Category Archives: Travel

Veddw House Garden

May 22nd, 2017 | 6 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.

 

Yin and Yang at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

October 3rd, 2016 | 8 Comments »
Black and white, rough and smooth
Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is an  oasis in the middle of a busy city, a place to rest and reflect on a garden tradition that reached its peak in the Ming dynasty (1358-1644). In accord with the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang that guides the garden's design, the aim is to balance opposing forces and thereby to achieve the equilibrium that constitutes perfection.  Behind the walls that separate the garden from the city, contrasts of dark and light, flexible and immovable, rough and smooth, large and small combine to create a picture

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The Devil’s Arrows

September 13th, 2016 | 8 Comments »
The caption says something.
  For the last ten days I've been touring gardens in Scotland and the north of England.  A few days ago the group I'm hosting stopped to investigate two prehistoric standing stones. Their setting could not be more prosaic -- a hayfield close to a busy highway, not far from the city of York -- but the stones standing there were anything but.   [caption id="attachment_4395" align="aligncenter" width="1224"] Thankfully the hayfield had been cut, allowing us to cross the field without damaging the crop.[/caption]   The stones date from neolithic times, 3500-2500

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September 4th, 2016 | 11 Comments »
Who wouldn't want to relax in the sunshine at Little Sparta on a beautiful warm day?
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The Gibberd Garden

June 6th, 2016 | 8 Comments »
A bust of Gibberd by Gerda Rubinstein site is viewed comfortably through a house window.
  Sir Frederick Gibberd was an English architect, landscape designer and town planner. His design for Harlow New Town, generally regarded as the most successful of Britain's post-WWII developments, is his greatest achievement. His garden is his most personal. Located in Essex on the outskirts of the town he designed, the garden is little known and little visited, despite being called by BBC Gardeners' World one of the most important post-war gardens in the country.   [caption id="attachment_4032" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] A bust of Gibberd by Gerda Rubinstein is viewed comfortably

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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

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A Change of (Ad)dress

May 23rd, 2016 | 14 Comments »
A froth of white dresses the fields and roadsides in Hertfordshire. What do you call this wildflower -- Queen's Anne's Lace, wild carrot or something else entirely?
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Open Garden Days, New Talks and Garden Tours

May 17th, 2016 | 4 Comments »
Screenshot 2016-05-15 14.07.48
  For a year or more I've been thinking about opening the garden to the public. Last week I bit the bullet and announced  that on August 4, I'll be holding an Open Garden Day. The Open Garden Day is a fundraiser for Fondation Massawippi Foundation, a community organization that supports land conservation and special projects in the communities that border Lake Massawippi. Visitors will be asked either to join the Foundation or to make a voluntary contribution. Will there be hundreds of people or only a handful? I have no idea. But I hope there will be

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Visiting Gardens: Nine Do’s and a Don’t

April 20th, 2016 | 10 Comments »
John Coke, owner of Bury Court in , has a wealth of knowledge about the plants in his garden which he freely shares.
Visiting gardens is one the joys of my life. For the last four years, I've been hosting small group tours to gardens in Britain and Italy, working alongside an outstanding professional travel agent based in Vancouver. Julia Guest at Travel Concepts does the detailed planning that is essential to ensure a good garden tour. Without her work, the tours couldn't happen. Without the cooperation of individual garden owners, the tours wouldn't be as inspirational. And without the companionship of the men and women who have been part of the tours, they

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Magnolia Plantation: A Garden Frozen in Time

March 5th, 2016 | 12 Comments »
The entrance avenue of live oak, planted some 200 years ago, sets the tone for all that follows.
  Magnolia Plantation is one of South Carolina's premier attractions. Located on the Ashley River near Charleston, it bills itself as America's last large-scale Romantic-style garden. It fits the definition. It is a garden where form, balance and symmetry are thrown to the wind, where views are calculated to appeal to emotion rather than reason and where paths wander around dark reflecting waters that hide the realities underneath.   [caption id="attachment_3620" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Reflected in the dark water, the Long White Bridge is the height of southern romance. It's hard to resist

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