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The Old Vicarage Garden, East Ruston, Norfolk, UK

jwalkerdesign
 My favourite shot.

My favourite shot.

I’m recently back from a trip to the ‘homeland’, the UK, specifically East Anglia, land of my birth and upbringing. I miss it...a lot. I miss the people big time of course but my anguish is a double whammy, I also miss the landscape...no offense beautiful Canada. As an immigrant and a long standing one at that, I carry the background static many of us feel, of not having ones anchor sunk that deep any place. If I was to move back to England tomorrow, I know I would ‘pine’ for Canada...hehe.

So this trip I was determined to A) see the peeps, B) see the sea, and C) see an English garden, and wow did we stumble upon a stunner.

The Old Vicarage Garden, started from scratch in 1973 by Alan Gray and Graham Robeson, now comprises 32 acres of garden ‘rooms’ and woodlands and incredible long vistas ending in wonderful focal points. It is a work of art and then some. Only 1.5 miles from the sea, this helps keep the frost at bay and enables these genius gardeners to grow out of zone and have very tropical looking plants and trees.

This being an art blog and not a travel blog, art blagging ensues...

But first a picture of the resident kitty who visited us in the garden tea room patio where we enjoyed our deliciously fortifying cream tea.

 Lucky lucky kitten.

Lucky lucky kitten.

I have a thing for architectural terms and got right into the whole idea of human scaled and pleasing architectural design after reading A Pattern Language by architect Christopher Alexander et al (1977). Basically the psychology of how the places we hang affect us mentally and emotionally. Which brings me to enfilade, a favourite concept and lovely word. My house being on the smaller side doesn’t facilitate this too well but I am often contemplating ways to do it anyway. In architecture, an enfilade is a suite of rooms formally aligned with each other. Ideally this long-ish vista ends with a focal point, a fireplace, window or painting perhaps. I don’t know if there’s a specific gardening term for it but the Old Vicarage Garden has a gorgeous suite of them. 

 The vicarage itself, home to Graham and Alan.

The vicarage itself, home to Graham and Alan.

We came across this fabulous and legendarily difficult to grow plant, the Himalayan Poppy. I have heard that this is the only truly blue flower (there must be others) but suffice to say blue is super rare in the plant kingdom...practically non-existent. There’s plenty that approximate blue but nah-ah, there will always be a tinge of red in them that heads off in the direction of mauve or lilac. Why is this I wonder? I googled it, briefly, and read that this is because plants have evolved to favour red and yellow for pollination purposes BUT wha? I can’t speak for the birds but the bees love blue, I mean they LOVE it.  Ok, here’s my kooky theory. Blue recedes; it is one of those things that can be a real composition buster in painting. Blue will punch holes in your art. What I mean is that reds comes forward and blues recede and this is a great way to create depth but blue things, centrally located (rather than backgrounds) can visually pull back in a way that creates a challenging visual hole. Hans Hoffman would call this tension plasticity.

So, could it be that nature knows this? I sometimes marvel at the composition of specific ecosystems and wonder at their complementary elements. Beaches, woodlands; you couldn’t switch chunks of ’em around and have it work as well; switch palm trees for pines for example. Maybe great swaths of true blue plants just doesn’t visually work with that big ol’ background blue of the sky? Putting holes in Nature’s staggeringly gorgeous compositions? Just theorizing...

 The Himalayan Poppy. The only truly blue flower?

The Himalayan Poppy. The only truly blue flower?

 Archways, so tantalizingly beckoning...

Archways, so tantalizingly beckoning...