C'est Inspiré is simply that - what is inspiring. Where the words end, images continue to speak. Seeing all that is around us, we seek some aspect of something that is life enhancing... something that you would like to be reminded of - to revisit. Something to capture and bring into your world, not leave behind... . That is why I take a camera everywhere; have spent countless hours organizing images in scrapbooks and pouring over them later to revisit the place, the people, the memory.
So, C'est Inspiré may be a single photo - or it may be 50, it may mean one thing to me, another to you - the meaning isn't important. Did it inspire? Did it make you smile? Did it bring back a pleasant memory? One or all of the above will do.
During a brief period of his life, the legendary art historian Bernard Berenson kept diaries where he wrote about how to see - and what he saw. These diaries were published under the title The Passionate Sightseer and edited by Raymund Mortimer.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can be a passionate sightseer - just look.
Gardens : Reflecting on the Summer Garden
The robust period of summer garden blooms has now passed. Roses are still carrying on, the lilies are spreading their perfume and dahlias are strutting their seasonal stuff, but the tall, undulating, dense herbaceous borders and flowering vines have said adieu. Taking photographs of the garden all summer allows me to enjoy it in the off-season and to reflect on improvements to be made next year, because there are ALWAYS improvements to be made. My list is already in formation, because that is what gardeners do. BUT until then, a little bit of reflection will last, well, until spring. – CAM
“I repeated my question to a middle-aged nymph, who wore a feathered hat of noble proportions over a loose green tunic with a silver belt, and she replied with a rapturous disdain of the ignorance, which presumed to ask What is a garden for? For the soul sir, for the soul of the poet! For visions of the invisible, for grasping the intangible, for hearing the inaudible, for exaltations above the miserable dullness of common life into the splendid regions of imaginations and romance.”
-Samuel Reynolds Hole from OUR GARDENS, 1899.
“The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker, for it involves hours of walking around in circles, apparently doing nothing. What I’m doing is forcing myself to evaluate certain areas: criticizing the planting, noting seasonal gaps and making imaginary moves in my head. ….Gardening is the organization of living, ever-changing organisms and therefore must be an everlasting, ever-circling process of looking, thinking and looking again.”
-Hellen Dillon from GARDEN ARTISTRY, 1995.
“…Green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart. A good garden cannot be made by somebody who has not developed the capacity to know and to love growing things.”
-Russell Page from THE EDUCATION OF A GARDENER, 1962.
“So when I make a plea for havoc, what would be lost? Merely the pristine appearance of a garden kept highly manicured which could be squandered for amiable disorder. Just in some places. Just to give a pull at our primeval senses. A mild desire. For amorphous co-fusion which will gently infiltrate and, given time will one day set the garden singing.”
-Mirabel Osler from A GENTLE PLEA FOR CHAOS, 1988.
“Gardens are refuges in search of replenishment. We retreat to them as to a safe haven. With their innumerable qualities we use them in a variety of ways, for inspiration or freedom, for discovery or surrender…”
-Mirabel Osler, from BREATH FROM ELSEWHERE, 1997.
August 19, 2013
Gardens : Green Architecture
By Charlotte Moss
Just as an empty chair welcomes a visitor with its open arms so does the approach to a house created by an allée of trees. The same principle, invitation, turned inside out. So much of what we do in decorating, architecture, and in the landscape is translated from one to the other. While architecture is the backbone of the house, trees may provide that same structure to the garden. When we build walls, we add hedges, when we lay floors, we create hardscape, when we add decorative objects we add sculpture, fountains, topiary, and flowers. If you are lucky enough to start with the proverbial blank slate you have the opportunity to create a house that is of the landscape, one with it, a harmonious unit where the conversation between bricks and mortar, trees and shrubs is non-stop. The architecture of green strategically placed and shaped will seamlessly add square footage to the footprint of a house. It can provide vistas that seem to extend the acreage, can frame a foundation like an Elizabethan collar, or create a wall of privacy placing your house at the center of your own secret garden. Russell Page said, “when I come to consider a garden plan in detail my first concern will be the house. All that part of the garden which lies near it must be planned as carefully as the house itself.” A picture may be worth a thousand words, nevertheless, I have added a few more in the captions below. Architecture, green or granite, it is all the same.
November 2, 2012
Gardens : Topiary Magic Revealed
Topiaries, and topiary gardening, is an art that has always fascinated me. A masterful craft, topiary gardening requires creative vision, some engineering and most of all – the patience to watch your garden grow…. Here are some photos from a recent tour of French gardens, and other inspirations….
From the book L’Art des Topiaires,
by Rosenn Le Page & Hubert Puzenat
Some plants that work well for indoor topiaries -
Check with your nursery or florist….
- English Ivy
- Creeping Fig (Ficus Pumila)
- Myrtle (myrtus communis and myrtus appiculata)
- Herbs – Rosemary, Thyme, Sage
And for Topiary Standards…
- Roses, Geraniums, Fuschias, Oranges, Ficus Benjamina, Lauris Nobilis or Sweet Bay….
Other English topiary gardens open to the public are…
- Great Dixter
- Puddletown, Dorset
- Packwood House
- Lapworth, Warwickshire
For more information on the French gardens listed in this story:
Chateau d’Ainay-le-Vieil – http://chateau-ainaylevieil.fr/
Chateau de Marqueyssac – http://www.marqueyssac.com/
Chateau de Hautefort – http://www.chateau-hautefort.com/
Le Vieux Logis – http://www.vieux-logis.com/uk/index.php
September 1, 2011
Gardens : The End of Summer
The end of summer quietly announces itself –
Roses on the wane, legginess in the herbaceous border, a potager less than plentiful – clematis paniculata blanketing anything and everything, and the apples soon ready for picking.
Each year during the last week of August and the first part of September, I gather what is still blooming, mix it with leaves, herbs, and often-times branches and vines from the woods nearby, to create my last bouquets of summer. I photograph each one as a reminder of the ‘flower friends’ that cling to the end of the season. They give me another reason to examine what worked in the garden this year, and the research needed to make it better next year.
This year I have harvested the lemon verbena, dried it in flat baskets and stored it in air-tight containers to make infusions after dinner parties this winter. Leaves dried to be enjoyed all winter are an important note, connecting one year to the next. Labor Day weekend pestos were made with parsley, combined with pistachios as well as several varieties of basil (which thrived this summer)… soon to be tossed with fusilli.
While I feel somewhat like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, there are many plants that are faithful September friends. After a long Sunday morning beach walk with a good friend, we walked back to her home and took in the garden. She is an expert gardener, with an enviable knowledge of horticulture. Her garden includes perfectly clipped boxwoods, with pyramids of sculpted hornbeam and a wall of hydrangea serving as a backdrop. I delight in my own hydrangeas each year. The robust white clusters of these flowers announce the end of summer, and serve as symbols of hope. They offer a visual and psychological transition – a smooth passage to another abundant season.
I came away with two ideas, as one cannot help themselves when visiting such a garden…. A gorgeous tree - fagus sybiatica rohani – a curly leafed member of the beech family, the dark green leaves of which are shadowed with red. Where to place one in my garden? Something to ponder this winter.
The other idea for borders, against walls or around my fountain, laburia guarantica – “Argentine sky,” beautiful and delicate spires of blue. When my salvias have gone their flowering distance, this one takes the baton into fall. I look forward to gathering more ideas – from other friends, or on my own , whenever that might be – visiting famous gardens or just reading a book by the fire, trying to visualize what I am plotting and scheming, perhaps dreaming.
As this summer melts into fall, I feel great about my garden this year. A garden of twenty years – plotted, planned, bulldozed, ripped apart & replanted, prayed for and most of all enjoyed. I have photographed every corner and every plant. I have scrapbooks that remind me time and time again that gardens, like houses, are living breathing things. They are ‘a work in progress.’ People often ask “are you done” – they clearly do not understand. What does “done” mean? I never want to be done – the joy is in the doing, the puttering, the planning, the planting, the arranging…that soothing cup of tea, the fragrant pesto for dinner and the flower arrangement for the table. Simple pleasures – and luxurious ones at that!
All photography by Charlottte Moss.
September 30, 2009
Gardens : Three Countries, Four Gardens, Hundreds of Photos – Endless Enjoyment!
Gardens are often obsessions – they provide distractions from other responsibilities, although having one is a responsibility itself. Petrarch, the 18th C. Italian poet, considered gardens ideal for poetry, instruction and introspection. They can provide food, maybe just flowers, or perhaps none of the above – simply a green tapestry clipped, pruned, espaliered or pleached. Whatever its shape, size, location or purpose, we can unequivocally say that above all a garden is a source of delight – a patch of pleasure – a symbol of ourselves, a thing of beauty to be savored – every precious satisfying moment.
Every summer, when I plan a trip to Europe (I always create the time) it is my opportunity to get away – really away – and completely recharge. I plan extensively so that I can maximize each day visiting sites and soaking up the local culture. This year, it was a tour of villas and gardens for 8 days on Lakes Garda, Como & Maggiore in Northern Italy. Visits to France and England followed, for a photo shoot at Vaux-le-Vicomte and a visit to Mapperton House, nestled in the English countryside near Dorset, where the garden and surrounding parklands date back to the 16th Century.
The following is my travel scrapbook from three countries and four memorable gardens….
#1: Villa Balbianello
The undisputed star of lakeside villas, few places compare to the Villa Balbianello. The villa is situated idyllically, between the cool wind descending from the Swiss Alps to the North, and the warm Tuscan sun to the South. Built as a convent, the 18th Century date unknown, two small structures clung to the Dosso d’Avedo promontory – a jagged peninsula jutting out almost to the center of Lake Como. It was developed over time by several aristocratic Italian families to become the spectacular property that it is today. The 19th Century ushered in a new appreciation for the romantic landscape of the lakes region, as a vacationland and hot-bed of European society. Numerous paintings document the villa’s prominence, as it was passed from one illustrious familia to the next. It seems that each owner so cherished the property – which is bordered on three sides by the lake and on the fourth by a lush, wooded hillside – that it was lavishly maintained, even when empty for decades at a time. It not only survived occupation, a revolution, restoration and two world wars, it was never looted or defaced in any such way. Following the death of her husband and the end of World War I, the mysterious widow the Marquise Marie Arconati Visconti Peyrat reluctantly sold the property to an ambitious young American, Butler Ames. Ames and his wife spent every summer at the villa for the rest of their years (except during WWII), painstakingly restoring the 19th century interior. The guest book holds some of the world’s most famous names, including those of Mary Pickford and Jacqueline Kennedy.
In the Ames’ will, it was stipulated that Villa Balbianello could not be sold until at least 20 years after their death. Despite this romantic notion, that the villa would go on in its old world fashion, the family did sell exactly 20 years later, to the gentleman and world explorer, Guido Monzino. Monzino could not have been a better choice, contributing to the villa his great energy, vast resources and exquisite taste. He lived in the legendary house, inhabiting its hilltop perch, until his premature death in 1988. The residence and a significant sum of money dedicated to its maintenance, were donated to the FAI (Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano or The Italian Fund for the Environment).
The Official Website
#2: Isola Bella
Her terraced gardens glittering with Italian baroque marble and statuary, she beckons. One can only reach Isola Bella by water. The 17th Century home of a legendary family, the House of Borromeo, the villa at Isola Bella is grand, with architectural details, mosaics and vistas at every turn. However, the gardens are the elaborate, sensational frame around the picture. I wandered the tree-lined promenades, gazing on sparkling waters and the labors of man - elaborate stonework, garden ornaments and enormous topiaries provide focal points along the path.
Precursor to the divine opulence of Versailles, and the grand era of The Sun King, Vaux-le-Vicomte was the first collaboration of three legendary designers: landscape architect Andre Le Nôtre (1613-1700), architect Louis Le Vau (1612-1670) and the artist Charles Le Brun (1619-1690). Built between 1658 and 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, then Superintendent of Finance under King Louis XIV, the country chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte was the largest, most elaborate and certainly the most expensive house ever to have been built in France. The surrounding gardens and parkland was formerly the site of not one but three villages, which were purchased and then leveled to allow the vast sightlines, seeming to go on into infinity. Revered as the first “real” French garden, Vaux-le-Vicomte combines the baroque style with a new, grander sort of pomp – a magnificence later to be associated with King Louis XIV. The initial pleasure was short lived by the chateau’s owner, however. Following an enormous and infamous fête, held on the 17th of August 1661, the proud Fouquet was arrested, imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled…a harsh punishment for having out-fêted the king!
Avenues, allées, vistas, colonnades and tunnels all act as garden architecture and create a feeling of ceremony, anticipation, excitement, protection and discovery. Lime trees, hornbeam, beech, plane trees, apples, pears and more are planted according to mathematical formulas and then clipped and pruned with precision.
Not built as a “palace” to impress or to humble foreign leaders, this manor house was first built in the mid 16th century from the golden stone carved out of local hillsides. Perfected over the centuries by only four families who have lived here, there are several layers of gardening to be excavated. The buildings are set on a hill with a commanding view, starting with the formal gardens (as new as the 1920′s), the 17th century fish ponds, and followed by the lazy countryside…. Whether as a simple retreat from society, the perfect disembarkation point for a fox hunt, or the inspiration for Nancy Lancaster’s abstract topiary garden at Ditcheley, Mapperton stands as it has for almost 500 years – on its own.
All photography by Charlotte Moss.
September 10, 2009