Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Flowers and old walls

This is just a quick post as I have major internet problems and masses of work to do plus anyway, I think the photos speak for themselves. What could be better - a sunny weekend, beautiful summer flowers and historic buildings? First up, Chastleton House where I volunteer. Simple plants - Verbascums and poppies - against historic walls and buildings.

Verbascums in the forecourt with the church as backdrop
Copyright John Hackston

Poppies in the stableyard
Copyright Juju

We've weeded this area in the Stableyard - picking up anything that wasn't a poppy - which has given them the chance to display their full glory.

At Greys Court (also National Trust), the gardens are all stunning as they have the backdrop of a ruined medieval property. Despite having a blinding migraine, I managed to struggle round and see (most of) the glorious planting and stunning ruins:

Acanthus spinosus (Bear's breeches)
Copyright Juju

Clematis, stone trough and crumbly wall
Copyright Juju

Plant theatre in the kitchen garden
Copyright Juju

I really want a plant theatre myself - I can just picture it on the old stone wall of the back of our house. Surely they can't be too difficult to make?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

German gardens - unexpected delights

We were in Munich and Nuremberg a few weeks back and encountered some unexpected delights - both historical and contemporary approaches to gardening and garden style. First and foremost has to be the wonderful 'Hesperidengaerten' in St Johannis, a vibrant and historically interesting district just outside the Nuremberg city walls. These small baroque gardens are tucked behind various buildings in the street and are a recreation and restoration of gardens associated with Johann Christoph Volkamer (1644-1720). First - behind a block of flats with a modest baroque-style exterior - was this atmospheric garden with statues of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Apollo, Diana, Mars, and Saturn, as well as box hedging, a fountain, and a pavillion (unfortunately closed).

Looking down the garden towards the pavilion (photo copyright Juju)

Looking from the pavillion towards the flats (photo copyright John Hackston)

It was amazing to find something like this in a suburban neighbourhood - the residents of the building were out in the yard in front of the garden making the most of the sunshine and a little lad was playing football.

(As an aside and a non-garden history cultural reference - I certainly didn't think this at the time but the photo above puts me in mind of the 'weeping angels', the scary statues from Dr Who...)

The second and more impressive garden was behind an old pub/restaurant - it was spread across several plots and with access at the back to the river. There were statues representing the seasons, continents, Hercules, dancing girls and some strange gnome-like characters, fountains, box hedging, arches with climbing roses, and even an old 'Fachwerkhaus'.

Looking down the first section of garden behind the pub towards the Fachwerkhaus (photo copyright Juju)

The arches were covered with roses and must look spectacular when in flower:

Copyright Juju
One outstanding feature was a sundial made from box plants with a pillar, globe and gnomon to cast the shadow:

Copyright John Hackston

Copyright John Hackston

Apart from appreciating the gardens and their historical significance in German garden history, I was struck by the setting: when we visited it was a quiet Sunday morning and there were just one or two tourists around and a few locals sitting on the benches reading books or newspapers and relaxing in the sun. Because of its position, there are numerous flats overlooking the garden: imagine having this as your surrogate back garden! On one side the garden is flanked by a reasonably ugly wall and old factory but somehow that adds to the charm of the space. I need to finish translating the leaflets on the gardens that I was lucky enough to find in a secondhand rummage bin in a local bookshop - I need to understand the full story of these remarkable gardens.

In contrast to these formal historic gardens, we also chanced upon a collection of informal gardens lying underneath the city walls and adjacent to the ancient castle. A plaque described this area as 'Schneppergraben' - which we think relates to the medieval archers who practised and possibly lived in this area. The gardens were individual plots obviously rented or owned by local people - probably those without their own gardens - and it was wonderful to see how they had personalised their space with seating, sheds, planting, glass globes (these seem very popular in Germany), children's play equipment and so on.

Looking down on the plots from the city walls (photo copyright Juju)

Looking through the fences (photo copyright Juju)

And I'll just finish with a mention of the castle gardens. I've visited Nuremberg castle many times over the last 30 years but I couldn't recall much about the gardens so this was another unexpected delight even if it was a more formal touristy experience. They looked spectacular in the early Spring sunshine:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Walled gardens

I like a walled garden. It was a bit of a walk at the weekend to find the walled garden at Wallington (near Morpeth, Northumberland) but it was certainly worth it - it was vast and even at this time of year looking spectacular. Sweeping down the hill and big enough to be divided into several garden 'rooms', it was a tranquil and interesting space.

The hellebore bed was looking on top form too. 

And the Edwardian glasshouse didn't disappoint either. Full of geraniums, cyclamens and fuchsias in all their glory and with the scent of jasmine floating in the air, it's no wonder quite a few visitors were sitting comfortably on the benches enjoying the assault on their senses.

We had to tear ourselves away to visit the house before closing time and of course the obligatory tea and cake in the National Trust cafe.

All photos copyright Juju

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Heritage interpretation

copyright John Hackston

I spent two days last week on an English Heritage course learning how to 'present' historic properties - in other words how you decide on the significance of a property, its value and how then to intepret it and present it to your audience. Sounds straightforward but of course many historic properties by their very nature have more than one significant period, event or personality that you may wish to celebrate and then communicate this to your audience. And of course audiences are extremely diverse. We were given many interesting examples - abbeys which became family homes (do you give greater attention to the religious significance or what might be an important historic family home?) or somewhere like Boscobel House (associated with Charles II but now a fine example of a Victorian farm).

We also learned about the significance of vegetation, garden and landscape in the presentation and interpretation of historic sites. Hailes Abbey was presented as a good example: the tranquil and atmospheric setting is as important as its religious significance. It is also a place where the ruins themselves have been planted with grass in order to protect the fragile stones and meet the expectations of visitors who want to see ruins with romantic planting over the walls. 

I will be bearing all these points in mind as I contribute to the interpretation of the garden at Chastleton.

Monday, 7 February 2011

February snowdrops and topiary

copyright John Hackston

We didn't set out to see snowdrops this weekend but were delighted to find them at two National Trust gardens - Packwood and Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire - and masses of them at Lydiard Park (Swindon). These gardens were mostly looking bare and being prepared for Spring planting but at Baddesley there were at least some flowering irises and hellebores.

copyright John Hackston

 A further treat was experiencing the topiary at Packwood. These magnificent yew trees look stunning from all directions: from the terrace in their straight majestic rows; looking down on them from the tall tree at the end of the garden; and walking in amongst them where they appear more like the stones at somewhere like Avebury. It was a blustery day and the rippling effect as the wind whipped through them provided the illusion of wobbling jellies. They must be very high maintenance given their size, age and number.

copyright Juju