Dixter Faileth Never

Sunday 20th September 2020

We came onto Dixter that stormy day late in August. Royston loved how it heaved in the wind, not battered but a wilful force of massed plants in contention. There was some sign of workers having been furloughed but really a triumph as always. Dixter not defeated, the succession of plants maintained. Exuberant and spontaneous as it may look, this appearance requires incredibly complex planning to keep up through the season.

They’d even managed some new trends: Giant Zinnias and Love Lies Ableeding (or Amarinth).

 

Dixter Never Fails

Dixter Never Fails

Immortal Dixter

Immortal Dixter

New Trend: Giant Zinnias

New Trend: Giant Zinnias

Second New Trend: Love Lies Ableeding

Second New Trend: Love Lies Ableeding

Sedum: so Purple

Sedum: so Purple

Dashing Accents:

Dashing Accents:Dahlia and Purple Orach 

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Windsor Castle Found to be Quite Small

Friday 11th September 2020

Three weeks ago I went to Windsor with Royston King on a public ticket for which he paid. The great attraction was that the East Terrace was open for the first time in 40 years. Then you could tour inside.

But actually the best brilliance was the huge numbers of people also touring. Can you think of a better place to catch that thing and die than Windsor Castle? What could bring a person nearer to the Throne? As Royston has always said, to understand the British Royal Family you have to visit Windsor. Not for nothing are they the House of Windsor.

I drove officially to Windsor, but just as with the design of the Royal Train, ‘Bob0 was the client really,’ the Queen’s Dresser, the true driver was Royston, beyond turnings and routes and even as far as speeds. ‘Only 23 miles an hour?’ he whipped at one point, whipping on more towards the full 30. Parking in Windsor town was Hell. I’ve never known such manoeuvrings in the car park cleverly schemed so that all the cars could get in but there if no parking space, couldn’t get out again. Trapped.

I was in a state because we were going to be late for our slot. Maybe there’d be an outbreak or we’d just be shot, not even Royston’s OBE providing a shield to the Royal bullets. One feels that could happen nowadays.

Before the parking phase we had lunch at the Queen’s Farm Shop. Outdoors. Food pushed through a hatch as in suburbia of old. Didn’t dare use the toilets.

So at last into the Castle. From the North Terrace, it might be a grand kind of school or superior asylum with the dirty pink tarmac to be traversed before penetration into the reconstituted Gothic. We raced round to the East Terrace, remaining outdoors, not able to resist the main excitement first – the East Terrace open for the first time in 40 years. Some Gays were there, one in mini-shorts with featured bum. There were rose beds on the East Terrace. Statues, lawn, balustrades, rose beds, so a remarkable uniform green, there being a stubborn lack of blooms. Royston’s jaw was on the floor. Just not trying, he said. The terrace is high up with a view directly to London, so it appears to be a terrace of London itself, the direct link between the Monarch and her Capital. A bare sort of place, chiefly sky and stone, with London 20 miles away. That side of the Castle itself must be where they sit out, on a further grim stone terrace with a sun lounger on it.

We went within, following those Gays and that bum. It has much more charm than I remember from 40 years ago and it really is quite small, like Buckingham Palace. Modest rooms crammed up together with no corridors between and all in different styles. Suddenly there’s a cream and gilt rococo manifestation, then the curious 20th century re-interpretation of 19th century Gothic in St George’s Hall and a very novel anti-chamber rebuilt after the fire of 1992, with a tubular Gothic with no capitals. Superb workmanship.  They didn’t just re-make it exactly as it was. All these badges and knightly insignia, standards and armaments are now in a background of modern English oak work carried out, I like to think, by posh yobs in artisanal roles. Maybe that one met in Normandy a few years ago, the brother-in-law of Alice Temperley, a dream of a craftsman, was one of them.

We couldn’t see the drawing rooms, but the Charles 1 suite was on view – superb.. Grinling Gibbons. V wooden, dark of course, furniture great clumps of swirl, a suite of actual silver furniture including mirrors, massy but the overall effect cosy. You could spend the afternoon in those rooms reading magazines and listening to the Afternoon Play before tea.

Royston homed in on a German guide and got her story, length of time in Britain, reasons for coming and staying, feelings in general and her great loyalty to the Throne although German. He just knows where the story is and gets it. He explained that the last time he had been at Windsor was to receive an OBE. In the Waterloo Chamber it was that he received his OBE and while we were in there he asked the guide to remind him of where he had stood and through which door he had come. She knew it all.

Afterwards we sat in the Round Tower moat garden (cottagey and profuse), talking of Sir Digton Probyn who made it. If you don’t know who Sir Digton Probyn was it’s time you found out. I’m convinced he married Charlotte Knollys in the end, as an upshot of their long confinement together at Sandringham with the widowed Queen Alexandra. But I need to check for sure. Possibly Sir Dig was unmarried on account of his unbelievable service to King Edward V11. Just not a minute to spare for marriage. After that we ventured into an outdoor pub talking of Diana and Royston said how disastrous was her Panorama interview. For her, not anybody else. Such a new and brilliant view. As a result the Queen ordered a divorce. Because she said Charles would never be King. If only she’d taken advice. The Panorama interview lead directly to her death. The big question is: did the BBC fail in their Duty of Care towards her in allowing her to do the interview at all? Royston had so much insider on it all. Martin Bashir also killed off Michael Jackson in the same manner. Incredibly plausible approach, so charming and seductive. Then jaws snap and that’s it.

On the way home we covered the Royal Family with less glaring intensity, more a quiet, unceasing Royal murmur after the terrific spate on Sir Digton and Princess Diana.

Windsor the East Terrace: Rare Opening but a Bit Bare

Windsor the East Terrace: Rare Opening but a Bit Bare

Could this be Her Lounger? The East Terrace Windsor Casle

Could this be Her Lounger? The East Terrace Windsor Castle

Windsor the Quadrangle: Cosy and Intimate. The Private Apartments are on the Right

Windsor the Quadrangle: Cosy and Intimate. The Private Apartments are on the Right

The Round Tower Garden made by Sir Digton Probyn

The Round Tower Garden made by Sir Digton Probyn

 

 

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The Schedule

Friday 11th September

How can we live like this? Certain people – I want their heads on poles on London Bridge. Why not? They’ve brought in a medieval regime. Why should they not meet a medieval end? Oliver Cromwell’s head was on a pole on London Bridge for months, if not years. As a warning. I know he wasn’t Middle Ages. Actually in the Middle Ages they had a better idea of what to do. They never thought to shut down an entire country.

Are the Secret Services watching? You have to be careful. You get shut down on YouTube these days for daring to suggest anything other than the dismal, unimaginative worse-case scenario, safety-ist, dragoon-ed, not thinking, not allowed to think, if thinking likely to be identified as mentally ill, a rogue element, unacceptable.

Despite the agony, I’ve had a schedule which I’ve been pursuing, hence not present here. Many of you will have been thinking that maybe I had passed.

Well, I haven’t. Not yet. Although the Grave would not be unwelcome at times I feel.

Three weeks ago I went to Windsor Castle with Royston King. I’ve been on a schedule ever since. It’s amazing how much of a schedule you can have when the world has been laid waste.

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Normandy Insisted Upon

Monday 24th August 2020

The unspeakable wrong of the knife hanging over Normandy and my own failure. But we managed Normandy. Up to a point.

The heat was the most tremendous ever known there. I became really nothing more than a series of outfits consuming the superb food. The Lairdess was incredibly sexual, like a living fabliaux tale of Chaucer. I only showed my layette when unpacking in a rare upstairs moment because I’d managed to get new underpants despite everything. ‘I hope we’ll be seeing you in those,’ the Lairdess growled. Later I was up a tree picking plums. ‘Nice plums,’ she remarked. No man would have a hope.

The Laird’s wild boar pate surpassed all previous years with an excellent tang of juniper. He explained how the men of St Kilda evolved bigger feet. The women were only hot for men who could climb cliffs because of so many cliffs on St Kilda needing to be climbed so big feet got bred in. But there must have been some weedy women who had to make do with the left-over small-footed men. Anyway, gradually there got to be more and more men with massive feet who could prance up and down those cliffs and give a really lusty show. So everybody was happy.

There was a lunch and a quiz. The Laird’s talk on the Bayeaux Tapestry was postponed owing to Covid-19 (what’s that? Have you heard of it?). We were disappointed because Moira MacMatron and I were looking forward to re-making the entire Bayeaux Tapestry while listening to it. The Laird has been working on his talk on the Bayeaux Tapestry for some years. The talk was to have been after the lunch and some of the guests said beforehand they’d come especially from England for it. But subsequently they said they didn’t like talks or the Bayeaux Tapestry very much. That’s the topsy turvy world of the English in Normandy for you. You may remember how last year Lamprey Matheson gave the guide the slip and got into the bath of the SS general in the villa at Deauville.

How could anyone not like the Bayeaux Tapestry? What’s not to like? It’s so historic and old. And there’s always that feeling you could do it yourself if you really wanted to – a bit like Van Gogh – which is very reassuring.

Laura Malcolm did a sea-food bake with chorizo. Excellent. Recipe from her daughter Ivy and her incredibly useful boyfriend. They are also athletes who do exercises every day. At what stage do one’s offspring start giving you recipes? I feel it’s a sign. It’ll be the Complan mug next.

I had to leave Normandy in a hurry owing to my nerves. My nerves wouldn’t have stood disobeying the quarantine order despite encountering only one French person who was behind a perspex screen in the mart the entire time here. The gazole station wasn’t even woman-ed. Nobody has ever left Normandy before their time before except when Moira MacMatron sang her Miss Pineapple song which was incredibly pert and menacing and then left Normandy because her sister while vacuuming had fallen off a mezzanine in Spain and broken her back.

She’s all right now.

A cow got into the orchard. We couldn’t think how after Matt had put up such a barricade made out of the table-tennis table on its end. We were in our night-clothes trying to get it out in the early morning. Its mother was on the other side of the hedge, lowing. ‘It’s so thick,’ Matt and Laura kept saying, as the beast rushed about, slobbering horribly, failing to pass through the now open section where Matt had undone his labours with the table-tennis table. We were worried it had overdosed on plums and apples and was going to get some fatal cow autumn-produce overdose condition. The bastard French farmer wouldn’t come. At last it plunged through the hedge in the least likely place and freed itself. Whether death followed, I never heard, but I shouldn’t think so. It probably had a bad tummy and the others cows were not impressed.

The Laird's Cold Box containing Wild Boar Pate for 40 People

The Laird’s Cold Box containing Wild Boar Pate for 40 People

My Blaniks - given by Cousin Barley in Fact from When she Worked there

My Blaniks – given by Cousin Barley in Fact from When she Worked there. New Topman Old Rose Slacks

Poor Thick Norman Cow - at Least Spared Knowledge of the Pandemic

Poor Thick Norman Cow – at Least Spared Knowledge of the Pandemic

A Nice Norman Butterfly

A Nice Norman Butterfly

 

 

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Prague’s Special Women

Thursday 20th August 2020

Prague’s women are special when taken from their original placing and placed in Prague for permanent residence – until, that is, they decide to reside elsewhere but never back home. Two in particular have made Prague their background for 30 years or more. A person for whom home is insufficient will scarcely be the type to merge into the background. Mousey ones are rarely found in the ex-patriate community, far from it. These ones are majesties whatever their circumstances whose grove, like all Majesties, is fixed by fierce willpower and never alters. They were also, like Anthony Mottram himself, important Bloc re-shapers after the Wall came down. We took coffee with one majesty, who was swathed and with dog. Despite exceeding the retirement age almost by a generation, this superb woman is still moving towards castles that might be hotels, investors are looming, schemes for decor are afoot. When she began to talk of the building upheaval on the pavement, her fall and broken bones, the failure of the railing, the theme, to me, was dimly reminiscent, like one of Wagner’s motifs, which you know you have heard before but could never say quite where. So it continues, the machinations, the paperwork, the translators, the tiny chinks admitted by the authorities, the waves of hope, the retreats… the grove will be ploughed whatever, to the bitter end and beyond.

A matching majesty, still in her prime, supreme, owner of a private business, spoke at dinner outdoors of the American Gays who loomed in Prague some years before. It was the same thing – the great theme sounding that was heard at the opening of the piece, in this case last year or even the year before. I knew it. In fact Anthony Mottram had sent a thank-you note to these Gays on first meeting them. ‘I quite see that your thrilling idea for a computer programme absorbed all your attention and you couldn’t possibly be expected to take an interest in anybody else.’ It was in the computer scheme that the matching majesty had invested. It was to be earth-shattering in some way, bringing together all known programmes in some new kind of harmony rather as the United Nations is supposed to do. The only drawback is that no such scheme has appeared. What are those Gays doing, apart from travelling 1st class as they were last year or the year before? Matching Majesty is still poised, papers are being studied, Facebook groups formed, legal angles considered. Her grove is unwavering, the narrative path uncertain except that it will never be relinquished.

Prague's Street: As Never Before Seen since Communism with so Few People

Prague’s Street: As Never Before Seen since Communism with so Few People

The Plichnik Church: Nolonger Liked so Much. Inside Horrid

The Plichnik Church: Nolonger Liked so Much. Inside Horrid

A Train Marked up for Russia: Always an Excitement

A Train Marked up for Russia: Always an Excitement: If you Hold a Mirror Up You’ll be able to read that Writing 

In Anthony Mottram's Private Upstairs Family Parlour: All Gives Way to the Tree

In Anthony Mottram’s Private Upstairs Family Parlour: All Gives Way to the Tree

The Private Family Parlour in Anthony Mottram's Museum Apartment: It will be New Apartment if the Tree Gets Bigger. No Question of Reducing the Tree

The Private Family Parlour in Anthony Mottram’s Museum Apartment: It will be New Apartment if the Tree Gets Bigger. No Question of Reducing the Tree

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The Muller House At Last

Sunday 16th August 2020

Val and I attempted the Muller House in Prague in November 2017, when we were out for Part 2 of Anthony Mottram’s 60th party. It’s by Adolf Loos, you know. Important. They said Come back in three weeks. Tours only, limited numbers, all booked. The Tugendat House in Brno, by Mies van der Rohe, was even worse. Queue for three months. Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten, visiting Prague as Celebrity Performing Visitors, subject to a Treatment in the hotel suite which was suddenly removed by an attendant luckily before they’d started eating it, found even the VIP route to the Muller House stoney and upward. I said, You must get Dvorak, Smetana and Janacek to intervene on your behalf. But in the end it took Beethoven, Mozart and the Second Viennese School as well to get the place prised open for an after-hours visit.

This time one space was free for the English-speaking tour which was just me and an oddly configured Dutch family – a mummy and daddy, the daddy very garlic-y, a teenage son and either the son’s boyfriend or an ethnically diverse adoptee into the family, or even the son’s penfriend or a mate from school. The son looked a bit old for the latter options though.

This Muller House might be described as an aspiring stockbroker suburban villa, except that its architect is of world renown and Muller was an important building contractor. He got Loos late, in 1930, towards the end of his allotted time. He’d shattered Vienna with the House without Eyebrows 40 years before. There the upper storeys are bare of ornament, a bold arrangement of square windows on a plain white background but the double-height ground floor is deliciously swathed in sumptuous marble. At the Muller House the front door might feature in any modest residence of that period but the elaborate marble recess, all of a piece with the bench by the door, in which it is set is an unexpected monumental element. Within is a narrow passage, like the entrance to a tomb, but gorgeously lined with sky-blue tiles, leading to a small hall where startling contrasting colours are deployed on the walls. Wonderful craft and finish – light-switches, door handles. No detail left unturned. But where are you? Perhaps a refreshing, pared-down good merchant’s house in a small town or village even, traditional windows opening outwards? Or not. We’re led through a tiny passage into the astonishing drawing room, with a great door onto the garden which might make a more important entrance than the actual one. Really it is a quasi-modernist realisation of  the grand entrance hall of an 18th century palace, lined with marble but the rhythms from cubes and prisms in marble, double-height and the full width of the house. The back-wall is mysteriously pierced and there is a mezzanine, low-ceiled, with cottage-y windows which is the dining area. So it’s open-plan. But expectations are constantly confounded. The stairs are mere utility, not sweeping for an entrance, the levels confused so you never could say which floor you are on. Colour is not pursued as a theme throughout the house. The entrance hall is a false start. Really the house grows more wooden. A study is a wood-lined box, sunk down, no outlook, the dressing rooms like cabins on a ship, moulded of cupboards, shelves and ledges. Harry Rollo said Loos is such a  genius for veering both ways, radical, modern, clean lines, whiletraditional, rococo and marbled, both at once. Many a marriage must have been saved by him.

The awful thing is the story of Mrs Muller, widowed in 1950 and left alone in the house (her daughter had gone to Canada) to face the Communist era until her death in 1968. No money, her house taken by the State mostly for offices, herself confined to some rooms at the back. She was intermittently allowed to enter, accompanied by officials, a room where her treasures were kept to select something for sale so she could keep going. Mercifully the regime recognised the importance of the building to some extent but it wasn’t until after Communism that it was painstakingly restored. Vaclav Havel himself opened it, in 2000, arriving by car. There was a reception with waiters in white jackets and the usual canapés and champagne.

The Muller House Prague: Drawing Room with Opening for Mezzanine Dining Room

The Muller House Prague: Drawing Room with Opening for Mezzanine Dining Room

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings at the Side

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings at the Side

The Muller House Prague: Roof Terrace with Vaclav Havel Attended Opening Reception

The Muller House Prague: Roof Terrace where Vaclav Havel Attended Opening Reception

The View from the Terrace to Prague Castle: Muller House Prague

The View from the Terrace to Prague Castle: Muller House Prague

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Talking in Prague

Wednesday 12th August 2020

The Glorious 12th. But Debo couldn’t touch grouse. Memories of Uncle Harold on the moors. Oh for the old days when everything was as it should be. Cars at the door. Staff. Titles. Menus.

I went to Prague by air – unheard of in the modern era – for a week with Anthony Mottram and Vadim. Talked and talked. I was nearly late for the Muller House because of talking. Topic after topic. I can’t remember any of them now but tremendous quality. Such talk, boiling away, a terrific consistent boil, the steam rising and disappearing. We biked up the river, then down it. Talking all the time. It’s the sustaining of the talk, the sticking to the topic, the exploring of the avenues, the turning over and looking at the other side – that’s what gives satisfaction. Somewhere the content itself will be lurking, to spring back up again one day. How many have that elegance though, the weaving of phrases as one ends and another begins seamlessly, no jolt or jabbing interruption, the passages soaring effortlessly?

We toured the ramparts of old Prague, which have been there all this time but never seen before. Anthony Mottram and Vadim had been in Crete for two weeks. ‘There’s absolutely nothing to say about it,’ AM said. Villa, lunch, beach, dinner, scenery. A bit like Mary MacGregor in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: ‘Two eyes, a nose and a mouth.’ Attempts to embroider often mislead. Why not settle for the vital elements and go no further?

In the private upstairs parlour of the Museum Apartment, we watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix. Anthony Mottram was very keen on further epis, one after another in fact. One woman we didn’t like at all. She said she didn’t want any children at the wedding, a subject that invariably arose on the first date. The marriages were in business arrangements with banal requirements such as a ‘fun person who is flexible and likes to travel.’ The professional matchmaker who is some kind of celebrity in India apparently was rather nice but quite dim and undemanding. But although it didn’t say so in the series none of them got married apparently. AM found out elsewhere online. Not even the one with the awful mother who was always measuring her blood pressure and saying it would be through the roof by November if her son wasn’t married. So we viewed for 5 hours at least but I’m wondering now if the entire thing wasn’t just a little bit fake.

 

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On the Mountain Side

Saturday 1st August 2020

We stayed up a mountain in Snowdonia with Herbert Molotov and St Anselm. A turkey was spoken of as likely to be removed from the freezer. Despite communism on the part of Herbert, St Anselm has acquired a substantial extra Welsh premises, a handsome farmhouse with grounds and marble bathroom. We couldn’t have been more comfortable. Royston was inclined to appear nude which couldn’t be stopped. The great thing was building up to his appearance on TV (not nude) in a Royal documentary on the Saturday evening and in the meantime whether he should appear in some left-leaning productions from Channel 4. Herbert Molotov confused the issue by insisting that the late King was romantically involved with Anthony Blunt which he had on reputable authority from a Cambridge don whose wife is not unassociated with appearing on TV very often. The conversation had an odd background of sheep and mountains. One of the sheep was dead and lying just beyond the boundary fence. Herbert Molotov thought he would saw it up for the table. He described his routine dismantling of found pheasants in repulsive detail and thought nothing of advancing to a sheep.

Quite honestly Herbert had that look on his face while menacing thus but this was the merest flicker while the foreground surged on of Royston’s TV contributions and the Royal Family. As we settled to watch the show finally Royston was still talking in fact and in the end we had to shout him down so we could hear what he was saying on the TV.

The turkey was understood to have been withdrawn, never removed from the freezer. I thought this a step in the right direction, sensing that the bird would be overwhelming and it wasn’t Christmas. Royston thought that somehow Herbert had prevented it although St Anselm was the martyr of the kitchen with Herbert working unseen to cause his companion eventually to explode. Herbert loves to light the touch paper and run, shrieking with glee. St Anselm fumed that were left to Herbert there would be nothing but pasta with pesto whereupon Herbert said he didn’t care about food in any case. Royston thought it was a vigorous lusty power-play between the two that might extend to all parts of the house and times.

So gammon steaks were the upshot. Does anybody know what it is to cater for a weekend house party? The strain and worry, for the deadlines of breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner are the deadliest of the deadlines.

We walked in the mountains, a good climb and offered unwanted advice as to how the grounds around the farmhouse might be cultivated. Herbert has already built a folly and cleared brambles on a monumental scale. Royston recommended Acer Griseum, then  offered a novel view of the Abdication which was the Royal Family’s great knack of getting rid of undesirable elements, aided as necessary by the Establishment. Edward VIII was thought no good. That was the real reason for refusing his marriage to Mrs Simpson and forcing the Abdication. A simple ejection exercise. Prince Andrew has met the same fate by a different means.

Later we returned to London by car. Last year, returning from the other, Cromer, residence of this pair was the occasion of the great gunboat incident re: tomato feed which Royston said he could not get it into my head was not just to produce leaf growth, but flowers also. My mistake was to try to say that I had always thought otherwise but I could never get as far as to indicate that I was not unwilling to be persuaded differently because Royston became exasperated all over again and told me that it really was time I had a proper look at the directions on the bottle.

This year saw an advance.

The subject inevitably arises, whether bidden or not. Have you grasped it yet? Royston inquired. Tomato feed to induce flowering. Suddenly I thought, sudden wave, it would be just the thing for those Verbascums that never flower.

The Welsh Background: Typical of a near Communist to Secure such a View

The Welsh Background: Typical of a near Communist to Secure such a View

St Anselm's New Welsh Setting

St Anselm’s New Welsh Setting

St Anselm and Herbert Molotov - Their New Surroundings

St Anselm and Herbert Molotov – Their New Surroundings

 

 

 

 

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Breath-Taking

Thursday 30th July 2020

As you know I suffer some chronic not-enjoying-things syndrome brought on by chronic worry-and-strain scenario plus always worrying and easily bored as well as worn out. But when I came round the corner and beheld Powis Castle gardens I was knocked out by their glory. These gardens I have always heard of and many plants are named after them but nothing was as foreseen. The experience was equal to my first exposure to the Grand Canal at Venice which is the only other time that a spectacle was beyond expectation. Usually upon first encountering some world-famous site there is a dip as one adjusts from advance imagination. Maybe peeling paint or grubby marks have to be accommodated. One gets used to it.

But Powis Castle gardens were a violent assault of immediate perfection. You round a corner and there before you the whole vista is laid out. It is a hanging garden with a large newer addition, as if grown as an arm from the older garden above, sitting in the valley below. Never was a garden more ruthlessly exposed to its natural surroundings. You see for miles along the valley. Yet the contrivance of clipped yew hedges, giant man-made terraces, borders and lawns is the perfect highly-wrought compliment to the unaltered setting. Ravishing how it fits in.

The history is enchanting. Originally an actual castle on a rock, in the 17th century somebody thought: Let’s build terraces all the way up the sheer rock-face and make a garden. It’s easily 50m in height if not more. All the soil imported. Can you imagine? Yews were planted to be precise pyramids. Now, after more than 300 years they are huge, carefully clipped clouds spilling over the edge. At the side of the terrace is a massive hedge, also yew, also now wavy, which must be one of the wonders of the world in terms of yew. Yew and bricks and stone are the drama really. Nothing else. So bold and simple. The borders are a moveable display that provide more intimate interludes.

The glory of this garden is its age and how it has evolved of its own accord over 300 years and come to rest as the ideal design in the landscape. One of my favourite parts was the great blank rectangle of grass below the terraces. What a masterstroke, I thought, to have a space of nothing below all the concentration above. But it turned out it was just a happy accident. In the 17th century there had been a knot-garden there which had been cleared away by later generations who didn’t like knot gardens.

Powis Castle Garden: Graphs do Not do it Justice. You see the Great Blank below and the Newer Garden Extending

Powis Castle Garden: Graphs do Not do it Justice. You see the Great Blank below and the Newer Garden Extending

The Drama of Yew: Powis Castle

The Drama of Yew: Powis Castle

A Quieter Border Moment

A Quieter Border Moment

The Great Yew Hedge

The Great Yew Hedge

 

 

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It’s Life Versus Death and Life will Win

Sunday 26th July 2020

I see it as Life versus Death and Life will win.

Life is coming back.. I don’t think the Government will be successful in stamping it out, this time.

Gardens for a start – I’ve two gardens to give you. Here’s the first.

I visited Wildside two weeks ago. It’s rarely open. Perhaps you don’t know it. Keith Wiley, who was Head Gardener at the Garden House in the Far West for 25 years, took some fields nearby 16 years ago and began a garden from scratch. It’s been seen on TV and gained the cover the RHS Garden magazine last summer. His mentality is to dig. I don’t mean a spade, I mean earthworks. He looms with a JCB and goes down 8 foot. Some have questioned his sanity. The last time I saw the results I thought it dank and messy, although wonderful in photographs. Now it’s quite different. Paths and hillocks – it’s an exploring garden, hollowed out of fields and sunk down although you’re not specially aware of that when in it. You’re trekking and discovering rather than taking tea. The paths are rocky. Really it’s very bold and simple. Vistas on a certain scale, waves and dips of grasses, acers, with astonishing outrages of bold colour from crocosmia, lilies, various yellow daisies. I liked it. The inspiration might be South Africa, but the Veldt, I imagine, is flat and high and this is low and concealed from the surrounding landscape which is right because sitting conspicuously in it it might glare. The areas are different but there’s a remarkable unity to the whole considering its size. Unpretentious and confident.

Keith Wiley and his wife sacrificed everything to make this garden. To begin with they had no home and it was made clear that they wouldn’t be allowed one. They were crouched illegally. Eventually the planners relented. Now there is a fine wooden dwelling. Last autumn his wife died unexpectedly which as the doleful notice explained, apart from anything else, halved the workforce. How two people, let alone one, could manage this huge (and expanding) garden, I just don’t know. So if you possibly can, you must volunteer or give money.

This is an important National garden.

 

 

IMG_9596 IMG_9597 IMG_9599 IMG_9612 IMG_9613

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