Hepworth, Hokusai, Kandinsky, Rothko,Mondrian and Monet.
The Hepworth Garden is inspired byBarbara Hepworth'spainting called Green Caves 1946..Following the geometric patterns, we have planted groups of different grasses, sedums and echinaceas all centred on a weeping birch. The outline has been turned to fit the space and every winter is cut back to the ground, so that the green slate mulch sings out. The summer garden teams with butterflies, while the autumn and winter garden whistles in the wind.
It is a garden of strong moods, alive with constant movement, yet, strange to tell, even in storm, it is an oasis of calm.
There is a gravel path around the edge of the garden with taller planting beyond. The inner space therefore becomes womblike and the eye tends to delve into the centre of the main border, seeing between the outer edge of plants, through the widely spaced calamagrostis, through to the inner space. At certain spots the visitor can glimpse right through to the otherside, while elsewhere it is blocked.
The seasons bring immense change but its hard to say which I like the most. Truth be known these sort of naturalistic gardens, with their simple pallette and spacing between the plants mean that they look splendid in autumn and winter as well as in summer. Is East Anglia with its drier climate better suited to this style than elsewhere...I simply don't know but I am hooked!
The light dappled shade cast by the birches makes this one of my favourite gardens; inviting, enticing and so changeable as to the light and the seasons all creating very different moods.
The Hokusai Garden comes to its zenith in September and October when the miscanthus flowers. Its fluffy panicles become the disintegrating claws of the cresting wave in the woodcut.
The seedheads last right through until March when they are cut down for their annual trim. Winter sunlight looks super as it lightly catches the seedheads; the soft colouring is perfect against the old stone walls of the house.
In mid to late summer the Verbena bonariensis adds colour to the scene and provides nectar for bees and butterflies.
When the autumn winds blow, this garden takes on a completely different identity with its billowing surf, angry tossing and turning and a strong whistling sound as the grasses strain backwards and forewards.
Mark Rothko's paintings in the Rothko Room at Tate Modern have inspired two garden rooms. Bronze leaved hedging plants are being clipped to form living pictures in front of walls of hornbeam. Prunus, berberis and beech all have slightly different depths of dark colours and textures while the beech has a wonderful shiny character bouncing off the light. Here there are subtle differences which weave together and create an intricate pattern, merging, overlapping sometimes to the fore, sometimes behind. The onlooker has to stop and stare and look....taking a moment to search and contemplate.
The plan has now taken good shape, with the dark berberis, prunus and fagus adding huge depth and richness to the panels. It is a garden of emotion, contemplative and enclosing.
In the second room we added a new panel based on Green on Maroon 1961 which we saw one February at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. This was the year in which an important exhibition was devoted to his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first solo show which that museum had dedicated to an artist of the New York School.
In between the two rooms, a tall Irish yew has been planted in centre position inspired by Barnet Newman's 'Broken Obelisk' outside the Houston Chapel. Last autumn we visited MOMA in New York and the Philips Gallery in Washington where we saw more of Rothko's work as well as a second copy of the Broken Obelisk. It was a memorable experience. We also admired The Red Studio by Henri Matisse.
Piet Mondrian inspired eighteen year old Jonathan Brown (our son) to paint this wall. Beautifully balanced and wonderfully colourful it lifts my spirit whenever I see it. Simple grass formed the foreground but then in 2003 red and yellow crab apples were planted to create a living screen echoing the idea of Mondrain's Red Tree.
Then in spring 2008 we planted a garden of ornamental grasses in front of the wall with a seat between the two crab apple trees. In front of the seat there is now a 3m square paving pattern loosely inspired by his last painting Jazz Boogie Woogie. The grasses have now grown up and the trees fruit well so htat the wall now lies settled in the landscape, seen full frontal and partly through a veil depending on the angle and season. Of course all is laid bare once the grasses are cut in early March..
ClOFiOFF THE HOOKo add text.
The Hokusai Garden is inspired by The Great Wave off Kanagawa 1831 with its dramatic peaks and troughs interpreted through waves of tall miscanthus and calamagrostis balanced by the green lawn which disects the two beds. Miscanthus Goliath and Professor Richard Hansen were chosen for their impressive extra height. Miscanthus Flamingo, front right, with its graceful dropping pink heads forms a softer mound at the entrance, not unlike the smaller peaked wave which echoes Mount Fuji to the left front of Hokusai's woodcut.
Claude Monet insprired a large new garden in front of and between the Rothko Rooms creating a 180degree vista. It is inspired by Monet's Waterlily paintings where his reflections often show broad patches of gold with only small highlights of pink lilies. A very restricted pallette of grasses has been chosen to create this broad sweep, with pink echinaceas to provide the pinpricks of colour. Blue geraniums will add further colour, along with creamy white bidens, yellow solidagos and purple verbeans.
As the low evening light sweeps across it, something of Monet's magic appears. Well its true in summer and autumn; but as the midday sun moves behind in winter the area is transformed again; as the miscanthus seedheads catch the light and act as shimmering bulbs. So, so beautiful from close up or far away.