Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

Posts tagged ‘gardens’

a word a week photo challenge: frame




all photos taken in the Abbey Gardens, Malmsbury, UK for Sue’s word challenge.

travel theme: gardens

This week Ailsa led us up the garden path.

the gazebo (*) at Sissinghurst, Kent


gazebo in the grounds of Holcombe House near Lynton, Devon

The Parc de Wesserling in Alsace, France, holds a garden festival each year. It’s situated in an old industrial complex that used to be a fabric mill. Its displays therefore are linked to fabric in some way. There are always a couple of “follies” (**) hidden away:

fabric hut based on a dream catcher

inside the garden shed of my dreams …

entrance to the grass house

The whole complex of La Scarzuola could be described as one large folly. See more of my pictures of this extraordinary place here.

Inspired by the idea of having a retreat of my own, In a corner of our garden I maintained an area that I called the wild patch and in it I constructed my ‘folly’, complete with an old iron grate in which I planted geraniums. Unfortunately our next door neighbours cut down some of the trees forming the boundary between our two properties thereby removing much of my privacy.

the basic construction

inside looking out

I added a candelabra

and decided to create a little magic….

(*) A gazebo is a pavilion structure, sometimes octagonal or turret-shaped, often built in a park, garden or spacious public area.
Gazebos are freestanding or attached to a garden wall, roofed, and open on all sides; they provide shade, shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest. Some gazebos in public parks are large enough to serve as bandstands or rain shelters.
Gazebos include pavilions, kiosks, alhambras, belvederes, follies, pergolas, and rotundas. Such structures are popular in warm and sunny climates. They are in the literature of China, Persia, and many other classical civilizations, going back to several millennia. Examples of such structures are the garden houses at Montacute House in Somerset, England.

(**) In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs. In the original use of the word, these buildings had no other use, but from the 19th to 20th centuries the term was also applied to highly decorative buildings which had secondary practical functions such as housing, sheltering or business use.

18th century English gardens and French landscape gardening often featured Roman temples, which symbolized classical virtues or ideals. Other 18th-century garden follies represented Chinese temples, Egyptian pyramids, ruined abbeys, or Tatar tents, to represent different continents or historical eras. Sometimes they represented rustic villages, mills and cottages, to symbolize rural virtues. Many follies, particularly during famine, such as the Irish potato famine, were built as a form of poor relief, to provide employment for peasants and unemployed artisans. (Wikipedia).

I make no apologies for borrowing Ailsa’s wonderful garden quotes:

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. – Richard Brinsley Sheridan

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Texture Tuesday times 2

The challenge for Texture Tuesday 25 October was to use any image we liked and to incorporate two of Kim’s textures. Here are two versions of my final photo, one with text and one without.


TT-Times2-no-text copy

I used two of my photos superimposed on each other and added Kim’s pumpkin grunge and simple things textures.


Abbey House Gardens

On the one sunny day we had while we were in Bristol we decided to drive to Malmesbury in Wiltshire to visit Abbey House Gardens.

This is the home of the “Naked Gardeners” and they regularly hold “clothes optional days” which are the best attended of all! Our visit did not coincide with one of these days – just as well as it would probably have been very difficult to take any photos of the plants! We arrived shortly after opening and spent the next couple of hours wandering through a series of rooms and admiring the planting. The gardens have been constructed in part of what was the original abbey and from nearly everywhere in the garden you can catch a glimpse of the old stonework of one of the broken arches of the abbey.

Abbey House


As you enter the main part of the garden the first thing you see is a topiary face, the first example of a topiary face I had ever seen.



This looked over the Celtic Cross garden





You pass through the “Saxon arch” into the upper lawn area formerly the Lady Chapel where a sculpted monk sits in contemplation of  roses and lilies


One of the beds (the serpentine bed) had been planted with 2000 roses apparently following the colours of the rainbow but some of them had not flowered in the colours they were supposed to but they had been left anyway.


mixed in with the roses were alstromeria, verbascum, geraniums and hollyhocks


There were a number of other sculptures scattered throughout the garden celebrating the human body.


This one is called “Amazon”

This naked man with chains round his wrists was un-named


as was this one


I call this one “Mushroom Head”

In front of the naked man was another sculpture, this time incorporating water. As the water trickled down over the metal disks it emitted a delightful tinkling musical sound, the perfect accompaniment to the garden


All the borders were a mass of colour





a delicate red clematis



tiger lilies against the backdrop of a smoke tree


I love poppies

and I guess this garden has lots of different ones, judging by all the poppy seed heads in evidence.

A huge circular herb garden was surrounded by a sort of trellised cloister over which climbed espaliered fruit trees, vines and clematis. The owners apparently designed this and built it with raised beds as described in a 9th century poem “Hortulus” (Little Garden) written by Walafrid Strabo.

view through “cloister” arch

a similar view but this one echoes the arch of the old abbey 20110805_IMG_1549_herb-garden

the herb garden

lavenders in a raised bed in the herb garden

Miscellaneous shots


the architectural spires of Eucomis
a beautiful passion flower
a miniature portable greenhouse
furry brown fruit of the Medlar tree, they are apparently edible!


In the pond were a number of the largest koi carp I had ever seen.

Several silver balls floated on the surface and visitors were invited to roll these along the surface of the water (not to throw them as this would frighten the fish) and the fish appeared to enjoy floating up to the surface and nosing at the balls.

Afterwards we went to visit the abbey itself.

The present abbey, large in its own right, represents only a third of the size of the original abbey.

carving above the main internal doorway It had some fine stained glass windows,



this one was designed by the artist Burne Jones, which commemorates a young serviceman killed in combat.
There was also another one which I only found out about later (and therefore missed seeing) of a young monk called Eilmer who apparently constructed himself a pair of wings and flew some 200m from the roof of the abbey in the 11th century.


ruined arch at the back of the abbey visible from the gardens
delicate arch/trellis in the abbey grounds.

After lunching in a nearby pub called “the Whole Hog” whose walls were decorated with paintings of pigs in assorted shapes and sizes, we returned to the car via the garden, spotting this carved lintel en route.


Peeping over the top of the wall was this little gazebo

We had intended visiting the wilder part of the garden and the woodland walk but somehow missed our way.


view of the river garden from the bridge near the car park


the weir

and found ourselves back at the car park where we witnessed an angry swan seeing off a dog that came too close to its cygnets on the grass near the river.

Parc de Wesserling

Inspired by this photograph which I came across in a magazine,


I persuaded my husband to take me to Alsace (north east France) for the weekend to visit the exhibition where I was hoping to see this and similar examples. In the event this plate was not in the exhibition at all but was for sale in the museum shop. I thought Kerry would be particularly interested in this piece. I had never thought of combining a fabric element within a glass dish and I think the effect is quite spectacular. Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the exhibition but here are links to the websites of the creators of this piece: and

the exhibition was about lace in various sculptural forms and the pieces were quite extraordinary, not what you think of as lace at all.

This exhibition was only a small part of what you could visit at the Parc de Wesserling which originally housed a fabric printing industry with all its attendant buildings – print shops, church, school, housing for the workers and the gardens, which particularly appealed to me.

A pair of old boots

and a coffee pot have been “recycled” to provide nesting boxes for the birds in the park.

During the month of August at weekends the gardens were illuminated at night and could be visited until 11pm. The theme this year was “les jardins metissés”, a loose translation of which would be “woven gardens”. Entrance to the first part of the park (the potager or vegetable garden) was through a gateway of cotton reels

Each bed in the potager had been designed using a piece of fabric to provide colour and pattern and it was fascinating to see how effective the planting was using this idea. Mannequins stood at the corners of some of the plots together with a planting plan so that you could see how effective the planting could be. I love the idea of designing a garden using your favourite piece of fabric to suggest colours and patterns.

this picture illustrates how crop/planting rotation can be used to provide the colour scheme and pattern

Until I read this notice I had no idea that tomato plants don’t like water on their leaves so the umbrellas are there to protect them whilst still allowing sunlight to get to them. French marigolds are planted around the base of the tomato plants to keep away the bugs

The contents of these preserving jars looked good enough to eat, filled as they were with pieces of vegetable and lots of flowers, but they may just have been filled to look good as they caught the sun

a piece of garden statuary

We had an excellent dinner in the côté des jardins restaurant which was housed in the original school building and overlooked most of the gardens. Afterwards we wandered around the gardens in the dark, not attempting the barefoot garden of the senses in the dark although we did walk through it with our shoes on.

A strange creature in stilts and wearing a costume that looked a root vegetable with lots of rootlets sprouting out of it was wandering round the garden.

In another area a girl was making dreamcatchers while telling the story of the spider which apparently had inspired the original dreamcatchers.

Other dreamcatchers hung in the trees

and strips of fabric had been woven into this hut made of twisted vines

The gardens were quite different at night from the daytime.

On Saturday we had breakfast in the auberge des cascades where we were stayed the night

and then returned to the Parc  to see the rest of the gardens.

we couldn’t quite walk through the eyes of these needles which had been threaded with strings of lights

the spiral water garden – you were supposed to be able to use the hand pump to pump enough water to run from the top of the spiral to the bottom but there didn’t appear to be any water in the reservoir

The back of the main building had been covered in this huge fabric mural produced by local art students

these two pictures depict a loom

I was hoping to be able to see the exibition of watercolours by the artist Bruno Mathieu but it was closed

In another part of the complex was a shop selling garden decoration. This piece of stone collage/mosaic particularly caught my eye as it is composed of pieces of semi precious stone

and a real scare crow

We left the Parc late morning and drove along the route des cretes, stopping for lunch at the auberge de Schmargult, where we tasted a potato dish called “tofailles” which was delicious (and probably very fattening as there was so much butter in it!) and then on to Riquewihr, a famously picturesque town on the Alsace wine route. We spent about an hour there wandering round the narrow streets, admiring the geranium filled window boxes and an artist’s studio before heading home.

Stolzembourg plant fair

In lieu of entrance tickets each person was given a pack of mixed seeds.

We started our tour by visiting the chateau and its gardens before walking down through the village. The displays were many and varied ranging from stands selling daffodil/narcissus bulbls, a huge range of allium bulbs and another selling iris rhizomes.

Inside the chateau was a display of glass objects in really vibrant colours.

In the stairwell hung this picture of a raven.

One of the stands sold floral sushi

Down below was another stand selling brightly coloured bird houses.

There were floral displays and mixed-media pictures, assorted organically produced food and apple products, baskets and, obviously, lots of plants.

This man had a sign hanging round his neck “ail I love garlic” (ail being French for garlic) and, judging by the quantity of garlic on his stall, this was no idle boast.

As with all good fairs the kids corner, where they could make assorted wreaths/garlands,  proved irrestible

we visit the local nature reserve and the botanical garden at Schwebsange

we went for a walk around the nature reserve. The leaves on the trees have already started to turn and it looks as if this autumn will be very colourful.

You can just catch a glimpse of the vineyards on the slopes behind this gravel-pit lake

On our way back we stopped in Schwebsange on the off-chance of being able to visit the botanical garden and were lucky enough to be given a guided tour by one of the owners.

Two varieties of Passion flowers climb up one of the outhouses in the main courtyard.

Many of the plants are container-grown which means having to move 450 or so pots indoors for the winter! The garden was pretty colourful even at this time of year but apparently is at its best in the spring.

The succulents grow in a sheltered part of the garden

Pan pipes his music of enchantment under a cedar tree

I do not know the name of this plant that produces these peculiar-looking fruits/seed cases. I only know them as parrots. If you break off a seed case, turn it upside down and perch it on the rim of a glass, it looks for all the world like a parrot taking a drink. Thannks to Manon, I now know that this plant is an Asclepias Syriaca (a member of the Milkweed family, and renowned for its medicinal properties).

These strange-looking fruit/seed cases I only know by the disrespectful name of “Pope’s balls” and first came across them when I visited Japan some years ago. They seem to be quite popular in flower arrangements now and seem to grow well in our temperate climate. I loved the combination of the vivid blue and acid green in this photo.

Plants grew everywhere and the owners had had to resort to growing pumpkins by trailing the vines through the trees and supporting the growing pumpkins in baskets as there was no more room on the ground.

A fine specimen of citrus medica

and finally a beautifully delicate yellow clematis, possibly C. tangutica

Strasbourg municipal park + shop fronts

Strasbourg has beautiful municipal gardens where the plantings are regularly changed. In early September they were a mixture of reds and bronzes with texture achieved through the addition of various grasses and some members of the cabbage family.

On an early morning to walk I photographed these drops of rain hanging off the ends of bamboo leaves with the sun making them shine like so many diamonds.

My namesake plant is variously known as Traveller’s Joy or Wayfarer’s Joy or Old Man’s Beard. The photograph shows the 3 stages of its existence – flowers, flowers turning to seed heads and fully fledged seed heads.

Strasbourg is also blessed with some fascinating shop fronts. Here are three which I pass on a regular basis. Firstly the artichoke café, secondly a childrens bookshop and lastly a master baker’s – I think the strange animal above the door is a bear eating a pretzel.

I went into this childrens’ bookshop to ask if the name meant something special. Literally translated it means “syrup of the streets”. Apparently when children spend much of their time out of doors, either playing in the streets or wandering around, they absorb much of what they see/hear and this is known as taking in the syrup of the streets. I think the nearest equivalent must be “to become street-wise”. If I had children I would spend hours in this shop as its owners dedicate much time and energy to  make it a really appealing place, together with organising workshops and getting authors to autograph copies of their books.

This is a master baker’s shop. I think the animal devouring the pretzel is a young bear. Many years ago bears would have been a natural sight in the forests surrounding Strasbourg.