There’s a convention in the cultural world that people shouldn’t respond to criticism of their work. That no doubt had its merits once, but the world is livening up and dialogue is increasing everywhere as a result of the web. For the garden world this should, at long last, mean that issues can get thoroughly aired and thought through.

If we are going to have that dialogue though, we need to begin to consider what is helpful and constructive and what is not. Name calling is not. It may have relieved Noel’s feelings to say of Robin Lane-Fox “He is one of a kind – the ‘crusty old fart’ who we do particularly well in Britain, annoying but in the end, rather lovable” but it doesn’t actually refute or address his criticisms of Noel’s book. (See  Noel Kingsbury’s response to Robin Lane Fox.)

Rory Stuart recently wrote a detailed appraisal of Veddw in his new book “What are Gardens For?‘ I feel complimented that Rory has thought so carefully about Veddw, and considered it a serious enough garden to write about at length. And, taking him seriously,  I want to respond. His comments are thoughtful and perceptive, and it was a great relief to find that I share most of them. So here goes, over several posts, – and – who knows? Rory may even respond and have the dialogue I’d like.

Crescent Border, Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

The Crescent Border fronted by alchemilla bed.

Rory mentions the imprisoning effect of the Crescent Border: “The enclosure is achieved by plants of the same height, and their small leaves, too, are all a similar size, which creates a sense of claustrophobic repetition. Such strong verticals can too easily suggest the bars of a prison”

One person’s claustrophobia is perhaps another’s sense of safe confinement. Someone else once complained of our high hedges for a similar reason, suggesting we cut them so that you could see out of the gardens that they confine. Some people love open plan, and knock down walls and remove doors in their houses to create as open an effect as they can – the familiar ‘Grand Designs’ style. These are also the people, perhaps, who dislike ‘garden rooms’.

In contrast I even have my reasonably modest bedroom divided into two with a large bookcase. I always divide my spaces and feel comforted by being surrounded and enclosed. This seems to me to perhaps be one of those preferences you are stuck with, and my relentless pursuit of Charles to get him to close the sitting room doors demonstrates this. At least he doesn’t demand we remove the doors. (the house would just become a long corridor if we did).

Grasses Parterre and hedges Veddw copyright Anne Wareham s

Tall hedges shutting in the gardens

So I think I like the enclosing effect of the  Crescent Border and even of its tall plants, backed by taller yew hedges. But I understand how intimidating the border could be – exaggerated by the fact that it is also above a three foot wall.

Most of all though – Rory is so right about the choice of plants.

Buzzard cut out in Crescent Border, Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

A buzzard trying to break up the small leaf effect.

I have tried for years to deal with the tiny leaf effect. I have planted hostas and Fatsia japonica in an effort to introduce variety. The problem is that the plants in the border are so well established and vigorous that anything added, even when a space is cleared for them, can hardly grow. They struggle and splutter and make little impact. I keep at it, because the alternative – to demolish the whole border and start again would be expensive in every way. However, one day, in the interest of a better garden, and even more, in the interest of an easier garden, I may do that.

Mid June 3 073 Crescent Border June copyright Anne Wareham

I have thought of planting it with a dramatic sweep of just one ornamental grass: wow!

And that would have …the same vertical, prison bars effect….

Or I’ve wondered about a sub Piet Oudolf effect (sub because of the enormous skill and knowledge that he possesses and I lack)

– but I suspect that the plants involved might possibly have …..rather small leaves and strong verticals….

At present, then, I continue to try to break up the small leaf effect. The buzzards were a part of that attempt too…

Part Two of this response to Rory will follow shortly. And thank you, Rory.

(See also Anna Pavord’s interview with Rory about the book.)

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