DeWiersse

DeWiersse, West Lawn

West Lawn vista


 

Eric,

Since speaking last, I have traded “¡Olé!” for allées and taken some time away from Spain to visit friends in the Netherlands, in a garden that has had so much influence on me. A few years ago, I spent some time here as a student and found the garden to have a large impact on my way of thinking about, experiencing, and approaching garden design. (This is where I read Sylvia Crowe’s book on garden design, which I was able to experience her ideas while walking around here.) DeWiersse has been in the same family and managed since 1678, so over the course of time, the gardens have been tweaked to a point of exquisite beauty while still remaining very much alive and loved.   DeWiersse is in the eastern most part of Holland and is both a garden of 38 acres with a landscape park of 74 acres and has a moated manor house that lies at it’s heart. The garden is made up of many different areas including meadows, wild gardens, topiary, a formal rose garden, a large kitchen garden, allées and a sunken garden.

Typical of a Dutch style, parts of the more formal garden close to the house are enclosed within hedges of clipped Yew and while heading further away from the house, the style becomes more loose and fluid as it turns to wild garden and woodland, eventually blurring the lines between private garden and the existing farmland that lies beyond its boundaries. No detail is overlooked, which is what helps make DeWiersse a treasured experience but I will explain more as time goes on, giving attention to what makes these details so special.

I will leave you now with images, in the order of a stroll through the garden , of what is happening now, a visual teaser of sorts, a horticultural hors d’oeuvre to appease the appetite.  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the cutting garden is calling my name….. Wishing you well….. -James


 

DeWiersse

DeWiersse meadow

clipped yew set among the meadow

DeWiersse

Rhododendrons help make the bones of the garden

DeWiersse

vista across the outer moat towards the formal Rose garden

DeWiersse

DeWiersse

DeWiersse

transitioning into the wild garden which was inspired by William Robinson

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DeWiersse

DeWiersse

a clipped serpentine Beech tunnel and the Beech allee vista towards the discus thrower

Fagus sylvatica, and all 95 meters of its serpentine tunnel. A smile is always necessary while walking through here, amazed at the incredible horticultural skills displayed, not only inviting you to look, but to engage in the marvel that it is. It is a feast not just for the eyes, but an exercise for all the senses.

DeWiersse

Sunk garden

DeWiersse

DeWiersse

each day finishes with a spectacular ending, West Lawn at DeWiersse

via Segovia

IMG_8274Hello Eric,

When you wrote about the importance of spring yellows, the descriptions put a warm smile on my face, and when you interviewed Wonsoon Park, I was blown away, in awe of his practices and his views of horticulture. I have already added South Korea to my list of future travel destinations. Maybe if we plan in advance, we can meet and explore the landscape together. A trip from Spain sometime soon might be nice…..

Even though I have  been living in Madrid 7 months already, it still feels like I just landed, still feels new. I guess we don’t acclimate to our surroundings as quickly as plants can.  Plants-1 and Humans-0, right? It was terrible to see all of the horrid, cold and rainy weather that has been going on back home, especially when I have dahlias in bloom already on my terrace. Doesn’t seem quite right to me yet, but these are things that I can get used to. My terraces are filling up with anything I can get my hands on these days….. geraniums, mint, sedums that I find on the ground that have fallen off of other terraces, tomatoes, strawberries and bacopa too. My nasturtiums are coming up from seed too as I write this, and I am sure the hoarding won’t stop there either.

I have also started collecting dahlias for cut flowers, Dahlia ‘My Love’ (white cactus flower) and Dahlia ‘Forrestal’ (bright reddish semi- cactus bloom), and two unnamed plants I picked up, which were already in bloom. Now that the sun’s strength is increasing, I am finding myself out there watering more often and am in the process of upgrading to larger pots, which in turn just means more plants….

With the warmer weather here now, I am finding more and more opportunities to get out of the city and explore.   One recent trip is to Segovia which is not very far outside of Madrid, easily reached by train, my favorite form of travel. Most impressive to me was the Roman aqueduct, thought to be standing since 1st century AD, just stone laid on top of stone in the most intricate process and responsible for the transporting water from the mountains nearby. The castles, the rolling mountains in the distance and the surrounding landscape were as enchanting as you would think.

It was a lively city, heavily mixed between old and new ways of life. There were little areas of gardens but what impressed me most was the agricultural plots at the city’s base, nestled in a little valley where the river used to run, obviously taking perfect advantage of the great soil left behind. I will leave you with the images and when you come to visit, it is a must on our itinerary… Until then my friend….

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Inspiring Tasmanian Plant Vignettes

Sometimes the best antidote to the artifice of gardens is an excursion to a natural area where the human influence is minimal or nonexistent. Wild plant communities can humbly demonstrate how plants coexist together and how they can be interpreted for gardens. Surprisingly they can reflect the principles of planting design well. It was a point driven again during my recent forays in Tasmania, Australia.

Looking across the subalpine vegetation towards the mountains.

Looking across the subalpine vegetation towards the mountains.

My friend and I decided to visit the Hartz Mountains in southwest Tasmania, Australia to see the leatherwoods (Eucryphia lucida and E. milliganii) flowering, and the weather was astonishingly cooperative as it was warm and sunny (my last visit several years was marked by high winds and lashing rainfall). Named after the German mountain ranges, the Hartz Mountains are recognized as a National Park designed as a World Heritage Wilderness Area. The mountains are a good 2 hour-drive from Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city, making for a good day’s trip. They contain varied habitats ranging from moist temperate rainforests to subalpine forests. The oft said expression ‘nature does it better’ is exemplified in the various plant communities we admired in the subalpine forest. Everywhere nature had created these gardensque vignettes that we could not help study.

Left to right: Eucryphia milliganii (dwarf leatherwood), the red-fruited Leptecophylla juniperina (cheeseberry), the silver prickly Richea scoparia (honey richea), Telopea truncata (Tasmanian waratah), and Eucalyptus coccifera (upper right behind Telopea)

Left to right: Eucryphia milliganii (dwarf leatherwood), the red-fruited Leptecophylla juniperina (cheeseberry), the silver prickly Richea scoparia (honey richea), Telopea truncata (Tasmanian waratah), and Eucalyptus coccifera (upper right behind Telopea)

In some areas, different shrubs covered the ground thickly, forming interesting assemblages of foliage, fruit, and flowers that we often strive to replicate in our gardens. Here Telopea truncata (Tasmanian waratah) breaks up the fine small-leafed shrubs, which include Eucryphia milliganii (dwarf leatherwood), Leptecophylla juniperina (cheeseberry), and Richea scoparia (honey richea). Such textural interplay is crucial for all-season interest.

Orites acicularis (yellow bush) on the left, Gahnia grandis (saw sedge grass) on the right, and Cenarrhenes nitida (Port Arthur plum) in central by Lake Osborne

Orites acicularis (yellow bush) on the left, Gahnia grandis (saw sedge grass) on the right, and Cenarrhenes nitida (Port Arthur plum) in central by Lake Osborne

The weathered trunk of a deceased Athrotaxis selaginoides (King Billy pine) is a strong focal point, a silver foil against the yellow and greens of the vegetation while the arching blades of Gahnia grandis (saw sedge grass) reinforces the trunk’s sinuous shape. The vibrant green of Cenarrhenes nitida is a textural and chromatic transition between Gahnia and Orites acicularis (yellow bush) through its foliar color of the former and its whorl-like leaves of the latter. Flowers are simply superfluous.

Without the Richea pandanifolia, the entire group would appear an undifferentiated amorphous mass, despite the fallen logs.

Without the Richea pandanifolia, the entire group would appear an undifferentiated amorphous mass, despite the fallen logs.

Just as we may place an agave or yucca to define a garden, the Richea pandanifolia performs a similar function in this landscape through its visual distinctiveness. Gahnia grandis reads as a vertical form, lending a fluid coarseness different from the Richea.  

A glacial rock outcropping is a dramatic backdrop for Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) and Gahnia grandis (saw grass sedge).

A glacial rock outcropping is a dramatic backdrop for Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) and Gahnia grandis (saw grass sedge).

Glacial activity had spewed and deposited rocks of immense sizes and asymmetrical shapes throughout the landscape. These rocks are natural backdrops for the vegetation, such as one of Nothofagus cunninghamii (myrtle beech) and Gahnia grandis (saw grass sedge).

Leptospermum lanigerum (woolly tea-tree) underneath Eucalyptus coccifera (Tasmanian snow gum)

Leptospermum lanigerum (woolly tea-tree) underneath Eucalyptus coccifera (Tasmanian snow gum)

The silvery new growth of Leptospermum lanigerum (woolly tea-tree) were emerging, and related well to the mottled trunks of Eucalyptus coccifera (Tasmanian snow gum). Imagine translating this combination in the Northern Hemisphere – silver birches (Betula pendula or B. utilis var. jacquemontii) could stand in for the eucalypts and phillyreas (P. latifolia and P. angustifolia) and Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ for the woolly tea-trees.

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However, nothing can replicate the awe inspiring view of the eucalypt forests from the mountains. This view is one reason why nature will always offer more visually than we can give or take from it.

~Eric

Winterscapes

The pearly winter sunrise over the Cotswolds countryside

The pearly winter sunrise over the Cotswolds countryside

Dear Jimmy,

Snow had fallen at Chanticleer in the last few weeks. I remember a visitor interested in seeing Chanticleer during winter, only to have her hopes deflated upon discovering that we were closed after October.

The Pond Garden in Snow at Chanticleer

The Pond Garden in Snow at Chanticleer

It reminded me of how much I gleamed about winter structure in United Kingdom after the masses and voids of plantings have been stripped away, leaving little to distract the eye from the permanent elements. When I saw the Wyeth paintings at the Brandywine River Museum, their economical spareness of colors and subjects revealed a depth similar to those wintry landscapes I enjoyed in United Kingdom. The grays, browns, and dark greens may have a somberness that dampens one’s psyche, but they allow our eyes, loosened from the vise of bright colors and light, to relax. Your images of the Spanish farmlands carved with crop lines, mountains, and forests reflect that chromatic subtleties on our moods, and I returned to the moments of walking through empty Cotswold gardens and villages in early winter mornings.

Brown Swiss by Andrew Wyeth

Brown Swiss by Andrew Wyeth

Hidcote Manor Garden is not open during winter, but my friends and I gained access through the generosity of the Head Gardener Glyn Jones. Perhaps weary from the onslaught of visitors and luxuriance of its beds, the garden slips into a soporific stupor, acquiring a restfulness rarely seen at other times. The French and Italianate influences on its creator Lawrence Johnston are now more apparent – the pleached hornbeams, the holm oak cubes, the gazebos, and the pool take on the starring roles after having ceding to the lush plantings. Without these structural elements the plantings could fall apart and the intriguing secrets of Hidcote cease to exist – just as a woman wears a necklace, a plant is as beautiful as it can be in the right setting. The mystery and drama of Hidcote in winter is strong as it is in spring and summer.

Stripped and cleaned for the year, the Red Borders now frame the gate of the Stilt Garden by letting the eye hone on the geometric lines towards the top. In the Stilt Garden, the angular cubes of the pleached hornbeams echo the gazebo shapes while the two Quercus ilex tower behind like clouds above the hornbeams.

Stripped and cleaned for the year, the Red Borders now frame the gate of the Stilt Garden by letting the eye hone on the geometric lines towards the top. In the Stilt Garden, the angular cubes of the pleached hornbeams echo the gazebo shapes while the two Quercus ilex tower behind like clouds above the hornbeams.

Denuded of their leaves, the pleached hornbeams become wiry edifices that play off texturally the solid boxwood and yew hedges, and the grass panel, walls, and gravel paths are tonally different from the clipped plants.

Denuded of their leaves, the pleached hornbeams become wiry edifices that play off texturally the solid boxwood and yew hedges, and the grass panel, walls, and gravel paths are tonally different from the clipped plants.

Reflected in the still waters of the Bathing Pool Fountain is the cherub and the dolphin centerpiece.

Reflected in the still waters of the Bathing Pool Fountain is the cherub and the dolphin centerpiece.

The yew columns define the separation between the house and the Theatre Lawn.

The yew columns define the separation between the house and the Theatre Lawn.

The view through the yew hedge towards the Beech Allee

The view through the yew hedge towards the Beech Allee

Dwarfed by the beech trees, the gate looks comically out of scale, but forces our eyes to pause and compels to explore beyond its boundaries.

Dwarfed by the beech trees, the gate looks comically out of scale, but forces our eyes to pause and compels us to explore beyond its boundaries.

A lesson can be learned in the nearby villages, and Chipping Camden near Hidcote Manor Garden conveys well the architectural detailing that has long drawn out-of-towners and tourists to this region of United Kingdom. Weathered by the patina of age and time, its stone buildings bespeak not only of the area’s vernacular and heritage, but also the craftsmanship that once characterized the Cotswolds’ hub of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century. While the front cottage gardens are not at their best, all manner of the buildings’ scale and proportions, their walls, and the link with the outlying countryside held enough interest for a solitary walk.

Andrew Wyeth could have enjoyed painting the front facade of this house - the damp gray cold has darkened the otherwise warm honey-colored stone.

Andrew Wyeth could have enjoyed painting the front facade of this house – the damp gray cold has darkened the otherwise warm honey-colored stone.

The zig-zag framework of this gnarled apple tree is etched in sharp relief against the mist.

The zig-zag framework of this gnarled apple tree is etched in sharp relief against the mist.

The West Banqueting House, a Jacobean building, looks forlorn among the remnants of the Old Campden House destroyed in a fire in 1645.

The West Banqueting House, a Jacobean building, looks forlorn among the remnants of the Old Campden House destroyed in a fire in 1645.

Textural contrasts of natural materials: wood and stone in the West Banqueting House

Textural contrasts of natural materials: wood and stone in the West Banqueting House

Framed by the arching tree, a porch light flickers like a beacon of optimism.

Behind the arching tree, a porch light flickers like a beacon of optimism.

As dispiriting as winter, especially its holidays, may seem for us gardeners, it teaches us restraint and sobriety before the floral excesses of spring engulfs our senses. There is something said about the ability of a bracing walk to contemplate and innovate. And there is always the promise of catalogs to dream, snowdrops, hellebores, and witch hazels to welcome, and a chance to breathe. See you in the New Year!

Take care, Eric

In this warmer corner of the house is the surprise sight of narcissi flowering. The neutral colors of the stone wall flatter the yellow flowers and green lawn.

In this warmer corner of the house is the surprise sight of narcissi flowering. The neutral colors of the stone wall flatter the yellow flowers and green lawn.

train of thought

Dear Eric,

     Recently I rode to Valencia via high-speed train from Madrid, and what’s normally a journey of a few hours, is now completed in just under two. Trains will always be the preferred mode of transportation for me; they get you deep in thought, with your mind easily shifting from nostalgic thoughts to pondering the future.

James McGrath Spanish Landscape       Looking out the window, the past crept in, as the landscape I was seeing before me is different from what I was used to, gone now are the green, lush rolling hills that surround Gravetye, and a new alien landscape unfolded before me. Now, there is soil that is rich in color with mountains and rocky outcrops that continually appear on the horizon, while the farmland plays out its carved patterns in the earth, it was fascinating to take in.

        Sorolla once said, “Nature, the sun itself, produces color effects… instantaneously.” He was right and as I continued watching, your words about light played in my mind too, especially when you said, “Light is perhaps the most misunderstood and poorly considered element in gardens. Yet it is light that noticeably alters the mood and atmosphere of the garden – the silhouettes of trees and shrubs, the long shadows cast onto the walls, and the reflections in water features.  Landscapes became more sculptural, abstract, and wilder.”  It was always a rule of mine that gardens should not be exclusively beautiful to look at but also full of fleeting moments, incorporating more elements than just flowers. Light, water, ground level and the shadows created are just as essential in bringing a garden or landscape to life.  You have a way with writing and your words were music to my ears.

         Seeing the farms and fields whizzing by turned my mind to plants. It got me thinking about how Spain is a huge exporter of carnations, and exports them in large numbers to help supply the demand required by the world flower market.  Saffron is another successful crop grown here, with majority of the harvest happening in the end of October in Toledo where they grow fields of Crocus sativus.  I look forward to witnessing this next autumn.

Spain is a huge producer of rice, specifically Arborio, the main ingredient of Paella, with it mostly growing in fields on the outskirts of Valencia.

       These thoughts of plants, coupled with living in a city again, made me miss the kitchen garden at Gravetye. Again I will not dwell, and even though I have two small terraces, I need to have a garden in soil; pots are not enough for me. Currently I am looking for an allotment to call my own and am searching to see if something like this exists in Madrid.  Having a small plot to grow some food and cut flowers are high on my list so, please, keep your fingers crossed.

       The autumnal show here in Madrid is nothing like the ones I used to see in New York, but I forgive Spain, because she is beautiful in her own way. That would be the same as comparing apples to oranges, right? Hope this finds you well and smiling…         James

Joaquin Sorolla

Sorolla

My only ambition was to create an honest picture that would interpret nature as she really is, as she ought to be seen.  -Joaquin Sorolla , 1863- 1923,  Spanish Impressionist Painter

Spanish Countryside

Spanish landscape, somewhere between Madrid and Valencia, 2013