Category Archives: Quotations

Veddw House Garden

May 22nd, 2017 | 18 Comments »


I’m in England now, about to start on a ten-day garden tour. With my co-host Julia Guest of Travel Concepts in Vancouver, I will take a small group of women to the southwest of England.  But before hitting the road, let me whet your appetite with a review of an extraordinary garden I visited pre-tour.

Veddw is the garden of Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. Located in Wales, just across the border from England in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Veddw pays homage to its surroundings in ways that show respect for what came before. And significantly, that respectful attitude, felt throughout the garden, highlights the design talents of its creators.

English gardens that nod to the past are a commonplace but Veddw is no ordinary garden. A bench at the entry to the garden announces the difference, first in its shape and colour and then in the words that appear on the back, names used for the property over several centuries.


Veddw, Vedda, Fedw: from 1534 to 1947, the spelling has changed but the sound has remained much the same.
Vedow,, Veadow, Fedw, Vadda, Veddw. From 1569 to 1947, the spelling has changed but the sound remains much the same.


At the edge of  a wild garden, headstones give alternate names for people and areas nearby.


Barely visible is a wonderfully evocative name: Belchey Bernard. Not sure I'd want him as a neighbour.
Barely visible is a wonderfully evocative name: Bulchey Bernard. And why Hatter’s Patch? Were hats made there by Mr. Bernard?


Veddw and its designers do more, though, than show respect for the past. The garden they have created is very much of the present, yet it draws on ideas of time and change that are common to gardens everywhere. Attention to detail is evident throughout… not in the ordinary ‘garden variety’ way where all is neat and tidy, with no weeds apparent, but in the subtlety with which design creates meaning and significance.

Every garden design manual will advise repeating plants, colours and shapes, stressing that repetition holds a garden together, gives it coherence. And I agree. But too often, repetition of the sort advised hits you in the face, as if carbon paper had been pressed over a good idea and then imprinted mindlessly from one area to another.

Not so at Veddw. Here, the garden coheres through a more nuanced approach.  The curve of hedges is repeated in the roofline of what once was a tiny stone house.  The curve of the entry bench is echoed in the curves of a bench by a reflecting pool, but here the curve is modified with a dip that suggests what is about to come.


Black water reflects an overcast sky.
Black water reflects an overcast sky. Water features, each different in size and shape, repeatedly bring the sky onto the ground, another subtle repetition.


For me, the marvel at Veddw is the Hedge Garden. Designing interlocking hedges that appeal from every direction is a challenge that designer Anne Wareham has met, seemingly with ease. At the entry to the garden, a visitor encounters a genuine Wow! moment. Stretched across the valley below are scalloped-topped hedges set against flat-topped ones. Shades of green repeat and shift, balanced with touches of maroon and rust. Cones in the foreground are echoed by square columns in the distance. And all this energy is anchored by a calm backdrop of trees that promise a garden of a different sort.


Intricately interwoven of shapes, with flat and scalloped tops, cones and columns, are made even more intricate with different plants and colours.
Intricately interwoven shapes, with flat and scalloped tops, cones and columns, are made even more intricate with different plants and colours. While they are barely visible in this photo, the yew columns on the far hillside to the left were one of my favourite features.


To create a view this satisfying from one angle isn’t easy. To make it equally satisfying from the opposite direction adds another level of difficulty. Wareham has met the challenge and succeeded.


A view from the hillside opposite the entry shows a tiny entry into the Pool Garden.
A view from the hillside opposite shows the bench listing Veddw’s various names at the top of the photo. In the foreground you can see a tiny entry into the Pool Garden.


In the Pool Garden, the interwoven hedges become a complex play of curves. Do they rise and fall like waves on a distant sea or do they mimic the rising and falling hills that surround Veddw?  No matter. Their reflections in the dark water form an inverted goblet that spills out an invitation to enter the underwater world beyond.


These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny -- about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.
These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny — about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.


A path continues around the reflecting pool to enter the Hedge Garden. Turning a corner, waves appear again, this time in a contrasting colour — the fresh green of boxwood set against the darker tones of yew.


The curving waves appear again on a side hedge.
The curving waves appearing on a side hedge draw you into the garden world beyond.


The magic of Veddw continues in the adjacent woods …


A twisted tree watches over a peaceful fern-filled valley. The bluebells were past their peak but still gave off a hint of blue.
A twisted tree watches over a peaceful fern-filled valley. The bluebells were past their peak but still gave off a hint of blue.


… where the ruins of an old farm building, once in the middle of an open field, have become a mysterious shrine.


A utilitarian hut changes its character when softened and romanticized with moss. The columns hint at some grander past, now cloaked with mystery.
A utilitarian stone hut changed its character when softened and romanticized with moss. The columns hint at some grander past, now cloaked in mystery.


There is much more to Veddw than hedges and romantic woods. There are open sunny borders, a delightful garden stuffed with cardoon and shaped boxwood, a meadow walk and a white Clematis montana so tall it might almost be visible from outer space.

But for me, a highlight was the use of words throughout the garden. (Those of you who read this blog regularly, or who read ThinkinGardens, Anne Wareham’s internationally acclaimed blog, will be familiar with this quirk of mine. You can read A Matter of Words here.)

Hatter’s Patch and Bulchey Bernard are only two of many ways that words are used to link the garden to a wider world. A quotation from Wordsworth’s poem about nearby Tintern Abbey appears on a wooden bench, connecting the garden to the fields around. (“These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines of sportive wood run wild…”)  T.S. Eliot is quoted on an irregular stone, the words suggesting the progression that occurs when past and present, repeated, are brought together in new ways.


New timbers, new buildings, new ideas.
Old stone to new building: a repurposed stone provides a suitable place for a repurposed  quotation from “East Coker,” one of Eliot’s Four Quartets.


A small, weathered plaque attached to a tree speaks to what a garden is, or can be. At Veddw, the words articulate what the garden says: past is present, present, past. The future is still becoming.


This quotation from .S. Eliot encapsulates a crucial component of the garden at Veddw.
This quotation from Burnt Norton, the first of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, encapsulates a crucial component of the garden at Veddw. And of every garden worth its name.


Veddw is open on Sunday afternoons in June and July and from August 2-5. Groups of ten or more are welcome by prior arrangement from May to September.

If you have the chance, go. This is a garden worth the detour.


A Doorstep for Orin’s Sugarcamp

December 12th, 2016 | 15 Comments »
Jacques and Ken are skilled workers who can operate almost any piece of equipment, even under difficult conditions.
On the weekend we installed the granite slab that marks the 'front door' of Orin's Sugarcamp, my latest art installation at Glen Villa. (You can read about the project here.) Doing this was tricky. It involved transporting an 800-pound slab of rock across a snowy field and a partially frozen stream on the back of an open wagon. That takes skill, particularly since the snow is very slippery right now. But Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, the talented men who work for me at Glen Villa, managed the job with ease.   [caption id="attachment_4767" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]


Orin’s Sugarcamp

November 21st, 2016 | 12 Comments »
The distorted the shape of the leaf to suggest how the shape changes in the fall. l
Just over a year ago I began work on a project in the woods at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec. I was inspired by an exhibition I saw at The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in western Massachusetts. One piece in particular caught my eye, a collection of oddly shaped pieces of wood that contrasted in an interesting way with the straight vertical tree trunks around them.   [caption id="attachment_4682" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Cognito, a sculptural installation by William Carlson[/caption]   I knew almost immediately that I wanted to do something similar and


The Colours of Autumn

October 31st, 2016 | 12 Comments »
What an array of colours! The view looking out over the Big Meadow never fails to excite me.
I missed the peak of autumn colour this year in the Eastern Townships of Quebec -- where colours are as good as (or better than?) any place in North America -- because of some trips that took me away from home. So when a friend sent me a photo he took a week or so ago of the hills behind our house, I was delighted.   [caption id="attachment_4579" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Our house and boathouse on Lake Massawippi are dwarfed by the hills that rise behind.[/caption]   What a spectacle it was. Friends who were


Prospect Cottage: A Garden Review

October 12th, 2016 | 12 Comments »
The cottage retains its original strongly contrasting paint colours.
  The garden at Prospect Cottage, located in Kent on England's east coast, was created by the late Derek Jarmon, a filmmaker, diarist and early advocate of gay rights. It is a garden that sits lightly on the land while simultaneously conveying a powerful sense of place. It is also one that elicits a strong response from visitors. Either they like it or they don't, are intrigued by it or walk through quickly, dismissing what they see as a collection of rubbish with some flowers thrown in.   [caption id="attachment_4107" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]


Framing the View

August 16th, 2016 | 10 Comments »
A pair of trees frame a view. The mown path  directs your eye and your feet.
"No matter how panoramic its scope, a view of surrounding countryside becomes a genuine garden picture only when it has been framed." - Penelope Hobhouse Recently I came across this statement from the English garden writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse. I read it quickly, nodded in agreement, then paused and read it again. Did I agree? Does a view have to be framed in order to create a 'garden picture'? And what is a 'garden picture' anyway? a photograph of the garden or the picturesque scene itself? The more I considered the statement, the


The Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede

May 30th, 2016 | 13 Comments »
A river of cobblestones surrounds an uneven, curving path.
Memorials are tricky things to get right. In the past, when heroes were celebrated and the power of rulers was exalted in monuments that forced ordinary people to crane their necks skywards, understanding a memorial was easy. A man on horseback was a triumphant military leader. A statue elevated on a Greek-style plinth was a politician, or perhaps a king or queen. When the statue was part of a fountain or surrounded by figures of reclining women in various stages of undress, the message was probably one that celebrated the achievements of a country


Can spring be far behind?

April 5th, 2016 | 12 Comments »
Ice covers this stream in the woods.
Percy Bysshe Shelley knew a thing or two about spring. His Ode to the West Wind ends with a hopeful phrase: Be through my lips to unawakened Earth The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? At Glen Villa, the answer seems to be yes, it can be. Far too far behind. Is this April unseasonably cold? Perhaps not. But after a mild winter, and a few days of beautifully warm sunshine, my hopes were high. It seemed that the unawakened earth was awakening,


Is a Clearing in the Woods a Garden?

September 27th, 2015 | 13 Comments »
The trees were well identified.
"A natural clearing in a wood is a glade. But a perfectly round clearing the same size, in the same wood, becomes a garden."                                             ... Juan Grimm, Chilean landscape architect   Ten years ago, in March 2005, we planted a ring of trees in a clearing in the woods. The clearing had been used as a staging area the previous winter, a place where the trees we were selectively cutting were


Go With Me: A Book Review and A Challenge

May 17th, 2015 | 9 Comments »
This small book contains a world of ideas.
Last year, Michael Gordon, a gardener in New Hampshire, wrote about a book called  Go With Me: 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking. In his blog post he described how he used the book to enrich a tour he was leading through gardens in England. His description intrigued me and I immediately ordered the book on line. No luck -- it was out of print. I searched various used book outlets. Again, nothing. Finally, almost a year after beginning the search, I got hold of a copy. Reading this tiny handbook