How does it happen?

by AnneWareham on August 25, 2013

Post image for How does it happen?

above: The Cornfield Garden, Veddw

Many years ago I designed and created the Grasses Parterre at Veddw. By which I mean I covered a small hillside with a design of hedges taken from the local Tithe Map of 1848 and then, with great difficulty, tears and expense, filled them with ornamental grasses.

Grasses Parterre at Veddw in winter copyright Anne Wareham

Grasses parterre, Veddw, in winter

The design had several points – one was to avoid obscuring the view out of the garden from the top of that hillside: the planting needed to be low, even flat. (very fashionable). Then it also gave me the opportunity to use beautiful grasses in blocks, which when it works, shows them off beautifully. It also addressed one of my major preoccupations in this garden: the context and the history of the land: it was a way of incorporating an acknowledgement  of the surrounding landscape.

View out of the garden across to the landscape, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham Mid June 2013 053 s

View out of the garden

There is disagreement about whether this ‘works’, since some people wish to see such a reference, since it is based on a map, from directly overhead. And I’ll come back to considering this at some point. I’m more interested just now in how this kind of reference to the British landscape has been popping up elsewhere since I made this planting. I seem to have heralded a particular frame of mind.

Grasses Parterre Veddw September 2012 copyright Anne Wareham

No, we can’t fly….

The first comparable example I was aware of is by Tom Stuart-Smith, here , where Tom says of part of a garden he has designed in Yorkshire “Its appearance represents a progressive abstraction of the rectilinear field patterns seen in the view.” 

Then, of course, we had the wonderful garden designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole at Chelsea this year,  – “This year’s Telegraph Garden, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole, is an abstract representation of the English landscape, its woods, hedgerows, fields and streams formalised into a grid of squares and rectangles”.

_MG_6806 Chelsea 2013 Christopher Bradley-Hole garden copyright Charles Hawes

Chelsea 2013 Christopher Bradley-Hole garden copyright Charles Hawes

For all I know there are now many more – I would love to hear of them if there are.

I’m quite clear that these great designers didn’t get inspiration from Veddw. I imagine they have never heard of Veddw and they certainly haven’t visited.

When we made the Reflecting Pool it wasn’t long before one appeared at Kiftsgate.

Reflecting Pool Veddw House Garden, Monmouthshire, Wales. Designed and created by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. July. The Reflecting Pool and Hedge Garden with view to the Coppice. Yew Hedges (Taxus baccata)

Reflecting Pool, Veddw


Kiftsgate Pool copyright Anne Wareham 24th June 2013 152s

Reflecting (what?) Pool. Kiftsgate

This year I decided to change the nature of the Yew Walk. Until now that has been an ordinary grass walk with yew hedges on either side, taking you from the lawn to the Coppice. I had been thinking a great deal about the gestures the garden makes to the old meadows, fields and pasture, so I decided to allow the grass to reassert its character as old grassland in a strip down one side. I referred to this in a previous post.

Hedge Strip beside Yew Walk at Veddw copyright Anne Wareham

Hedge Strip beside Yew Walk

Now I am wondering, having thought about all this: has someone else done this?

Is this also part of a larger consciousness and the zeitgeist? I think these thoughts about formality and the rough are around.. Do these ideas and designs permeate through a system of subtle influence and shared concerns, without necessarily any direct contact or exchange of ideas? Is this already somewhere else too?

Fence at Veddw copyright Anne Wareham s

Seen another one of these yet?


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Sacha Hubbard August 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I remember that fence and how much I liked it and felt it fitted into its environment. Then I remembered reading about (but not seeing) a fence that Prince Charles has around his chicken run. Apparently, the palings are of random differing heights and this confuses the foxes. Security guards watching night cctv cameras are said to have seen several foxes trying to figure out how to get over it and failing. And the bit that might be interesting to you, Anne, given Veddw’s proximity to Chepstow, is that I seem to remember that the article said that this device was first employed by the Romans.

AnneWareham August 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Ideas filter to us through space – and time, then!

Sacha Hubbard August 25, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Could well be! Could also be that you had an idea new to you, of course! And it works.

John August 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

You know I’ve expressed my view before. You may not know that I’ve exchanged views with others who do not like parterres; full stop.

OK, I think the impact of the parterre is lost thanks to the way in when we walk through it without appreciating what it is (unless we’ve bought the book, delved into the web site etc). And, depending on the time of year (as I’ve also said), it can look like an untidy mess as we visitors perambulate the slope towards the conservatory. I’ve called it a potential vanity project! My view of it has changed through the seasons. Must admit that I was thinking of rewriting my blog when I visited in June when it looked much better than in a later visit last year. This perhaps emphasizes the need to visit a garden in different seasons/weathers.

Without wishing to cause offence, the iconic reflective pool now features so prominently in so many articles about Veddw that it is eclipsing other features. It is one part of a whole, NOT the be all and end all. The contrast between the wilder areas and Charles’ more formal garden, the surprises and quirks you find on turning a corner, indeed the atmosphere (particularly in the rain – plugging my own blog) are all part of the garden. The pool may be a climax but it needs to recede a bit if we are to appreciate what it represents. Next year, make it pink or add a floating shark’s fin. If you did, the gardening world would probably laud it as a bold statement from the acknowledged rebel.

And I still think that fence is a tribute to Frasier (who has left the building)!

AnneWareham August 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm

John – I’m not fond of bedding, but I know it can be used with originality and flair.

And I rather think the garden world wouldn’t take the least bit of notice, whatever I did..

bernhard August 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm

The question of originality and copying seems to be tricky in any art form and elsewhere, not the least since so many overlapping influences reach us, consciously and unconsciously. Anybody copies: it rather depends how it is being done. But I also believe it is equally possible that people come to the same conclusions quite independently. Kindred spirits…

I really love your fence (if only from pictures), particularly since it is also a product of (practical) recycling and I find it really amusing that this shape pattern might confuse Royal estate foxes… A friend of mine did a similar thing with left-over sand stone pieces years ago. Presumably, if you have acquired a certain taste or eye, some patterns come naturally, wherever you are.

Sometimes just grass and yew (or any hedge) can look too austere, even though this is often exactly the planned effect. I just recently experimented with skirting geraniums around the bottom of yew hedges, but rather for practical reasons: to close an odd bottom gap where neither grass nor yew would grow happily.

In any case, best wishes to the “acknowledged” rebel (a tricky attribute).

AnneWareham August 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Thank you – and I think I’d rather be a kindred spirit than a rebel. The position of rebel isn’t one I seek for its own sake. So finding these connections is good – I hope your geraniums thrive and fill the gap well.

I believe some people think that a fence like that also confuses deer. But for me it was about dealing with an unlevel and sloping surface, too stony to work in. Useful tip for that problem too…

Cindy at enclos*ure August 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I was struck by how the Daily Telegraph garden was like a section of Parc Andre-Citroen and the garden at the Amsterdam Museum of the Canals (Het Grachtenhuis).

I have seen several gardens, like yours (and a bit of mine), with undulating hedges, and I wonder if any were inspired by Giles Clement’s 1987 garden near the chateau in Blois — or who inspired him.

AnneWareham August 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

O, yes! And I love those – thank you for the reference. New to me though – I don’t travel enough. O – though there are always pictures, potentially seen and apparently forgotten..

And that reminds me of another aspect of these commonalities: connectedness. I love the fact that my friends influence me and I, them. It makes a kind of map of connectedness. I have a fantasy that one day someone could map out friendships from gardens..

And I was delighted to be able to thank Piet Oudolf in person for the inspiration for our Hedge Garden behind the Reflecting Pool.

Henk van der Eijk August 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Your undulating hedges hark back to similar hedges in Dutch gardens dating from the late 17th and early 18th century. I saw many examples of these hegdes depicted on paintings and prints from the era, from gardens great and small.
One example (c1680) from the garden of Huis ten Bosch, then and now in royal hands (hope the link works) :

AnneWareham August 28, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Yes – thank you -the link did work. How wonderful. Things go on and on, connecting. And also there feeding later ideas and adaptations. Who knows – maybe I saw those hedges in pictures, possibly hardly aware of it.

Henk van der Eijk December 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Saw another possible inspiration for the hedges pass this week: the 1970s garden of Château de la Ballue (France).

From the photo’s description: “Designed by architects Paul Maymont and François Hébert-Stevens.”

Charles August 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Yes, I have seen a fence like ours. In north wales where slate pieces have been used to create a fence, though those have been wired together. And there are wave-form hedges to cobble dogs with. And of course our own was inspired by Piet Ouldolf’s .

Paul Steer August 26, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Inspiration and cross fertilisation happens all the time, that is the purpose of art. It opens up our vision, broadens our view of the world. The truth is since visiting Veddw and other written about gardens, I have fallen in love with my own little patch. It has helped me to experiment in ways I would not have previously thought of. It is also great to have this website, and see the links added by other readers. May the cross fertilisation continue !

AnneWareham August 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Yes, you are right, it does. We build on one another’s work. And It’s good to hear that about your garden. And, I love your blog. This is getting too gooey. Enough now! XXXXXX

Pam August 27, 2013 at 1:29 am

I love the look of the fence, and I love the similar one at the Jamison Publick House in Pennsylvania, USA, just as much! You can get a glimpse of the undulating lines of the fence-behind-the-fence in this photo: . Wish I had a better photo. Both fences show the fun and fanciful spirit of their creators.
Your point is a good one. Life is not a competition. Synchronicity is mysterious, and thrilling.

AnneWareham August 27, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thank you, Pam, and for the photo. Good way to make interesting discoveries, this..

Emily August 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Coincidently…I spied this example… When I see similar designs, I always wonder about the thought process–is it the result of a clear, original idea or more like convergent evolution?

AnneWareham August 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm

It’s strange! Wonder just how far this would go with enough people looking?

Emily August 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm
AnneWareham August 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm

You may be – but it’s great, don’t stop. What amazing and delightful places.

Emily September 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm

This one isn’t quite the same–It might be made of driftwood, I think–but I think it’s magical.

Susan April 25, 2014 at 8:59 am

Have just read the caption to your photograph of the Kiftsgate reflecting (what) pool. It’s a local garden that I visit often, feel I know well and champion enthusiastically. Apart from the obvious, the mood created in the old tennis court is contemplative. If I time my visit to perfection, I can have this area of the garden to myself for quite a while. Sitting in the enclosed space, right beneath the tall hedge, on one of the wooden benches at the end of the pool, has a similar feeling to being in a cathedral. I’m given to reflecting there, often about the mundane. Does anyone else feel the same?

Your posts are brilliant. I enjoy your thought provoking writing and can’t wait to see your garden “in the flesh”.

AnneWareham April 25, 2014 at 9:36 am

Thank you, Susan, I’m so pleased to hear that. And – yes – come to Veddw and see what a reflecting pool is like when it really has something to reflect! (and no horrid sculpture thing spouting away) Xx

AnneWareham December 21, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Nope. Never seen before. Must be osmosis….

AnneWareham September 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Yes! Made me laugh when I found it. Like little echoes round the world.. Looks like good blog too. Thank you. Xx