Friday, October 22, 2010

Is this the most beautiful garden ever? Travels in Mitteleuropa part5.

             Well I have been back home now for a week, and le Jardin de Berchigranges, isn’t in Mitteleuropa, but in France, on the way back home, but the Vosges mountains do feel a bit like central Europe. It is a lovely setting in which to create a garden, and this particular one blends into its landscape perfectly. It is the garden I think I would like to create if I had the time, the commitment to opening it to the public, and an endless source of robinia logs.
            I was absolutely blown away, which to be honest I am very rarely these days.
Knew the garden was going to be good when i met these box
            The planting, needless to say is very naturalistic, with some bold new departures, such as asters growing in rough grass, lots of self-seeding, and the feeling that the plants have a large say in deciding where they grow. There are lots of just the kind of additional elements I love - slightly whacky, imaginatively creative touches in the form of buildings, sculptures, odd structures, unexpected views. There is hardly a straight line in the place, so the massive hornbeam hedge ‘structure’  at one end of the garden which reads like a fortress has all the more impact. What I particularly like is how they have achieved structure without using cement, brick and the usual array of ‘hard landscaping’ materials (I have a deep loathing of hard landscaping). Much of this is by using logs rammed vertically into the ground with the gaps between them filled with soil, and needless to say plants - so dealing with elevations. Its all so inventive.  And technically, really well done. I love it! I love it! I love it!
Gärtneri Hügin
            The house, is so like our own ‘pavilion’, even down to the angle of the roof and the ornamental ‘dagging’ fascia. Clearly people after my own heart. I can’t wait to get back here.

Before leaving Germany
            I dropped in on Ewald Hügin, who is one of the most talked about  nurserymen in Germany. His nursery is reassuringly British, which is  a way of saving its idiosyncratic, rather untidy and full of really unusual plants. He has created some very good display gardens since I was last here – perennials and annuals together, wonderfully colour schemed.

And on the way back.
            France’s reputation for good summer planting is now well-known and appreciated this side of the channel. I dropped into Metz on the long drive home, which markets itself as a ‘ville de jardin’. The plantings I saw were in a way nothing special for France, but streets ahead of anything you see back home. What I like about them is the sheer inventiveness and range, and they look very well trialled, in terms of composition, getting height and spread right – that kind of thing. There is obviously a whole genre of planting design here . Why  isn’t anybody in Britain doing anything like this? I mean, why?
Spot the celery!
            To illustrate the inventiveness, in the park I looked at in Metz, there was a very glossy leaved plant which looked vaguely familiar, obviously an umbellifer – a bite proved it to celery. This lateral thinking approach to planting design is what I love about the French style – and you see it in Germany sometimes too.
            Final stop en route to the ferry was Chris Ghyselen just outside Bruges in Belgium (or perhaps I should say Flanders). I’ve wanted to meet him for years, as Belgium has not figured highly in the new perennial movement;  he combines a classically Flemish love of hedges with a passion for plants. And some very clever little secret paths through the garden, so very much a garden where there is so much more than what you see at first.


Chuck Gleaves said...

Curiously I do have a virtually unlimited supply of Robinia logs and was very curious about the structure you described in which logs are rammed vertically into the ground and gaps are filled with dirt. Could you provide an image?

Dean Riddle said...

Nigel, I'm really enjoying your blog on a regular basis. I love the locust log creation, and I'm assuming that would be our (American) Robinia pseudoacacia. Yes? I'm going to send you some images of a lovely fence I just had made for a client using skinned, black locust logs (the woodworker/fence maker cut the trees on his property; you know I love this!) as posts, and white oak and beech for the uprights and horizontals. It's brand new, so it hasn't "silvered-out" yet, but can't resist sharing with you anyway.

I also loved the curious collection of clipped box that caught your eye. For the above-mentioned client, I'm planning to create a sculptural border of closely-integrated, tightly-clipped shrubs -- box, of course; perhaps some of the smaller xbumalda type Spiraeas; azaleas, hollies, and so on -- next spring, and the photo of the whimsical box was just what I needed to see. The idea for this planting came from the client, who lives in Tokyo, after a recent visit he made to the Shinjuku Imperial Gardens. The garden we're making is here in the Catskills, and is one I'd love to share with you when you can get to my neck of the woods.


Unknown said...

It's such a visual relief to see tight shaped spaces contained by selective pruning and yet have the out of the box crazy growth like the celery take a curious focal point. One is invited to lean in and take notice of unusual designs. Another note, these plants must attract beneficial insects galore!