Garden Journal 7.11.21

Naturally it’s all too easy for me to fall under the influence of autumn, even without the Halloween spells of last weekend, but this season is really quite special. It’s as if we are being prepared for the very necessary winter rest, or for our own hibernation which of course rarely comes. It’s important though, for me at least, to be immersed in and to experience the season as much as possible for the slowing, calming, relaxing affect that it brings; which is very much needed after another year full of challenges and experiences.

No Gardening

Mind you, I’m writing after a week where I exchanged my standard, comfortable horticultural wear for the smarter attire expected of someone drafted for jury service. Honestly, I felt like a fish out of water but surprisingly acclimatised quickly, and spent some time (there’s a lot of waiting around,) pondering the unique situation where you’re plunged into a group where no one knows who you are or what you do. It was very unusual to say the least.

Bright morning sunshine through trees and the fountains in Jephson Gardens
Gorgeous early morning commute past here…

Thankfully, that episode is now all done and dusted and next week normality returns, if there is such a thing. I did though enjoy some fresh and brilliant morning walks to the courts where vivid blue skies and strong, low set sunshine lit up the autumnal park and town centre trees. It was the nearest I’ll probably ever get to a ‘city job’ I suppose, and being out of my usual rural territory, the trees, neatly planted winter bedding and open grassy spaces were very much needed I can assure you!

Sunshine lighting up sweet gum foliage

Prior to the past week in a parallel dimension, and back at my work’s garden, I was on a mission to carry out as much yew hedge clipping as I could. I was never going to get it all completed of course, but thanks to a good deal of volunteer support we did break the back of it, as people say, and smashed through the halfway point. My arms and shoulders have now enjoyed a week’s respite, the hedge trimming awaits my return, and I look forward again to the click of sharp blades across the hedge-tops. Let’s hope we can put the job to bed before winter sets in proper. We shall see.

Scaling the hedge trimming mountain

Autumn Exhibitions

Something of an excursion for me was a trip over to my old haunting ground Compton Verney this weekend, for two exhibitions that particularly spiked my interests. Now, I know algorithms work in mysterious ways, so it’s very likely I missed my online colleagues sharing positive messages about these exhibitions, so just in case you haven’t heard, I’d like to recommend a visit to the gallery if you have remotely similar interests.

Late afternoon shadows from Brown’s bridge at Compton Verney

Firstly there was a clear magnet of an exhibition titled Grinling Gibbons: Centuries in the Making. Running until the end of January the show works to inform, educate and genuinely amaze with many works that track Gibbons’ journey and significant artistic contribution to our historic buildings.

A delicately carved cravat on display at Compton Verney, once owned by Horace Walpole, now part of V&A collection.
A Grinling Gibbons carved cravat, once owned by Horace Walpole, now part of V&A collection.

I learned amongst other things that Gibbons possessed a natural flair for business which he continued to develop through his life, and his skill as a decorative wood carver brought him from Holland to establish as a stand-out leader in his craft. As someone who has wondered and gawped at his delicately carved lime wood fruits, swags and Acanthus leaves for years now, I felt it was a very worthy exhibition and a fitting contribution towards Gibbons’ tercentenary year celebrations.

The second exhibition I shall only touch upon, but its connection to gardens and landscape was even stronger and spoke more directly to me as a gardener and lover of the natural world – John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace.

Nash (1893-1977) was an artist who worked across many mediums to create landscape images that, as hoped, I could connect with. Many of his featured works were, as a war artist, related to his time in the trenches and conveyed real messages of sadness and struggle. I found myself staring at some scenes that transported me to that random spot, with in some cases a simplified but richly evocative and atmospheric landscape view.

As we approach Remembrance Day, the paintings, many seemingly created from field sketches and notes, really brought home the gravity of the historic situation. Nash’s unique and personal experiences came through very clearly, giving each painting soul-filled meaning. Moving from war related images to post war landscapes, I found myself studying them even harder, looking for possible meanings across each canvas. Incredible.

Before moving on from John Nash, I was also surprised to discover a little of his horticultural journey, where illustrating took him frequently behind the scenes at Chelsea Flower Show, his commercial artwork illuminating plant and nature books as shown in my images. Some of his botanical illustrations were on show in a characterised greenhouse display, which I would happily have spent all day in!

Cover & interior images by John Nash

I hope my images and mini review tempt you to either visit the exhibition or look up Nash’s botanical illustration style – you might even have some examples sitting on your bookshelf already! Oh, and apologies for drifting somewhat from my usual garden journal style of post.

Back to the Garden

Conscious that I haven’t written much about my own brand new garden since moving in a few months ago. This has been due to plate spinning and having, dare I say it, higher priorities. I’ve kept the grass cut, just, I’ve broadly divided all my planted pots into sun and shade loving divisions, and have stood them out on lawn suppressing cardboard in advance of border preparation sometime down the line..

As I look out from the rear of the house, I have on my left the sun lovers, a few of which are still holding on to some late season flowers, although Thursday’s first frost has made an impression. To my right, lined out along the new fence panelling are the shadier pots.

Good spot for a pond maybe? 😂

The playground-like space between the two divisions of plants is lawn. Well, I say lawn, it is turf rolled down over compacted, uneven, no quality soil and clay. I’ve had time now to observe that it drains very poorly. I can only think that the margins for the landscapers were so tight there wasn’t time to do a proper job. If I wasn’t planning to rework the whole garden anyway, I might have had more to say about it.

I have made a start on the foundations for a new shed though, a place to call my own, maybe. Yes I think I have reached that point in life. Books, potting/writing bench, comfy chair, and an absence of Minecraft music in the background; I can just picture it now. *Sighs and looks into space*

Until next time, thanks for stopping by, and double thanks for the like if you can spare a moment. All the best, Gary Webb – Gardening Ways

Compton Verney Exhibitions

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