An Infinity of Graces, Cecil Ross Pinsent, An English Architect in the Italian Landscape

Author: Ethne Clarke Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2013
Author: Ethne Clarke
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2013
Ethne Clarke's book, An Infinity of Graces tells the story of Cecil Ross Pinsent, an English architect in the Italian landscape. Mr Pinsent, as described by Ms. Clarke, "was trained not to look at any style...but with the full knowledge of what had been done in the past...."  The time of Mr. Pinsent's work was a time of change in the theories of English gardening.  What ultimately became acceptable was the style forged by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, a style with some formality mixed with informality. Pinsent left England, drawn to Florence, Italy, for its architecture and the expatriate world who lived there Ms. Clarke writes.  She continues that the Italian Renaissance garden was a template for perfection in the landscape.  Pinsent was an architect.  He was hired to renovated both indoor and out.  He treated the outdoors as an extension of the house, the garden separated into different rooms.  The beds were simple and cypress was often used to frame a view, the author writes.  Potted citrus or roses were used as transition points. His commissioned work included: I Tatti for Mary and George Berenson, Le Balze for Charles Augustus Strong, and Gli Scafari for Sybil and Percy Lubbock. Poignantly Ethne Clarke ends An Infinity of Graces by writing, "an insertion of architecture within Tuscan landscape was not a matter of camouflage but a continuous relation with history of landscape."

Major Lawrence Johnston and his Plant Expeditions

Hidcote, red border
Hidcote, red border, Photo courtesy of The Galloping Gardener
Hidcote Ethne Clarke paints a fascinating picture of an American expatriate who designs one of the foremost gardens in Great Britain pre and post WWI in her book, "Hidcote, The Making of a Garden," published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.  Major Lawrence Johnston's garden, Hidcote is a garden treasure in England, the first garden to be taken on by the National Trust in 1948.  One of the ways Johnston collected plants was by subscribing to a plant exploration or by going on an expedition.  Ms. Clarke explains that Johnston's prowess in propagation, cultivation, and the recognition of his masterful skills at Hidcote affirmed his application to the Royal Horticultural Society.  As a Society member (voted in in 1922) he could subscribe (help underwrite)  or travel with the Society in search of new plants.  That he did.  The author of the revised edition of "Hidcote, The Making of a Garden," writes, "His plant-hunting began gently, with a trip in 1922 to the Swiss Alps in the company of the great alpine plantsman E.A. Bowles."  Johnston's expeditions took him to South Africa for four months.  Back again to Mt. Kilimanjaro a year later where, Ms. Clarke writes, "…he found a fine hypericum (today Hypericum 'Hidcote' is a favorite yellow-flowered shrub in mixed borders.) Serre de la Madone Major Johnston created a second garden in the South of France, Serre de la Madone, close to Edith Wharton's French garden, Chateau Sainte-Claire in the hills about Hyere.  Johnston's wordily expedition "in the gardens of the northern hemisphere; thus the mountain ranges of Africa, China, India and Persia were (their) prime hunting grounds, since the conditions of these temperate regions most closely simulated those in European gardens," explains the author, Ethne Clarke.  Indeed Major Johnston had the enviable sites of a Northern and Southern European garden to cultivate his new found plants. For more Hidcote pictures go to: http://thegallopinggardener.blogspot.com

Royal Street Garden in the Vieux Carre’, New Orleans, LA

IMG_0387 Picture: Courtesy Carlisle Hashim The Tour, "Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre'" in the French Quarter of New Orleans included a courtyard on Royal Street, a "well-detailed double residence with attached three-story kitchens."  It was built around 1833 for Paul LaCroix, a classic Creole-style building with a central passageway, arched ground floor openings, narrow wrought iron balconies and curved dormers.  Story has it that two brothers who had inherited the building were feuding and decided to split the building so they erected a wall.  The mother managed to scale both sides.
Picture Courtesy Carlisle Hashim
Picture Courtesy Carlisle Hashim
  "Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre',  is hosted by the Patio Planters of the Vieux Carre', a volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation and beautification of the French Quarter.  Formed by French Quarter residents as a garden club focused on sharing new plants, Patio Planters brought tropical and semi-tropical exotics to courtyards in the 1950's.  Bromeliads and orchids grew with more traditional banana trees, oleander, althea and ginger.  Fig and other vines were espaliered on brick and masonry walls which replaced the last of the horizontal board fences from 1880.  Since 1946, Patio Planters has sponsored Caroling in Jackson Square in December.  All proceeds from the tour fund the Caroling event. www.patioplanters.org IMG_0384   Picture Courtesy: Carlisle Hashim

Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre’, New Orleans, Louisiana

IMG_0376 Gardens in the French Quarter of New Orleans are lush with tropical plants, walled enclosures with water, ironwork and hanging art.  It was such a treat to be in the city whose motto is "Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler" on the third weekend in October for a self-guided tour of seven gardens in New Orleans. "Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre' was hosted by the Patio Planters of the Vieux Carre', a volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation and beautification of the French Quarter.  Formed by French Quarter residents as a garden club focused on sharing new plants, Patio Planters brought tropical and semi-tropical exotics to courtyards in the 1950's.  Bromeliads and orchids grew with more traditional banana trees, oleander, althea and ginger.  Fig and other vines were espaliered on brick and masonry walls which replaced the last of the horizontal board fences from 1880.  Since 1946, Patio Planters has sponsored Caroling in Jackson Square in December.  All proceeds from the tour fund the Caroling event. For more information: www.patioplanters.org Courtesy CarlisleFlowers The first home we toured is a two and one-half brick townhouse with a detached kitchen built around 1830 for Francois Boisdore, a free man of color.  The ground floor has arched openings, each of which leads to a passageway, and the upper floor has square-headed openings.  The post-supported gallery has the original wrought iron balcony railing. IMG_0378

A Spring, Metasequoia and Under a Maple Tree, To Drink a Garden

56 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of water from a fresh spring in Baltimore County, Md. Fresh water from a limestone base that we drank today. Can you imagine having fresh water scooped with a ladle by the spring for us to drink. To drink a garden, to see a garden, to smell a garden, to drink a garden from a spring within two to three hundred feet of a major intersection with water runoff that plummets ten feet below. Perhaps it is a testament to those metasequoia and dawn redwood trees that grow twenty-five feet higher than the surface of the spring. Their feet stick up like thumbs. The deer are drawn to their bark and then follow their path through the pipe under the road. And while contemplating the stand of 100 trees in a micro-clime that becomes awash with sand, ferns are discussed. Hundreds of ferns to plant as a backdrop to the bluestone bench far to the left, a path to be made of wood and stone, a destination there. While sitting on Greenspring stone and steps, the three of us are shaded by maple trees. Looking up to the filtered sun, the underside of the maple leaves are beautiful. Why had I never thought the leaves could be looked at from the underside and be so lovely. They were.

River Rock Building in Patapsco River, Maryland with Nature Art InThe Park

Some practitioners call it Rock Balancing. Some call it the ancient art (or Zen) of Stone Stacking, while others call it cairn or dolmen constructing. Often remote & anonymous, these simple stone-on-stone sculptures speak to us like microcosmic written stories (bookmarks). We can read them as locators (breadcrumbs), places of ritual, icons, dancing spirit beings, calendrical circles, lightning rods, forts, falling stars, or other things — from distant times & places, other cultures and languages. And, we can build them ourselves in our own place & time, in our own image. It’s really all part of the same thing.
Buddha'sBuddha’s StonesStones
 Click on the images 
And yet, each iteration expresses something new & unique, too. It’s an object of divine beauty or comedy or ch’i or abstraction that never quite existed before, and may never again. ted_betts_600_7220768314_991dfc769e_z Teddy Betts (1956 – 2010) Master River Rock Builder Photo by Doug Retzler It’s where the modern age meets the stone age — a balancing point, a fragile, pivotal moment in the river of time.  Here in Maryland’s Patapsco valley, we call it River Rock Building — because that’s what Teddy called it.  He was a devoted River Rock Builder, like no other. For more information about Nature in the Park on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/events/607285245970541/permalink/616157018416697/ For more pictures go to: http://ellicottcity.net/gallery/guardians_of_the_patapsco/ Significance of River Rock Building by Tom Chambers: http://http://rockbuilding.wordpress.com/semiotics This information was provided by Nature Art in the Park.org