Who’s Copying Who?

March 30th, 2015 | 16 Comments »

An earlier version of this post referred to a photo found on line and credited there to the Cultural Landscape Foundation. Thank you to Christine Facer Hoffman for pointing out that the photo said to be of the Garden Cosmic Speculation was actually her own photo, of her own garden at Througham Court. For my review of this intriguing garden see http://thinkingardens.co.uk/reviews/art-or-science-a-review-of-througham-court-by-pat-webster/

 

The post I wrote about where my garden ideas have come from  (http://www.siteandinsight.com/reflections-and-inspirations/) generated a lot of interest and feedback. The degree of interest prompted me to consider which other garden makers have copied ideas, and who they have copied them from.

I’m delighted to find myself in good company.

Les Quatre Vents, the Quebec garden created by the late Frank Cabot, is full of ideas imported from gardens around the world. The white garden near the Norman-style chateau copies Vita Sackville-West’s creation at Sissinghurst, but copying that idea is such a commonplace that it hardly counts. Cabot’s large gateway arch apparently was built after seeing a photograph of Edward Lutyens’ arch at the Royal Mughal Gardens in New Delhi; the brick structure and long reflecting pond in the Pigeonnier gardens adapt ideas found at the Pin Mill at Bodnant in North Wales and in the approach to the Taj Mahal.

Less obvious is the copying involved in the rill near the house.

 

The rill at Les Quatre Vents echoes the shape of one at Shute House in Dorset. Does the vegetation close to the rill improve on Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe's design?
The rill at Les Quatre Vents echoes the shape of one at Shute House in Dorset. Does the vegetation close to the rill improve on Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe’s design?

 

The shape of this hillside water feature is so similar to a design by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe at Shute House in Dorset that the source seems unmistakeable. This may not be as clear in the photos as it is in reality, since I took the photo of the Cabot garden from the top of the rill and the one at Shute House from mid-way down.

I don’t fault Mr Cabot for re-using the idea — Sir Geoffrey’s design has Moorish precedents that I’m sure he would acknowledge. I do question the plantings, though. At Shute House, the rill emerges from an exuberantly planted area; it make its way down the hill through a broad and open area of grass, making the shape of the rill stand out clearly. At Les Quatre Vents, while the large leaves edging the rill provide a loose contrast to the tidily trimmed evergreens, the plantings interfere with this clear view of the design. (I do, however, applaud the crooked white birch tree that draws the eye into the space beyond the end of the rill.)

 

The shapes of the pools shift as the water descends, from square to octagonal to round.
The shapes of the pools shift as the water descends, from square to octagonal to round.

 

At Kiftsgate Court in England, I saw another Jellicoe knock-off. The pool that replaced an old tennis court copies a part of Jellicoe’s design for the garden at Sutton Place in Surrey. The stepping stones that cross the moat there carry a symbolic message — they are the first steps in an allegorical journey through time.  The steps at Kiftsgate lead to an island; the only way off is to retrace your steps. What was meaningful has become decorative.

 

Steps lead into the pool at Kiftsgate. The sculptural flowers are by
Steps lead onto the island in the tennis court pool at Kiftsgate Court in . Water spills off the philodendron  leaves sculpted by Simon Allison.

 

Copying design ideas from other times and other places has a long and honourable history. Moorish gardens inspired Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe. Roman gardens and the statues they contained inspired Italian Renaissance designers. Indeed, it seems that in Renaissance times, copying was a competitive sport.  Cardinals and popes competed to have the best this or the largest that. The water chains at Villa Lante …

 

Each stone curve was carved separately, resulting in a slightly different sound at each point.
Each stone volute was carved separately, resulting in a slightly different sound at each point.

 

 

were copied at Villa d’Este at Tivoli — one cardinal trying to out-do another.

 

A water chain at Villa d"Este at Tivoli marked the original entrance to this garden which was intended to impress. It succeeded.
A water chain at Villa d”Este at Tivoli marked the original entrance to this garden which was intended to impress. It succeeded.

 

Visiting Vaux-le-Vicomte a few years ago, I had an ‘a-ha!’ moment when I climbed steps to a small side garden. Trees trimmed like stilts immediately made me think of Lawrence Johnson’s Stilt Garden at Hidcote.

 

I don't like the strong shadows in this photo but that was how this part of garden at Hidcote looked the day I was there. And why should I complain about sunshine in England?
I don’t like the strong shadows in this photo but that was how this part of garden at Hidcote looked the day I was there. And why should I complain about sunshine in England?

 

Noting how the water chains at Villa Lante and Villa d’Este mimic one another made me wonder if their curving edges inspired the canal at Brian’s Ground in Herefordshire.

 

Iris enhance the canal at Bryan's Ground.
Iris enhance the canal at Bryan’s Ground.

 

Copying a design does not necessarily entail copying the idea behind it. At Sutton Place the steps began a voyage of the mind.  At Kiftsgate, they appear merely decorative. Curving edges are an essential part of Renaissance water chains, wavy edges at Brian’s Ground are not.

Inspiration from the past necessarily acquires different meanings in different times. The warning bells ring when a garden designer copies his or her own work. While she may be building on past experience, repetition becomes far too easy. Static ideas lose their impact and meaning.

Beauty in Unusual Places

March 24th, 2015 | 8 Comments »
Crocus will bloom before too much longer. I hope.
  Flowers are lovely things. The colour, the shape, the texture, the scent: flowers have them all.   [caption id="attachment_1961" align="aligncenter" width="850"] Crocus will bloom before too much longer. I hope.[/caption]   But at this time of year, when flowers are only a future prospect, I am searching for beauty in other places. (Yes, there is beauty in the winter landscape, but I've had enough of it.) So instead of looking out my window, I'm looking to memory. And I'm finding some unusual attractions, in some unusual locales. The incredible 'flowers'

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Reflections and Inspirations

March 16th, 2015 | 13 Comments »
The rug under the dining room table is made of shards from the china used at Glen Villa Inn.
Where do ideas come from? Recently I’ve been working on a talk about using reflecting surfaces in gardens – things like mirrors, water, metal and glass. In the process, I’ve been thinking about gardens in a general way. What is the point of adding a reflecting surface to a garden – a piece of shiny metal, for example? Are the risks of a reflected glare worth whatever magic happens when you see the real thing and its reflection simultaneously? More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what constitutes a reflection, both the

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Following My Tree: March

March 10th, 2015 | 6 Comments »
In early autumn the leaves begin to turn to melted gold.
My linden tree (Tilia Americana) is still trunk-deep in snow. And I am still far from home. So again this month, I can’t post an up-to-date photo of the tree as it is. I can, though, post photos of the tree as it has been. And those photos, taken from a collection that spans the last ten years or so, show me that the tree conforms perfectly to descriptions I find on-line, on various government and educational websites.     [caption id="attachment_1594" align="aligncenter" width="850"] Bees enjoy the nectar of blossoms in

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Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden

March 2nd, 2015 | 6 Comments »
A great smile is a good marketing tool. Pearl Fryar has one, for sure.
Success comes from three things, Pearl Fryar told me the other day -- from work, passion and marketing. Fryar has them all. Pearl Fryar knows what he's good at and cheerfully shares his knowledge with even a casual visitor like me who stopped by unannounced on a Saturday afternoon. I found him working in the garden but he stopped to give me and my husband a tour.   [caption id="attachment_1893" align="aligncenter" width="850"] A great smile is a good marketing tool. Pearl Fryar has one, for sure.[/caption]     He told us how, starting in 1980, he

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