Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Broughton Grange: the garden with no point

May 4, 2016

‘”I started collaging as an escape from making meaning. I got tired of writing poems, of trying to make sense – verbal sense. It is a relief to make a different kind of sense – visual sense. One must think, of course, but it is an entirely different kind of thinking, one in which language does not intrude.”‘

 – from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, quoting poet Mark Strand

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” An entirely different kind of thinking.”

This remark raises self-evident questions about how the human mind processes information and experience. Tom Stuart-Smith has spoken of Broughton Grange in words that take you to the very edge of language, then leave you there, waiting for the next step. As I see it, there isn’t a next step until you recognize the limits of language to express certain kinds of experience, and move on.

Of course we can write about the physical garden of things–its structure, its similarity to or difference from another garden, the success of its execution, its dimensions, its type, its planting style, its historical precedents, the ecology of the site, its value to wildlife and so on. But when one enters the realm of atmosphere, emotion, and other unnamed, perhaps unnamable, attributes, words won’t do.

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The stone and water elements in the garden are clearly defined, though mostly out of physical reach. The visitor participates imaginatively–with the texture and warm color of the stone, the water reflecting sky, the contrast of stone with voluptuous plantings.

Tom Stuart-Smith has said of Broughton Grange, “it was remote from the house … so there was kind of no point to it. It wasn’t a setting for a house, somewhere you all spill out and have a cocktail party and enjoy the view … it was absolutely something you made a pilgrimage to … and you got there, and the garden was the thing. I was immensely lucky to have this opportunity to make this garden that had no point.” (Italics are mine.)

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The visitor must find a way through the thick plantings.

What does “no point” mean here? I think simply that it exists as a garden, as a work of art exists, for silent observation and contemplation, as a field for the the free play of imagination, with absolutely no practical purpose or utility.

Thinking about my first visit to Broughton Grange has led me to consider two talks Stuart-Smith gave in 2014–one I attended at the New York Botanical Garden and another, a few months later, at the Garden Museum Literary Festival in the UK. Things he said at both events struck me in a remarkable way, with a meaning I find difficult to put into words, thus my reference to Mark Strand’s turn from one mode of “thinking” to another. In the case of Stuart-Smith, I don’t even suggest the garden need “make sense.” Rather, that it be like a door open to possibility and potential. (I should note here that Stuart-Smith’s words in double quotes are my own imperfect transcription of his spoken words, not direct quotations.)

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The Garden’s ‘Push Back’

As  shown in this top-of-the-wall photo from Tom Stuart-Smith’s web site (above), Broughton Grange is formally structured as three terraces that step gently down toward the landscape in the distance:  the top terrace with gritty, low nutrient soil and plantings more or less in the Mediterranean style, the middle terrace with a large square pool in the center and luxuriant prairie-like plantings, and the lower terrace (hardly visible here) with a very unusual box parterre. The distinctive verticals of the the columnar yew topiaries on the top terrace and the bobble-headed beech topiaries on the second terrace break up the space into a kind of relaxed grid that contrasts appealingly with the lavish perennial plantings, that anchors them and fixes them in space. They also suggest human forms looking out into the landscape, and suggest a sense of prior occupation of the garden space.

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I’ve admired the walled garden at Broughton Grange for years, but visited it for the first time only last summer on a cloudy and intermittently rainy day in July. I was already familiar with some of the garden’s most characteristic features from photographs–the central pool, stone-framed runnels and stepping stones, the narrow yew columns and beech topiaries, the view off into the valley.

On first entering, although the beauty of the garden was immediately apparent and I could take delight in the open view across, it was so laid out and so closely planted, I also felt a moment of confusion as if there were nowhere to go. Obscured by the profuse plantings, the many potential routes into the garden, the generosity of opportunity there, became a kind of psychological barrier. These feelings of emotional constraint transpired within a few seconds, and I was soon making my way through the top terrace. But I had experienced something new. The garden had gently pushed back and, in doing that, set itself apart as a special place. My initial confusion, in a place I expected to feel at home, awakened me to the garden.

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Yew columns and hornbeam topiaries suggest human forms present in the garden; the thick planting makes choosing a way through seem a bit difficult, but only until you realize there are many potential paths.

A Different Realm of Experience

Tom Stuart-Smith seeks to enable a kind of experience we in America–so accustomed to usefulness and utility in all things–rarely expect, or even think to consider, of a garden:  that a garden may have “no point,” meaning no purpose other than to be a garden. This is very different from the kinds of utilitarian gardens that have come down to us through the influence of such great American garden designers as Thomas Church through his book Gardens are for People, which essentially extended the house into the garden and filled it with utilitarian purposes.

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“The garden was the thing.” “A garden that had no point.” These phrases resonate.

Speaking of gardens that influenced Broughton Grange, Stuart-Smith told a story of searching for a gardino segreto on the grounds of the Villa Farnese in Italy. He says, “One garden that remains a great inspiration to me is this extraordinary garden at Caprarola … it’s this complete fantasy garden made around a casino … It’s very possible to go to Caprarola and never discover this casino and its garden. We wandered through this pine grove, and I thought for a bit my garden-finding antennae had let me down, but then I saw this gleam of Carrara marble through the trees. You discover this extraordinary garden that has absolutely no reason to be there at all!”

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At the Villa Farnese–“this extraordinary garden that has absolutely no reason to be there at all”

“We have to step back to Broughton,” he continues, “and these topiary figures in the garden and why they are there. For me, they’re about giving some other presence to the garden, so when it’s not occupied by people, there’s almost a sense of prior occupation. It has that same quality as Caprarola where, when you arrive on the lower parterre, there are these extraordinary herme figures around the parterre. You really do feel you’ve interrupted some sort of mythic going on where everyone’s been frozen to stone as you come up the stairs.”

I do wonder if many people don’t have similar experiences visiting gardens. That feeling of “prior occupation,” of having interrupted some “mythic going on”. I know that feeling of contingency, where the quotidian encounters the miraculous. I used to call it epiphany, but you might equally describe the feeling as a sense of immanence in the garden, or in the mind of the visitor.

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“I always use topiary in a sort of semi-anthropomorphic way,” Stuart-Smith continues, “to encourage the quality that the garden has other occupants, others than yourself, sort of an entirety. And many of the most wonderful garden experiences are about coming into these extraordinary spaces where you feel something has been going on … It doesn’t have to be a garden space. It can be a natural space as well … when you’re in a field of cowslips or coppiced woodland, particularly if the place is occupied by other animals or birds. I’ve always wanted that sense that you are a visitor in the space and observing what is happening.”

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Rükenfigur and Vertical Topiaries

When I first heard Stuart-Smith speak at NYBG two years ago, he flashed on the screen, just for a second, a Caspar David Friedrich painting showing two Rükenfigur:

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He used this same painting again to illustrate this point in his Garden Museum talk several months later, so one can infer this concept is significant. We see the backs of two figures as they gaze off into the landscape. It’s not pretty, but it’s powerful. Stuart-Smith has stated that the vertical topiaries punctuating the space at Broughton Grange are suggestive of Rükenfigur (literally “back figure”)–a human figure, always mysterious, unidentified, facial features invisible, looking away toward a landscape or distant view. On one level, this is a metaphor for how a garden can relate to its landscape–an echo of the 18th century English landscape garden that is well illustrated at Broughton Grange. But there’s more to it than that. Recalling Mark Strand, I suggest you let your eyes linger on the painting above; it may say more about this garden experience than any of the words in this post. Words are only pointers; the painting is direct experience.

Entering the Garden – Choices

So we enter the garden (below) through a symmetrical entrance sequence styled to suggest weight, solidity, stability and stillness, in contrast to the energetic plantings the visitor will find on the other side of the wall.

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The entry leaves no doubt you are entering a walled garden, but once you’re through the gates, the garden opens to the sky and the surrounding landscape.

Once inside the garden, decisions await you. The entry path runs straight through the garden and out the opposite side. On each terrace, a group of pleached trees offers a stopping place, and a side path into the garden plantings.

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Below, the stairs of the entry pathway from the opposite end, show quite clearly the levels of the three main garden terraces.

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Apart from this direct path, which is a separate structural element off to the far side of the main garden, the breadth of the garden proper offers a beckoning view across to the distant landscape but no easy path through. The yew columns are like signposts, pulling the eyes downward into the garden, where you gradually begin to see many potential routes through. But the initiative to begin exploration is entirely up to you. There is no particular place or feature that says “enter here.”

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The top terrace level is punctuated by yew columns, a common motif in Stuart-Smith gardens, that evoke the mysterious associations of the Rükenfigur and serve as an informal grid that orders the wild style of the plantings.

As Stuart-Smith has said, the visitor to Broughton Grange is immediately confronted by the fact that he or she is not the center of things. “One of the most important things for me is that the middle of the garden is left empty. Because if the middle of the garden is empty, you can’t be there. It’s about the garden, and the processes of nature. The process of the garden takes primacy in the place. It’s about watching the descent down into the valley, and about watching the space which is the centrally defined emptiness framed by the garden.”

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There are many pathways, and they force you to experience the garden to get to this center, which in a sense is both strikingly beautiful and a massive impediment. Once there, walking around it is difficult; there is too much in the way. Navigating a way around requires attention and thought, and full participation in the garden. Even those stepping stones across the water, though they look inviting, are difficult to use. They are unusually large, and not sized or positioned for easy walking across the water. I tried it and turned back. They seem intentionally sized to function more as barrier than walkway.

Complexity and Permeability

Stuart-Smith uses two words to make an important point about his understanding of garden experience:  complexity and permeability.

“For me, a garden that is too instructive, and says that there’s only one way to appreciate it, is a garden that I immediately bridle at. I think that if someone comes to visit any garden that I’ve made, and they turn to me and ask what is the way around the garden, I put up my hands and say I genuinely don’t know. You must set off and see what happens. I think that this idea, which I call permeability, the idea that you can thread your way through a place and discover it, relates very much to the idea of complexity.”

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“I’ve always felt that some degree of complexity is almost a moral necessity in the garden. I’m not saying as an absolute, but gardens which are completely minimal seem to be running against the grain of nature.” What does he mean by complexity? I think, as he implies, he simply means a garden that reflects the complexity of the natural world. And there is an ecological component to complexity; the garden strives to emulate the complexity of nature in some way …

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… and the complexity of human experience. Drawing a parallel with literature, Stuart-Smith refers to E.M  Forster’s book Aspects of the Novel in which Forster writes about the “incalculability” of a character …

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He contrasts Dicken’s characters, “which are fully delineated and don’t have a kind of imaginative hinterland,” with Forster’s characters, which are “sort of partially drawn, … drawn as much from inside their character as they are from the objective eye of the author; they seem to live more in the imagination … I think that quality of not over describing things, not pinning things down too much, is quite important.”

Another telling phrase:  “imaginative hinterland.”

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Stuart-Smith wants the garden “to live more in the imagination,” to offer more than a simple visual experience of pleasure, or at least to offer, always, the possibility of more.

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Stuart-Smith lowered two sides of this walled garden, making it, in effect, a ha-ha, so that he could preserve views out into the landscape. Here above, he goes further, centering the gravel pathway on the curve of a path and a highly picturesque group of trees in the distance. This view is constructed with precision. In such scenes as this–yet another example of Stuart-Smith’s use of layered complexity–in this case historical layers–a visitor is asked to reach back to gardens made almost 300 years in the past, and to such remarkable elements as William Kent’s “eye-catchers” at Rousham.

The Garden as an Entirety

The third and lowest terrace, the box parterre, is visually very different from the complex plantings of the two upper terraces. The irregular pattern of the parterre is derived from the cell patterns of leaves (as seen through a microscope) of the surrounding trees …

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… looking at the images, it’s clear this parterre, so different from traditional parterres, adds yet another layer of complexity with its unpredictably sinuous lines suggestive of waveforms, or worms, or framed by a strict edge geometry, like a huge abstract painting.

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About the unusual method of obtaining the patterns for the parterre, he says, “for me it’s not important for people visiting the garden that they know this particular story … that idea of suggestion for me is an important one. I will construct a garden around an idea or a series of ideas but for the most part I’m happy to keep those ideas below the surface.

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As soon as they pop out and announce themselves on the surface, then you’ve kind of lost it. I think the garden is this territory of freedom and liberty to construct your own pathway, your own narrative. A lot of the historic gardens that I find most interesting are the ones where the meaning has become lost in algae and time.”

I was attracted to this garden many years before I was able to visit it. From the start, the stark verticals of the yew columns, which I’ve heard others disparage, were one of the elements that most powerfully drew me to this garden. Those were familiar when I first visited. Other things were not. For example, finding that the “stepping stones” across the water are actually very difficult to use, that walking around the perimeter of the central pool is an intense exercise in navigation, were total surprises.

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I’ve said little about how I liked or disliked this garden, other than indirectly. So I perhaps should add that I see this garden as a masterwork of garden art. And I agree so completely with Stuart-Smith’s own explanation of the garden, I’ve thought it most helpful to use his own words. You can find them here:

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How to end? Stuart-Smith speaks about a garden “with no point,” a garden where you feel “you’ve interrupted some sort of mythic going on,” a garden that, like Forster’s characters, offers an “imaginative hinterland,” a garden that is “an entirety.” “The garden is the thing,” he says–and it is.

He almost always uses some underlying thought process, which a garden visitor need know nothing about, but the result of that approach to garden design opens it to imaginative observation and exploration by the garden visitor, a process that ideally can take place without the interference of more quotidian concerns. In my case, I was familiar with the concept of Rukenfigür before I ever heard Stuart-Smith speak and make reference to it. So my experience of the garden is strongly colored by that concept, and by aspects of German romanticism with which I’m familiar. But that knowledge is not necessary for a full appreciation of the garden, nor is knowledge of the influence of the hidden garden at Villa Farnese necessary. His aim is to give visitors freedom to fully exercise their own imaginations and to find their own meanings, if they want meaning, or simply to experience being in the garden. The visit is open-ended, an exercise in free imagination.

Below the box parterre is this informal area of topiary and groomed lawn, which makes a gradual transition from the more formally tiered, intensely planted garden above into the landscape as it falls away, providing the only easily walkable open space in the garden. The spatial change is subtle and emotionally powerful. The topiary shrubs in conversation remind me of the “conversation” among the instruments in Beethoven’s Late Quartets. But that is my imagination at work. Your’s will be different.

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* Note all quotations are actually paraphrased passages, not direct quotations, that I transcribed from a video on Tom Stuart-Smith’s website. You can watch it by clicking here.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wareham May 6, 2016 at 5:05 am

James. you are that rare creature, a garden visitor worthy of the garden.

In a world of universally ‘lovely gardens’ an exceptional garden gets lost in the general assumption that they’re all great, and this must make the world of the Tom Stuart-Smith’s rather bleak and unrewarding until a visitor like yourself comes along and then writes about their experience.

More, you exemplify one of the virtues of garden criticism – you open people’s eyes and add to their experience and understanding of gardens, so that we may hope that one day there will be less ‘lovely’ gardens and more real appreciation.

I’m struck by the differences of perspective you bring from across the pond. ‘Eyecatchers’ – framed and focused elements outside the garden, are a cliché in the UK, and the idea of a garden with no purpose as you think of it is ordinary here. (I remember that article about your garden which described it similarly and how odd that seemed.)

Here (UK) is an interesting (to us) related issue of a garden without a house in it, or not focused on the house, and that relates to Tom Stuart-Smith’s ‘having to go and find it’ thing. I think there can be a sense of dislocation and feeling of absence when a house is missing, though in this case the house is there, just in a very different and inferior garden. This happens also with Kim Wilkie’s garden at Boughton House http://www.kimwilkie.com/uk/orpheus-at-boughton/. We might wish sometimes that the rich with extensive estates had the courage of their predecessors, who hired Capability Brown and let him remodel the whole lot rather than just a vacant bit. The way that Tom has made a virtue of necessity is, of course, the mark of a master.

(Note – having an ornamental garden away from the house and separate is historically common in Scotland – another interestingly different garden tradition.)

It may be unfortunate that there is also a British tradition of having bedding with ‘dot’ plants, so that some of us are mundanely reminded of that by the conifers.

I wish you would write a book with a collection of garden appraisals of this quality. Though books don’t have this wonderful virtue of dialogue. You do raise so many questions and thoughts that are worthy of discussion and that is so very wonderfully refeshing …I do hope you’re going to continue this tour through the UK.

Xxxxx Anne

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James Golden May 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

Thank you, Anne. I find the American garden, equipped with an elaborate, expensive outdoor kitchen, and other paraphernalia of domestic life, even when dressed up for cocktail parties and fundraisers for wealthy patrons, subjugates the garden to economic, social, and political concerns that are better kept within the house. So many of our garden designers make their livings on the hardscape, and the pools and kitchens and occasional “water features,” that the garden itself becomes a mere bit of decoration. We definitely do not have a tradition, or much of one, in which the garden is given place of highest prominence. I wasn’t aware that the opposite is the case in the UK because so many of the gardens I have seen are most definitely appended to the house, great or small. My dream is to write a book of similar garden appraisals, and explorations, but unfortunately few publishers seem to find profit in that. So I’ll continue to do this on my blog, until someone asks for a book.

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Anne Wareham May 6, 2016 at 10:29 am

Our gardens are appended to the house, but John Brooke’s ‘Room Outside’ was considered radical because no-one saw their gardens in that way and which you so eloquently describe as American. I believe our UK gardens have always had quite a different role and place in our lives without any need to be functional.

Though to think of them ‘having the highest prominence’ is different, and I have to suspect we are not quite understanding each other here. However, as ever, that raises a question, though not a totally new one – what is the role of a house in a garden?

Xxx

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James Golden May 6, 2016 at 10:48 am

You remind me I was using a rather “broad brush” approach. Certainly the “living room” garden exists in other parts of the world, and power alliances and political issues were extremely important in many 18th century landscape gardens in the UK (Tim Richardson covers that subject in depth in The Arcadian Friends). But I’m reacting to what I see in the US garden media (so much attention to kitchens and leisure activities). As far as I know, most gardens are not like Broughton Grange in being sited away from the house, though you tell me they are not uncommon in the UK. I think the house can be very important to the garden. In fact, the 1965 style and location (overlooking the garden) of our house dictates the style, size and shape of my garden (did you see the article in the Journal of the Society of Garden Designers where I discussed that?).

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Anne Wareham May 7, 2016 at 4:10 am

I didn’t see that, – is it online? It’s an interesting subject. A garden with no house at all feels rather strange, in a way that Broughton Grange doesn’t for all that it’s round the corner, as it were.

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James Golden May 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

It was in the SGD Journal that came out in January. Andrea Jones made the photos and I wrote the article. It’s not on line, and the Journal isn’t available in North America. I had to order copies. I did publish a pdf of it on this blog. I think this url may take you to it: http://federaltwist.com/a-garden-in-movement/

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Adam Hodge May 6, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I came away from that garden exhausted. It was all so intense and for such a generous space very fussily planted in parts. No doubt clever but did I want to be bashed intellectually. Nope. Did it flow like a beautiful river…it seems apparent it wasnt meant to.

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James Golden May 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

I’m certainly intrigued by your reaction to the garden, Adam. I’d love to hear more about how you felt “bashed intellectually” and about that perceptive question, “Did it flow like a river?”

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Thomas Rainer May 7, 2016 at 6:53 am

This post is a “masterwork” of garden review. The garden is indeed a marvel, but your writing about it is as delightful. It is a difficult task in a review to put the reader in the garden itself, and then overlay that with a personal narration that does not distract. Yet you do that brilliantly.

I love to read blogs for their conversational tone and immediacy, but I rarely think of the form as a serious medium. But posts like this make me rethink them altogether. Your own unique style of moody, expansive photos (which becomes a narrative force in itself–allowing the reader the kind of open-ended experience one might only get by visiting a garden) combined with your conversational but poetically-rich prose is a potent combination. And you weave in painting and poetry without a bit of pretense in a way that amplifies the major themes of the post . . .

This was a pure delight to read. Like Anne, I too wish posts like these were immortalized in a book. Too good for such a temporary medium . . .

Thank you!

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James Golden May 7, 2016 at 9:07 am

Thank you, Thomas. It’s important to know I was able to communicate something of my experience and feelings (especially from you). I know very well that such long and complex posts violate all the rules of blogging (keep it short and simple, make one point quickly), and agree a book would be a better place for this. But, oh, finding a publisher! Perhaps one who would subsidize one or two trips to see gardens I want to see, but that’s unlikely. I could also use a strict editor who would force me to cut and focus. As I’ve always said, everyone needs an editor.

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Anne Wareham May 7, 2016 at 1:58 pm

A book is an obvious wish, but I do value the dialogue that blog posts foster.

And they are probably actually less ephemeral than books, Thomas : no-one is remaindering them.

Though I wish yours were categorised and more browsable and not all down a looooooong stream, James? Or am I missing something?

Xxx

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James Golden May 8, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Anne, I think you’re right. I intend to speak to our mutual webmaster friend Karen and ask her how I could make it more browsable. Perhaps something as simple as a few sidebar category groupings with links to “the best” in each.

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Brian May 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm

I can’t say it as eloquently as Thomas and Anne above, but thanks for a provocative and thoughtful review of a curious garden. I think that sometimes we are too set on ‘knowing’ things about a garden and not open enough to leaving things unknown. After reading your post, I spent part of the weekend looking at my garden and wondering how it can ask more questions of a viewer. Thank you.

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James Golden May 17, 2016 at 10:34 am

Brian, your comment further enlightens me when you say you were “looking at my garden and wondering how it can ask more questions of a viewer.” I agree; it’s a good thing to have a garden that poses questions, perhaps questions that have no answers.

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Nell May 14, 2016 at 9:54 am

A post well worth the wait! There’s much to explore in every image. Thanks, James.

The moody sky adds a lot to the vistas.

Is this a much-visited garden? I ask because the image of tens of thousands of visitors “finding their own way” through such dense and interesting planting brings to mind the potential for trampling and damage. But I take it that there are many actual paths, it’s just that they aren’t obvious on entrance.

The hornbeam topiaries are endearing and approachable, a nice contrast for the gaunt spires. More Figur than Rückenfigur…

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James Golden May 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

Nell, it’s such a well known, almost archetypal, Tom Stuart-Smith garden, that I would think it is well visited. I too find it hard to picture a large number of people in the garden. It’s rather close to Oxford, so easily accessible by car. I know from experience that a garden hold far more than one might expect without feeling crowded.

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Nell May 14, 2016 at 10:10 am

The Hidcote-esque topiary arch framing a view out to the countryside reminds me of your reaction to Hidcote as somewhat claustrophobic and over-controlling. Broughton Grange has enough serene/severe formality to rest the eye and mind, but seems much “free”-er in a number of ways.

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James Golden May 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

I loved that topiary tunnel with the magnificent view out. It’s such a contrast with the openness of the rest of the garden. As to Hidcote, I’d like to revisit my initial reaction. I did visit it again in August last summer. Unfortunately it was pouring rain, but I think I’d reconsider that initial reaction to some extent.

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Gail Deery May 17, 2016 at 5:38 pm

This is so beautifully written that it is a thesis on visualization and reminds me to look with a clear and yet complex lens.

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James Golden May 19, 2016 at 9:45 am

Thanks, Gail.

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Ryan May 18, 2016 at 10:44 pm

Thanks for Rukenfigur. I’ve never known a term for it, I recognize it when I see it and actually had a debate with a teacher once about whether it was okay to have a figure with its back to the viewer.
Fascinating garden visit. This is one of the gardens in the world I’d most like to experience. Some of the elements and sensibility and context are so British, I want to see them firsthand and get a sense of they would or wouldn’t translate to California landscapes. A lot of the elements don’t interest me by themselves, I’m struck by how they add up to something that does interest me.
Sidenote, so many blogs have dropped away, I appreciate that you’re still posting.

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James Golden May 19, 2016 at 9:51 am

Ryan, you remind me that one of my great longings is to make a garden in a climate like California’s. Broughton Grange certainly is a very British garden, but its roots, I think, go way back, to Italian gardens, to Roman gardens, possibly even Islamic gardens–that central pool is a reminder of their paradise gardens (I speak of influences only). I’ll bet a California garden has the same roots, though vastly different plants and growing conditions. And thanks for the good wishes. I’ve been posing for ten years now and have no plans to stop.

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kjeld May 20, 2016 at 7:36 am

Thanks James for a thougtful post from a master of Words. A lot of todays communication are based on Pictures with wow-effect. hunting likes and thumbs up!!! This post is manure for brains.
I´m not that familiar with the English language, and some of your points, I lost the meaning of. But I recognice your prosa, the poetry and your artistic way of using words. Seems to embrase me as the reader, like the garden did to you? And this is why I like to read your posts on gardening again and again, – It makes me Wonder, where as the very weelknown-book (What are gardens For) tells me how to experience. I dont need that.
Thanks again
Greetings from Denmark
Kjeld

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James Golden May 23, 2016 at 10:33 am

Kjeld, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. When you speak of ‘Wonder’, I know you got my point! I do wish we shared a language so we could communicate more easily. I’m trying to learn Italian now. Do you by any chance know Italian?

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kjeld May 31, 2016 at 5:11 am

No James, unfortunately. I´m too buisy making gardens here in Denmark, – a very interesting job, because I meet so many different gardeners in so many different plots, houses and sites. Not two of them are equel.
Thanks again for your many good posts on this heavy gardenblog.

with smile: Kjeld

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Denise May 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Knowing personally what energy and time long posts like this require, I have to offer very warm thanks to you, James. It does feel like blogs are either disappearing or getting thinner, mine included, which grew out of the recession and the extra time I seemed to have on my hands back then. There are very few private gardens “with no point” here in Southern California, where Thomas Church is still king. Of course our climate does breed outdoor kitchens! And is it the puritanical strain in Americans that always points to a garden’s wildlife benefits or culinary usefulness instead of declaring, as TSS does, “the garden is the thing”? These are such intriguing notions, a garden that stymies instead of invites and forces you to engage on its terms. Such a pleasure to read, thanks again.

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James Golden May 31, 2016 at 6:04 am

Denise, yes, warm climates like California’s do ask for outdoor living, and a very different kind of garden. I was just perusing your post on the visit to Nancy Goslee Powers’ garden. I could certainly take up residence there.

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Dean June 10, 2016 at 11:00 pm

just coming back in from some planting and picture taking that this post inspired. James, this article is the type of thing that I’d like to see in print in an upscale gardening journal. I found you via a Real Dirt podcast, probably the interview with Thomas Rainer.
I’ll be joining a couple friends who give tours of English gardens in August and we’re meeting this weekend to decide on our itinerary.

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James Golden September 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Hi, Dean. For some reason, I’m just seeing your comment, long after your anticipated visit to English gardens. I hope it went well for you.

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Janna Schreier September 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Thank you for your excellent post (which Catherine Stewart forwarded to me) and for making me aware of Tom’s video about Broughton Grange. I visited the garden recently and was equally taken by it. It’s fantastic to read someone else’s in depth thoughts from the same garden and same words of Tom’s. I’ll clearly need to read some of your other posts before I visit the US east coast next month! If you are interested, these are the things that jumped out for me: https://jannaschreier.com/2016/09/07/broughton-grange/. Thanks again for broadening my thoughts.

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James Golden September 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Hello, Janna. Thanks for the comment and conversation. I hope to read your post soon, but I’m traveling in Italy now and subject to infrequent and usually poor interent connection. I hope to discover some of the inspiration Stuart-Smith found in Italian gardens, but don’t yet know how I can get to them while staying in Rome later this month.

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Janna Schreier September 9, 2016 at 10:05 am

Enjoy your time in Italy; what a wonderful country it is to explore. I do hope you get to see many gardens…and that you blog about them!

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