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