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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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?