Tag Archives: Broadwoodside

The Second Time Around

September 4th, 2016 | 11 Comments »

 

Yesterday I arrived in Edinburgh and tomorrow I begin a tour of gardens in southern Scotland and northern England. This tour is similar to one I hosted last September, which means I’ll be taking this year’s group to many of the same places I visited then. On the 2015 tour I was seeing some gardens for the first time; others I had been to before. So this year I’ll be visiting some gardens for the second time, some for the third, some for the fourth or fifth.

Like the song says, will I find them lovelier the second time around?

A friend once asked me whether it was boring to re-visit a garden. I smiled and said no. Because you never step in the same river twice. Regardless of how many times I visit a garden, it’s different every time. In important ways it is not the same garden and, seeing it for the second or third time, I’m not the same person. The weather, the light, the season, the time of day; the people around me, their moods and mine — all combine to make each experience unique.

Far from finding it boring, I count myself lucky when I revisit a garden. I needn’t worry about where to go, nor need I consult a map to decide whether to turn this way or that. The layout will be familiar and this frees my eyes — and my mind — to focus on what’s in front of me, or what’s behind, or above or below at my feet. It allows me to be embraced by the space, to sense it more fully, with fewer distractions.

 

Who wouldn't want to relax in the sunshine at Little Sparta on a beautiful warm day?
Who wouldn’t want to relax in the sunshine at Little Sparta on a beautiful warm day?

 

Still, when I visit a garden for the second or third time, I arrive with expectations that are shaped by previous visits. Will I be delighted once again with a particular view or will I find it a let down?

 

I can't expect the sun to be shining in the same way as it was last year, lighting up a tree at Parceval Hall.
I can’t expect the sun to be shining as it was last year, lighting up a tree at Parceval Hall as brightly as if it were on fire. But maybe I’ll see something even better.

 

I arrive with questions that weren’t in my mind the first time I visited. Will the same combination of wildflowers be blooming at Gresgarth Hall or has the area been planted with something else?

 

I liked this combination of colours and textures. It felt looser and more relaxed than other sections of the garden at Gresgarth Hall.
I liked this combination of colours and textures. It felt looser and more relaxed than other sections of the garden at Gresgarth Hall.

 

Will I find the second experience of a garden I loved to be as fully satisfying as the first?

 

For me, Broadwoodside is inspirational. It is beautifully planted. The colours of plants and architectural elements pleases me enormously. Art in the garden is displayed to its best advantage and there is a touch of humour that makes the experience a true delight.
Broadwoodside, a garden near Edinburgh, inspired me in many ways. I liked the plantings. The colours of plants and architectural elements pleased me enormously. Art in the garden was positioned sensitively and to its best advantage. Plus there was a touch of humour that made the experience a true delight.

 

When I visit a garden for the second or third time, I can identify changes. If my visits stretch out over a number of years I can watch the garden grow and develop. The gardens at Lowther Castle were just being planted when I visited last year, and they felt as raw as you’d expect. So I’m eager to see what difference a year has made. I’m eager to see how much the plants have grown but even more eager to see if the fragments of columns and bits and pieces of the past that were scattered in the planting beds now feel as if they belong.

 

I liked this idea but didn't like how it looked immediately after the broken columns and plants were installed.
Lowther Castle is a ruin, and I I like the idea of incorporating broken columns with plants inside  its walls. But last year, seeing it shortly after the area was planted, I  didn’t like the effect. Will it be better now? I expect so, but this year’s visit will tell.

 

I’m eager to re-visit the Crawick Multiverse, a strange project designed by Charles Jencks on the site of open cast Scottish coal mine. It opened only two months before I saw it last year, and felt even rawer than the plantings at Lowther Castle. Will the thousands of boulders that came from the site now feel grounded or will they still sit uncomfortably on the surface, as if forced into line to tell a story that isn’t quite true?

 

This ceremonial way should feel real but last year it didn't, or at least, not to me.
This ceremonial way is lined with  boulders from the site. The stones are placed as they might have been in neolithic times, yet for me the path lacked the sense of mystery and awe that a real ceremonial path would have. .

 

I’ve been twice to Little Sparta, the garden of the concrete poet Ian Hamilton Finlay.  But even a handful of visits would not be enough to understand or come to terms with its complexities. This is a garden full of big themes and big ideas, where apparently contradictory extremes exist side by side. It’s less a garden than a complete work of art, a place that offers experiences that amuse, surprise and disturb. This year when I visit Little Sparta for the third time, I hope I will be able to separate my expectations from my actual responses. I hope to see it without constantly remembering what I’ve read about it, to let the garden speak for itself, and to hear what it says, even when it whispers.

 

A path of stones leads across the water at Little Sparta.
A path of stones leads across the water at Little Sparta. It takes courage to follow the path, and it takes work to understand the garden.

 

On a second visit to the Garden of Cosmic Speculation I plan to devote less time to some of outlying areas and more time to areas I had to rush through: the walled kitchen garden where DNA features large, and the extraordinary Universe Cascade.

 

In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Charles Jencks explores and celebrates scientific ideas about fundamental aspects of the universe. Using these ideas, he aims to create a new language of landscape, with new metaphors that illuminate old ones.
In the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Charles Jencks explores and celebrates scientific ideas about the universe. Using these ideas, he aims to create a new language of landscape, with new metaphors that illuminate old ones.

 

I plan to analyze Piet Oudolf’s magnificent plantings at Scampston Hall’s Walled Garden instead of simply revelling in them. I plan to spend more time at York Gate, figuring out how such a small space can contain such diversity without feeling overstuffed.

 

Succulents fill this section of the garden. Time constraints forced me to rush through it.
Succulents fill this section of the garden. Time constraints forced me to rush through it.

 

Visiting a garden for the first time is a special experience. There’s a sense of discovery that can never be recaptured and, occasionally, a feeling of excitement intense enough to take the breath away. Returning to a garden brings me a different kind of pleasure. I can experience the place more deeply, appreciate its strengths more clearly, perhaps even uncover its weaknesses.

Or uncover my own. Can a group of noisy schoolchildren spoil a garden for me, or a less than sanitary washroom?  Do I like a garden more if I like the person I’m with? If its style suits my own? If so, am I being fair to the garden and to those who created it?

What about the weather? I’ve visited Castle Howard in the sun and in the rain, on cool days and on hot. I’m not sure which conditions I preferred. Or whether I need to have a preference.

When I visit a garden, I focus on my surroundings. I look, I try to understand what I’m seeing, to appreciate the garden’s character and spirit. At some point, I make a judgement — this I like, this I don’t.  Every visit increases my knowledge and hones my responses. At the same time it helps me to see myself more clearly and to understand why I respond as I do.

 

Seeing a garden can be like seeing yourself in a mirror. Sometimes you like what you see, sometimes you don't.
Seeing a garden can be like seeing yourself in a mirror. Sometimes you like what you see, sometimes you don’t.

 

What about you? Do you like visiting a garden many times or is once enough? How much do your expectations colour your experience? If someone is taking you through the garden, can their accent or the tone of their voice turn you off, or turn you against the place itself? If it’s a garden that is highly praised, do you feel obliged to agree with the general opinion or are you willing and able to express a contrary view?  Or do you simply relax and enjoy the experience, regardless of what it brings?

The Writing is on the Wall

February 1st, 2016 | 18 Comments »
What more is there to say?
  The writing is on the wall -- not metaphorically but literally.   [caption id="attachment_3465" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] What more is there to say?[/caption]   This latest work of art is a collaboration with my friend and neighbour John Hay. He and I previously collaborated on a mosaic map of Glen Villa and a giant turtle that sits in the Upper Field. More significantly, though, the project is a departure for me. As my granddaughter pointed out, it is the first piece I've conceived that doesn't relate to nature or natural materials in one way

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Broadwoodside: A Garden Review

November 22nd, 2015 | 16 Comments »
The view on entering the Upper Courtyard gives a hint of the inventiveness that appears throughout the garden.
Broadwoodside is the garden of Robert and Anna Dalrymple. Located some 20 miles east of Edinburgh in Gifford, East Lothian, Broadwoodside is a garden of subtle humour and artful plantings. When the Dalrymples bought the property in the late 1990s, it was nothing but a collection of derelict farm buildings. Since then, under their direction, gardener Guy Donaldson has planted a series of gardens nestled within walled courtyards and in areas outside the walls.   [caption id="attachment_3039" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Would I have had the courage to renovate this property? I seriously doubt it.

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Doing the Unexpected

November 15th, 2015 | 12 Comments »
Colour and shape smack you in the face.
Does your garden suffer from the blahs? You know, that late season feeling when everything looks past its best before date and a walk around the garden drags you down? That's how my garden has been looking recently, and that's how I've been feeling. But I may have found a remedy. To prepare for a short talk I gave last week, I flipped through my photographs of gardens in Scotland and the north of England. Some photos I passed by quickly, others made me stop for a second look. Why?

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Home Again — and Happy To Be Here

September 21st, 2015 | 6 Comments »
Lake Massawippi on an early fall day is a view it is hard to beat .
  What a pleasure it is to return to Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, after three weeks spent visiting gardens in Scotland and England. Seeing so many amazing places there,  I was worried that my own garden would be a disappointment. It wasn't. It isn't. Yes, I can see dozens of things, large and small, that need attention, but to return to a vegetable garden overflowing with produce and a landscape that never fails to delight makes me glad to be home.   [caption id="attachment_2791" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The shrub border

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