reminds me of this ancient landscape formed by a glacier in the last ice age. The flame-like spur of a rusty piece of car a reminder of the Holy Spirit, and finally an inverted triangle of diamond anthracite as hard as nails, a tribute to those who tunnelled under this land. These elements are placed atop old laths to raise the eye above ground level. I thought myself a bit mad to be honest, but how wonderful then to see the employment of a similar device when visiting Kentchurch Court in Herefordshire.

My immature garden

I had the real privilege of being shown around the gardens and part of the estate and deer park by the head gardener Tristan Gregory.

Tristan Gregory

I found in Tristan a soul with a similar respect for the past and for the art and craft of gardening, although on a grander scale. There is a real sense of the history of the place and the roots which nourish it. It is grounded by its ancient trees and parkland.

The oldest part of the Kentchurch Court

On our walk I noted uprights in wood, thick and thin posts in groups leading the eye, this was a visual language I could identify with. Tristan has and continues to do a lot of new planting which also has a lot of maturing to do, so he raises the eye up to a higher level, also by planting in natural pockets in trees. This his stamp on an ancient place respecting what has gone on in the past. The old bones of the garden carry the new planting with it. The water gardens are settling in, and where the canopy and the skirts of the pine wood have been thinned , bluebells emerge from the ground like magic.

Another kind of magic was to be found in the ancient broad girthed trees of oak, sweet chestnut and yew.
The twists and tortured boughs of which were testament to the years of changing climate and passing human history. The holy yew would not let me take a photograph of it, instead it began to text me with what seemed like random letter patterns ! Was it the tree speaking or the damp getting to my phone ?

An ancient sweet chestnut (sorry for heavy handed  filter)

The end of the walk brought us to the formal gardens. Symmetry pleases my eye as much as the deliberately sculpted landscape and its framing by trees.

Another ancient and shattered tree with the yew beyond

I am not a nationalist, but was shown the tree under which Owain Glyndwr sheltered, and was told that this place was Wales once. I now have a small slice of Kentchurch at home in Wales in the form of plants from the garden. Owain would be proud !