A WORLD OF ROSES

A proliferation of roses greets me every morning in the garden. Each one a blessing after the rather dismal and grey winter and spring here in the UK, and perhaps the damp weather aided the spectacular display. More than ever the rose bushes are in a glorious and abundant show of flowers with endless buds biding their time for their turn to bloom.

‘Queen of Sweden’ rose

As I view the flowers with awe, inspecting the new arrivals, snipping away those that have withered, I started to ponder about roses. How I’ve always taken them for granted yet know so little about them.

To accompany just some of my photos, particularly of my pink David Austin ‘Queen of Sweden’ which at one stage had over seventy buds, I’m also sharing some fun facts about roses which I encountered on my research.

  • There are over 100 different species of roses, and over a staggering 13,000 identifiable varieties!
  • Their cultivation began around 5000 years ago in Asia although the oldest fossil of roses dates back 35 millions years.
Hildesheim Cathedral Rosebush
  • The oldest surviving rose is over 1,000 years old and grows against the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. The roots of the rose bush survived when the cathedral was destroyed during bombings in World War II.
  • There are no black roses, although those referred to as such are in fact a dark red-crimson colour.
  • The buds of the tiniest rose is only the size of a grain of rice, whilst the largest rose, bred by a rose specialist in California, measures approximately 83 cm / 33 inches in diameter.
  • The leading exporter of roses is the Netherlands with 19,768 acres of land growing roses. Meanwhile, Bulgaria is famous for its Rose Valley which has for centuries produced up to 85% of the world’s rose oil.
Roses in Bulgaria
  • The world’s most expensive rose variety cost over £3 million / $5 million to cultivate during 15 years of work by the famous rose breeder David Austin. The ‘Juliet’ rose, with its neatly-arranged petals nestling folds within the heart of the bloom, is especially popular for weddings.
Bouquet of David Austin’s ‘Juliet’ roses
  • The ‘Shady Lady’, as it is unofficially known, or ‘Lady Banksia’, its official name, in Arizona is the world’s largest rose bush with a circumference of around 3.6 m / 12 feet. The seedling, brought over by a young bride from her native Scotland 134 years ago, has a canopy today that stretches over 800 square metres / 9,000 square feet and a forest of roses appear in Spring.
  • There are over 4,000 songs dedicated to roses and one that I’m most familiar is the moving ‘La Vie en Rose’. This has been covered by many artists and recently became known to a younger audience through its feature on the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. I discovered this wonderful version by the fabulously talented Louis Armstrong and it’s a delight to share here.

Finally, in case you want to see some more roses, here is a video of my ‘Queen of Sweden’ rose bush. Enjoy and listen out for the ice-cream van tune … one that often has me dashing inside for money and then eagerly queuing for a ’99-Flake’ (which alas costs more than 99 pence these days!)

Note: Some of you might have noticed that I have been less busy than usual with blogging, All is well, however as so often happens life has been extremely hectic in recent weeks. With time I will be visiting as before, but ask for you understanding if I am less active for a while.

FLOWERS AHOY!

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This time of year is a struggle for many gardens, and particularly in the UK as it endures an unusually long heatwave. For most of us, watering is not so tricky, but I wonder how this oasis of peace is faring on the ‘open’ seas?!

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Who’d ever imagined a garden on a boat? Not I! On a tour of this most unusual ship moored in Harwich I was wonderfully surprised to be greeted by this most unexpected addition on the deck of the ship.

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Thinking about my own passion for gardening, I realise it is a wonderful source of solace. The peace and tranquility brought by the tending to the plants, seeing their growth, caring for them is incredibly soothing. So it has been throughout time. Viewing the garden on the ship I felt an immediate sense of serenity, a hint of magic, the flowers sparkling, the details in every nook and cranny a delight to discover. The garden oozed with tranquility … it was hard to tear myself away and continue the tour.

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“Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s the one area where we can all use our nascent creative talents to make a truly satisfying work of art. Every individual, with thought, patience and a large portion of help from nature, has it in them to create their own private paradise: truly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.”  Geoff Hamilton

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“It goes back to the garden telling a story. You make up bits and play with them to see if they ring true. Sometimes this works out first time and all is well and good, but as often as not you have to fiddle and reshape until it is right.

In the garden or allotment we are king or queen. It is our piece of outdoors that lays a real stake to the planet.”  Monty Don

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Sunset over Harwich Pier, courtesy of Tony O’Neal at 

I will write much more about this fascinating ship in a later post this month but wanted to share snippets of this tenderly loved and cared for garden today.

PS. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful support and comment on my last post ‘Loyalty & Trust’. For anyone who didn’t see my addition to the post during late Tuesday afternoon I found to my utter surprise that my reviews had been restored! A fantastic result and I was appreciative of their email apology later in the week, albeit without any explanation.

 

CREATIVE ENERGY

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Whimsy met fantasy, nature recreated by man stood next to the absurd, the beautiful rested close to the ethereal celebration of family. A journey of discovery ensued as I visited the Gardens and Arboretum of Marks Hall which hosted over 300 sculptures from across the UK. For once such a magnificent exhibition was near to me and with a childish delight of the unknown, I set off to explore…and found the most wonderfully surprising, original, colourful and creative work imaginable. It felt an honour to feast my eyes upon these sculptures and I left a few hours later in awe of the artists and inspired by the collective creative energy.

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The plaque accompanying this magnificent statue was written by the designer, Stephen Charlton and is a testament to his desire to share joy and happiness with the viewer through his work.

‘THE OFFERING
NO WORD SAID,
BUT WITH A SIMPLE,
GESTURE INSTEAD.
AN OFFER OF MY HEART,
LET’S BE ONE TOGETHER
– NEVER APART.’

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The magnificent and awe-inspiring ‘Freedom’ stands in the prime position looking across the lakes, a glorious celebration of being, ready to take flight. It’s majestic in execution and simply breath-taking in scope.

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This wonderful ‘Guardian Angel’ is made entirely from cedar wood and the photograph is deceptive of its size with the statue being thigh high. Its huge wings reach out as if to scoop you up into safety. Its creator, Ed Elliot declared that ‘sculpture is a language for me and I aim to create a memorable presence with my work. Finding the right environments for sculpture is crucial in finishing many pieces and making them sing’.

 

Animals featured too amongst the sculptures including a variety of birds, fighting hares as well as two beautiful willow horses, the light flickering across the material rendering it almost life-like. It was hard not to just reach out and touch the friendly creatures. Their creator Jane Foddy says that ‘willow is a natural product that bends in elegant curves. Willow sculptures cast intriguing shadows as the sun moves across the sky, which brings them to life and suggests movement.’

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Rounding the corner from the dark shade of a wood I entered the light of late summer afternoon and ahead in a beautiful golden circle, yellow flowers fluttered serenely in the light breeze. At the centre I spied a gleaming white statue of four figures and approaching it I realised I must meander through the maze cut through the flowers…how original and imaginative. Closer I spied the family unit of four enveloped in hugs, standing tall and stoic, looking bravely into the future.

 

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There was a variety of modern art sculptures dotted around the two and a half acre site; nature inspired many such as the glass and metal flowers, the metallic leaves of one is mirrored by the metal scooped windmill branches of another rotating creation which thrilled with its quiet ease of motion.

 

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Other sculptures took on a more abstract form, mimicking the tall trees around as well as one displaying an everyday bird bath which is ingeniously unique and quaint.

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I paused in front of the giant portal made from rusty steel; visions of numerous viewings of ‘Stargate’ come to mind. Did I dare pass through into the next dimension? Tickled with excitement I stepped beneath the circular arch – of course, I was still here, nothing had changed but for a moment the possibility thrilled me and then it occurred to me, that by visiting I had changed, new thoughts were born, energy was refreshed.

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This ginormous stained glass mosaic ball was stunning in its breadth of creation, ideas and colours which came vibrantly to life and was a most unusual form of stained glass artwork I’ve come across.

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Quirky, fantastically absurd and eye-catching summed up this astonishing creation of the fork and the conker. It stopped everyone in their tracks as the rule book of the norm, the expected was thrown out and a new reality recreated for us.

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Two personal favourites of my visit were of a smaller size. The wave totem was made of ceramic stoneware with in-glaze images of photographs from olden days. It was a terrifically atmospheric work, reminiscent of another era whilst using the art from across the Atlantic.

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The Rustic Oak Tree was galvanised steel formed into a perfect oak tree and placed on the autumn colours of a display board. Here the artist, Chris Townsend wanted to ‘challenge sculptural space’. He added that ‘in public places, beautiful objects can intrigue, calm and inspire. Some simply bring on a smile…”

All the sculptures at Marks Hall certainly achieved that, smiles all round, conversation flowing as discussions ensued, spirits revived on a beautiful late summer sunny day.

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I hope you enjoyed your ‘tour’ of the exhibitions and thank you for reading and viewing. Do you have any favourites of the sculptures I posted? Have you had the opportunity to visit any sculptures shows during the summer (or for some winter). I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

Captivating Beth Chatto Gardens

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Imagine a boggy gravel pit. Where most of us would only see the grey dusty desolation of the former scene of frenzied excavation at the quarry, a visionary in the form of Beth Chatto saw past the starkness, the stones and rubble and over the past 55 years she and her team has worked tirelessly to create the serene, lush and heavenly gardens now named after her.

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The gardens are loosely split into various areas including the Gravel Garden, the Water Garden which leads through to the Woodland Garden and the recent addition of the Scree Garden.

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From the very beginning, Beth Chatto decided to work with the environment and this was particularly pertinent since the gardens are located in the county with the lowest rainfall in the UK (famously less than in the Sahara desert!)

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She longed to learn how to garden in these conditions and in the process help other gardeners of the future. The Gravel Garden was an inauspicious stone parking space for many years and I recall a visit here many years ago when a few cars were dotted around this rather glum piece of land and the ‘cafe’ was located in one corner. A tent ‘cafe’ barely held in place as the wind relentlessly tried to lift it to the sky! Nowadays a modern designed restaurant sits at the edge of the gravel garden with tables outdoors open to its views and wildlife – robins and blue tits were frequent visitors to our table.

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Over the years the arid land has been transformed into its current beautiful Gravel Garden. Vibrant colours abound through the inventive and inspiring planting where also the textures of the plants and flowers are taken into consideration. As the sun comes out there is a real Mediterranean feel to this sun trap and I’m transported to the South of France! 

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A novice to gardening, Beth Chatto is self-taught although both her parents were enthusiastic gardeners and her husband, Andrew, had a life-long interest in the natural environment of plants. During her decades of work at Beth Chatto, she became close friends with some of the eminent gardeners at the time and in due course became an award-winning gardener. For ten consecutive years, she has won gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower show; she was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2002, received the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour as well as accepting an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Essex. Furthermore, she’s lectured worldwide and written numerous books on gardening. Even to this day at 96 she often comes out to the gardens!

The gardens have constantly evolved as her expertise has grown and in my opinion, the Water Garden is the jewel of all the areas.

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Four ponds straddle the garden, linked by a gurgling stream which was dammed up specifically to fill the ponds. There is a powerful lush tropical feel throughout and there is a dominant celebration of the colour green – from the immaculate emerald green of the grass to the hundreds of shade of green of the rich foliage of the trees, plants and flowers. Colour is used sparingly and when in evidence has a transforming impact on the garden and on the flower, they stand out like never before. 

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The sense of harmony and tranquility is almost overwhelming, the effect immediate and real. As I enter a seeming state of transcendental bliss I let my senses absorb the delights as I nurdle* (wander aimlessly) around the Water Garden. 

Nothing has been left to chance. Soft fragrances float on the gentle breeze, never overpowering, rather a warm hint of promise. 

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The stream provides a constant rhythmic backdrop to the walk, changing in pitch as I meander around, then in the hushed reverential near silence I notice the birdsong; what a jubilant chorus as they seem to compete for attention, their delight in life infectious. Only later looking over the videos I took on the day do I hear the distant roar of planes high overhead, at the time they were effectively tuned out!

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It was not only my eyes which took in the varying textural forms, from the razor sharp, sword-like leaves, to the whimsical frilly grasses, to the variegated leaves of the ferns. My hands swish between some leaves here, some grasses there. My fingertips enchanted my the soft tender sensations, some tickling, some spiky.

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Giant parasol leaves loom over me at one stage and proof again that Beth Chatto has achieved something remarkable here – these moisture-loving plants never associated with East Anglia are thriving. I bend to inhale the scent of the roses, I stretch up to spy the colours closer, I stand stock-still following the dragonflies darting over the lake and its irises, so fast in their dance, impossible to capture on camera. 

20170529_120412Benches are logistically, romantically, placed around the gardens, often in the soothing shade to sit and contemplate nature and her amazing art. The play of shade and light is spectacular, the dark grasses a sharp contrast to the soft mellow sunlight stems taking on their own structural sculptural artistic form. Gazing, absorbing and reflecting I sit in silence…before I feel the eyes of others eager to enjoy the peace, to rest up and reluctantly I move on.

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Peeling myself away from the sumptuous Water Gardens I wander through the Reservoir Garden, its large borders a miracle of colour and flowers and it’s hard to imagine this is the site of a former wasteland filled with scrubby bushes. 

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The woodland came to its own after the infamous hurricane of 1987 when trees across the UK, and especially in the South, were decimated with about 15 million trees felled by 115 mph winds. At Beth Chatto many new trees were self-seeded and those remaining include many oak trees over one hundred years old. The dappled light shines playfully between the tall canopies and below flowers adorn the ground, the damp earthy forest fragrance is reminiscent of many childhood bluebell wood walks. 

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Many thanks for accompanying me on this epic walk through Beth Chatto Gardens’ seven acres…however, it’s not quite over! A visit is never complete without looking at its renowned nursery with over 2,000 different species of herbaceous plants and bulbs and we came away with armfuls of plants including Cosmos and Veronicas.

*Please see the previous post.

NB. All photos ©Annika Perry, 2017