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A Week in Cornwall – Part 5 – The Japanese Garden

As we left Cornwall after our week’s holiday we spent the morning at The Japanese Garden which was part way back to Devon where we were going to stay for a few days. We had visited this garden years ago but could not remember it at all, so it would all be a surprise.

A Japanese gardens has certain elements that make it a Japanese garden, a feeling of welcome, topiarised trees and shrubs, stone sculptures often in the form of lanterns, beautiful calm vistas, paths to invite calm slow wandering and moss in abundance, plus of course that essential water.

Let us begin at our Cornwall garden to see if it gave us a warm welcome, and see if there were areas that gave us the right feeling of calm and peace. Throughout this look at the Cornwall Japanese Garden you will notice how powerful the sense of light and shade can be in creating an atmospheric garden.

 

Peaceful areas appeared regularly at the end of winding paths or through archways.

   

Moss featured here as groundcover or growing on branches and tree trunks in the damp atmosphere. These patches of moss either on the ground or aerial are great for wildlife especially as they are always moist. Overall wildlife feels happy in Japanese gardens in the UK, and effecively act as predatorial pest controllers.

    

Training trees is an ancient Japanese art practised for centuries by Japanese gardeners following set rules using coniferous ans deciduous trees alike. It is a skill just coming into being in 21st century Britain. I love using it in the garden!

    

Stone sculptures were visible throughout including many forms of lantern. We use a few of these in our interpretation of a Japanese garden her at home in our Plealey patch.

       

Bamboo of course is another essential element of any Japanese garden, either growing in its many forms or used as a fencing or building material. It is beautiful and structural whichever way it is used.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of the Cornwall Japanese Garden as much as we did. There is so much Western gardeners can learn from Japanese garden design and from the skills of Japanese gardeners. They can teach us a lot about creating peace and harmony in our gardens.

 

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Our Short Break in Stratford-on-Avon – Part 2

Part two of this report on our short break in Stratford-on-Avon is all about the gardens of Shakespeare and his family. After spending time indoors studying the life and times of the Bard is was good to be outside discovering some outdoor history.

We will begin by looking at the grounds of the Shakespeare family home, where roses seem the most important plant. The planting today does not necessarily relate in any way to how it was in the Bard’s day. We loved this bronze of Shakespeare which seemed to capture his intelligence and depth of thinking and feeling, as well as the contemporary pencil sketch of the house.

 

In total contrast but just a short walk away, is “The New Place”, a celebration of Shakespeare’s life with exciting modern garden design and statuary. Each piece of statuary and each plant combination provides hints of the period as well as adding atmosphere. There were brilliant plant combinations combined sensitively with modern sculptural constructions. Softening of modern hard landscaping was carried out using soft, whispy grasses such as Stipa tennuissima Pony Tails.

    

The globe under the tree feature had a real surprise in store fr when you got close to the tree you realised it was cast in bronze. Goldfinches loved it and sang from its upper branches!

       

A more open space beyond he building and the modern garden area had a completely different feel to it contrasting strongly and providing a peaceful space to rest and have a quick coffee served by a barista on a bicycle. Long double borders with a central path ran along one side of the large green, with topiarised hedging and perennial planting.

  

Finally a parterre area felt much more in keeping with the garden style of the Shakespearian era, providing another contrasting area to explore. Lavenders gave off beautiful gentle scent.

    

 

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Family visit to Yorkshire Park Part 2 – outside

Back at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park we saw Arabella enjoying the huge muddy puddles created by the storm that battered the site as we enjoyed the inside gallery spaces. We meanwhile enjoyed a few outdoor pieces alongside the puddles while we watched her antics. We are so pleased with how Arabella has inherited our love of puddles!

      

The following photos are a selection of those taken around the sculpture park.

 

We always enjoy spending time in any James Turrell’s sky spaces and this one called “Deer Shelter” was the first we ever found.

   

Or final stop was in the chapel gallery with a single installation filling the main room. Sheets and music hang among white string “nests”. All of this rises from a piano. This space had a magical atmosphere.

   

So that was the end of our family holiday in Scotland and a few extra days in Yorkshire.

 

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A Family Holiday in Scotland – Part 7 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The last day of our family holiday, where we spent a week in the Scottish Borders, was spent part way during our journey home at The Yorkshire Sculture Park. This is a favourite place for our family so it was great to all be there together. There are always top quality gallery shows and outdoor exhibitions as well as the permanent collection of outside sculpture all dispayed in beautiful parkland.

Before going out to the underground gallery to look at the work of Guiseppe Penone, we had a quick look at exhibitions inside which we all felt were rather strange except  for Arabella who enjoyed the animals. She loves all animals! See what you think of these.

 

We went out into the unnaturally cool, wet July morning across the gravel display area into the main gallery. This building is so good at displaying sculpture and is fascinating in its own right. The right hand photo of the three below shows part of the first piece we spotted as we entered the gallery building.

  

In the main gallery spaces we were enthralled by Guiseppe Penone’s exhibition “A Tree in the Wood”, each piece holding our attention. The centre piece was a tree carved to follow the natural contours and get into its soul. It was a beautiful piece! The tree was so long that the sculptural piece went through two galleries passing through from one to another.

           

This sculptural piece was one of the most beautiful pieces Jude and I could ever remember experiencing, as the sculptor successfully discovered and enhanced the textures, shapes contours and even the soul of the tree when it was still living. Now this tree will live on for ever, unaffected by storms, freezing conditions and long winters.

But there were plenty of other examples of his tree and wood sculptures here to enjoy plus a few 2D pieces.

    

After hours of being enthralled by “A Tree in the Wood” we eventually moved outside to a very wet parkland. Arabella however who loves puddles almost above all else soon spotted one result of the rain. To enjoy this you will have to await my next post.

 

 

 

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A family holiday to Scotland – Part 3- Little Sparta

For a long time we have wanted to visit the garden at Little Sparta near Glasgow, so when holidaying nearby we just had to pay it a visit. Often places you have waited for with high expectations turn out to be less than you hope for but Little Sparta proved to be more than expected. Jude and I visited with our son and daughter-in-law, Jamie and Sam and our granddaughter Arabella, a twenty-month old garden and nature lover.

Little Sparta is the garden created by artist Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006).  It was started 50 years ago, created from the natural landscape and is described in the leaflet given to garden visitors as “a beautiful and shaded place, with trees, flower beds, running streams, bridges, ponds and paths, which lead you past more than 200 artworks many of them carved with inscriptions that will take you into the world of classical Greece and Rome, poetry and philosophy, but also the French Revolution, naval ships, armed conflict and weapons of war.”

So we arrived with expectations of surprises and originality.

We parked in the tiny carpark and followed a rough gravel track for almost half a mile up the slope to the garden entrance. We can’t remember visiting many gardens without vehicle access at least reasonably close. The walk up took us through beautiful Scottish farmland complete with sheep and cattle.

 

The gateway presented a warm welcome but was somewhat of a trick as it was not the actual entrance to the garden which was a short distance along the stone wall.

 

With every turn of a path new and very varied vistas presented themselves, close tight places and larger open landscapes.

     

Surprises in the form of stone sculptures and stone calligraphy add to the delight of this garden and help us understand its designer.

     

A real surprise was a fruit and veg patch which had the feel of a true old-fashioned allotment.

 

 

 

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Hauser and Wirth – a return to Piet Oudolf’s gallery garden

We have visited the Piet Oudolf gardens at the Hauser and Wirth Galleries in Bruton, Somerset twice already. We wanted to visit once more to see how these amazing new perennial style gardens had matured.

We had to pass between the gallery buildings to reach the gardens but were drawn to these gently planted containers and gardens in the courtyards.

 

A sculpture piece by Richard Long graced one area of grass, but after a quick look and photo, we hurried through the gallery buildings and out into the main gardens. We were to find another Richard Long piece at the far end of the main garden, one of his circular works.

 

To give a true picture of the gardens here at the gallery I need to share a gallery with you showing views across board, plant compinations and a few individual plants too. Enjoy by clicking on the right arrow and navigate as usual using the arrows.

 

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An adventure to get here – Canwood Gallery

Canwood Gallery in the Herefordshire countryside is found after miles of narrow winding lanes and so is decsribed as “an adventure to find” on its website. We visited this outdoor sculpture gallery after hearing of it from Graham and Vivky, my brother and our sister-in-law.

The driveway led us to a beautifulbrick and timber house wrapped in a garden and fields in beautiful countryside. We started wandering around to the sound of a tractor at work. Apart from that the place was silent. Some sculptural pieces were situated close to the house or even leaned against farm buildings.

 

An indoor gallery set in an old combine shed held an exhibition called “In the middle of  somewhere.”

Starting our tour of the outdoor exhibition spaces we were attracted to these two corten steel pieces. Follw my mini-gallery to follow me as I walked around the pieces looking through them to the spaces beyond.

Close by two large heads looked over the countryside.

Sometimes we both find odd pieces not to our taste and this one made us feel nothing.

When studying some sculpture pieces it is the detail that attracts, such as with these figures, one in wood the other stone.

Simply titled “The Bull”, this piece created from two finishes of metals was full of strength and movement.

Moving pieces always add interest to a collection of static pieces. This figure moved with the breeze most elegantly, catching the light as it did so. Enjoy my mini-gallery to follow her changing positions.

After being mesmerised by her gentle movements the following pieces appeared strong and static.

From the fields we entered the gardens through a metal gate to enjoy the sculpture standing comfortably among garden plants. Two pieces, “Birds” and “Lady of the Lake” are sharing the water of the pond in front of the cottage.

   

I will put all my photos of the other sculptures in to gallery for you to enjoy.

 

 

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A canal-side garden in winter – John’s Garden Part 1

We have visited “John’s Garden” before in the height of summer and really enjoyed it, so much so that we were determined to re-visit at different times of the year. We imagined it would be an effective all-year garden. Mid-February and John opened his garden on a cold and wet winters day, so we went along with garden-loving friends Pete and Sherlie.

We started with a hot mug of coffee in the nursery coffee shop to warm us up, so with added warmth and lots of excitement and anticipation we wandered down the drive from Ashwood Nurseries to his own 3 acre-garden.

The garden has the advantage of boasting a canal, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, running along its length – not many gardeners could say that about their patch!

An unusual hedge greeted us as we entered the garden, a long cloud pruned hedge, beautifully sculpted. A slate pathway at its end took us into a colourful area full of winter interest. Hamamelis and small deciduous trees were the stars, supported ably by ferns, bergenias, snowdrops and a variety of small-leaved shrubs trained as spheres.

   

We left this little garden behind and crossed an open lawned area dotted with topiary specimens and trees with interesting bark, coloured, textured or peeling. We joined up with the gardens bordering the canal, the sort of background gardeners can only dream of.

 

After a close up look at these trees and touching their bark, we followed the canal-side borders into the main gardens. Here grasses mingled with dogwoods and Willows, both pollarded and coppiced to enhanced their stem colours. Conifers of all sorts of shapes, colours and sizes began to appear here becoming strong features of this garden during the winter months. John is a master at transparency pruning which brings out the trees attributes. Interestingly he prunes both deciduous trees and shrubs and coniferous specimens too, which makes them look so much more interesting and they add so much to borders.

John is also a master of topiarising shrubs to emphasise their beauty and give structural elements throughout the garden. All sorts of conifers and evergreen shrubs have been given this treatment.

    

In part two of my post all about our winter visit to John’s Garden, we will move along the canal borders before returning along the opposite side of the patch, while along the way discovering a pool, sculpture and a terrace and lots more exciting plants and plant pairings.

 

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Lakeside Sculpture

Shropshire’s “lake district” is situated to the south of the North Shropshire town of Ellesmere, where several meres cluster together. We have known about the sculpture trail around the largest of the meres for a time but have only recently visited and explored the trail. We took advantage of the visit of my brother Graham and his wife Vicky, who love the same sorts of days out as we do, to go to find the trail.

It was worth the wait. We wandered slowly around the lakeside finding a wide variety of sculptural pieces. Once we had parked the car and had our usual coffee and cakes, we found a few pieces in a sloping field opposite. As we entered the park alongside the lake we were treated to views of the church through the trees.

The theme of the sculpture collection was the history and life of the market town of Ellesmere. The first large piece, large enough to explore inside in fact, was based on the barges that would have plied their trade on the nearby canal. The sculpture was created from steel with cut out features in places which gave light a chance to penetrate and play with shadows.

 

The lakeside parkland held collections of mature trees which cast long shadows across any open patches of grass. We periodically enjoyed glances of the wide expanses of the mere. As we followed the gravel pathway further around the lake we discovered varied sculptural pieces.

  

We failed to fully work out the meaning and context of the first piece we discovered on the lakeside, which resembled a relief decorated shield wrapped around a pole. We studied it for a while and discussed several possible ideas but eventually walked off still baffled!

 

This huge metal bee towered over us and beneath him was a stack of logs acting as its plinth. Each piece of wood was drilled with holes making each one a home for solitary bees.

 

Large morrainic boulders were positioned close to the lakeside and on closer inspection we discovered they were homes to a small groups of bronze pieces, mostly connected to the nunnery close to the mere and other town features.

     

Moving further into natural woodland and away from the parkland, we discovered a tree-house carved from a dead tree trunk and a beautiful tall, graceful shiny metal piece. pierced with a wide hole giving views over the sparkling water.

    

Our favourite piece of all was the furthest along the walk but well worth the wait. It was called SShhh and was simply this word carved out of a single piece of wood which stood a good 6 ft tall. It was beautifully positioned in a clearing where the ground was covered in fallen autumn leaves. It looked most impressive sat beneath tall Beech trees and their long sharp shadows! It was beautiful to touch and the light fell on its cracked surfaces creating sharp shadow-lines and increased the intensity of its textures. Enjoy following the photo sequence below taken as we walked closer and closer to SShhh.

Alongside SShhh we found long trunks of old fallen trees to sit and rest upon. A seat had been carved out of one leaving a perfect resting place. We enjoyed studying the fallen leaves, with varied colours and textures. After a short rest we made our way back to the town where further pieces of sculpture awaited discovery. Unfortunately when we got back the light was going so we decided to continue our exploration of the sculpture trail at a later date.

 

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Ruthall Manor – well worth the wait.

We go for years intending to visit a garden but sometimes circumstances dictate otherwise. This is what happened with Ruthall Manor, a Shropshire Yellow Book Garden. After years we finally visited earlier this year in June. The wait was so worth while!

First impressions count for a lot when you visit a garden, and a good garden can quickly reveal its qualities and general level of care. Atmosphere, special places and surprises will reveal themselves later and more slowly. A good garden will keep on giving.

Ruthall Manor soon made us feel warmly welcomed and involved in the plantings and design. It had the added bonus of some original interesting sculptural pieces beautifully positioned within plantings or out on their own as centres of attention.

 

Pathways, arches and gateways encouraged us to explore further, around the next corner, through a hedge or border or into the next garden area.

    

I thought that the best way to share as many pieces of sculpture and artifacts as possible I would create this gallery for you to enjoy.  The variety of pieces was so large that we just did not now what to expect around the next corner.

In the end of course good plants well chosen, cared for and partnered thoughtfully are what gives a garden its true quality.

So Ruthall Manor was certainly worth waiting so long to go and visit. What an enjoyable afternoon!