Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Take a Walk on the Wildside


The Sock has let you all down badly and missed the opportunity to dig for some interesting bits of gossip about Matthew Wilson. Boohoo!

It all started after the Sock blogged about Keith Wiley's wonderful planting at The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum a few weeks ago. Martyn Cox commented that Keith Wiley's own garden 'Wildside' was even better and was also the subject of a new TV programme. As 'Wildside' is only open to the public on Thursdays the Sock bit the bullet and emailed Mr. Wiley asking if would be possible to see the garden at the weekend as she wanted to write about it for 'The Sea of Immeasurable Gravy' voted Best Bloggywog Ever. This was very brave as the 'hand behind the Sock' is usually rather unassuming. It paid off as Keith Wiley replied to say that his wife (the artist Ros Wiley) was taking part in an Open Studio event for ten days and the adjoining garden would also be open.


The studio entrance to the garden was crammed with Ros Wiley's vivid artwork much of which had been inspired by landscapes which in turn had inspired the garden. Five years ago Wildside was a flat field but working together with his wife, Keith Wiley has transformed it into a sculptured garden with curves, corners, mounds, slopes and valleys, a stream bed snaking around one side waiting to be filled with water. The planting is extraordinarily rich in texture creating a flowing tapestry of colour and form.

Geysers of grasses gush out from the landscape amongst acers, agapanthus and sedums.

Turning a corner the mood changed.. a flat lawn with apple trees surrounded by dreamier softer colours of purples and blues where Keith Wiley was weeding amongst a profusion of pink colchicum. An opportunity to get the low-down! But instead of saying "Hi - I'm Arabella Sock" and gleaning an in-depth interview the Sock lost her bottle and just smiled and said predictably "Hi, I love your garden".


Keith Wiley told us that Channel 4 had been filming the garden for part of the 'Landscape Man'* series. The Sock expressed her pleasure that at last we would have a programme where the garden was the star performer (eclipsing even the charms of Matthew 'Darcy' Wilson) when Wiley wryly said "Actually, the producers were keen to document the 'human element' behind the garden - how my wife and I battled adversity and stress to build it." "Oh what a shame" intoned the Sock "gardens are supposed to be relaxing". "It wasn't stressful until they turned up" laughed Wiley and the Sock didn't think he was entirely joking.

At this point, of course, the Sock should have got the lowdown on the whole thing, but having not mentioned she was a Sock already (a confession which, let's face it, most people would shy from) it seemed rude to grill Wiley for gossip she might use on her blog. Pfft! The Sock's roving reporter days are over before they began.

What the Sock did take from 'Wildside' (apart from a book**) was a complete revision in her ideas about planting schemes. The Sock has always preferred to plant like with like, grasses with succulents, shrubs in a shrubbery, carefully colour coded flowering plants together in a matching harmony. Keith Wiley's disregard for these notions of propriety created a garden full of movement and excitement where, as he said "No plant is allowed to be a prima-donna". Prized acers rubbed shoulders with prairie plantings to create a synergy where the whole gardenscape was greater than any individual plants. The Sock intends to liberate her unhappily-potted acers and merge them into the borders.


* The eagerly awaited 'Landscape Man - Grand Designs in the Garden' series appears to have been postponed until next year along with the publication of Matthew Wilson's book! That means no gardening programmes of any interest for ages and no inspiration for the Sock either!!

** The Sock bought Keith Wiley's book 'On the Wildside - Experiments in New Naturalism' from his time at the Garden House. It's worth it for the pictures alone.

15 comments:

Fat Rascal said...

I think you should keep your anonymity and mystery and Scarlet Pimpernel persona.

Did the garden really look as autumnal as it does in the photos? I love the planting but wonder what it looks like in other seasons.

Arabella Sock said...

I've seen pictures of it in summer where it is even more colourful as there are different coloured flowers intermingled. The pictures definitely have autumnal colours but when I was there it felt like a 'late summer' garden rather than an autumnal one if you know what I mean.

emmat said...

apparently alys has a veg growing series next year too.

If there is EVER a good gardening programme on tv again i will be amazed

I love the grasses, and i LOVE the 'geysers of grasses' tee hee there's something rude about that imagery....

JamesA-S said...

Ahem..."no gardening programmes of any interest for ages" ?
I think you may perhaps be mistaken, Madam la Sock.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZsSk4tQZIY

Arabella Sock said...

That's not a programme James that is a trailer. (Actually I like watching trailers and the 'coming shortlys' at the cinema are often better than the main films).

Would that we had a full hour of Cleve shakin his booty at us. You should get on with making it so!

YAN said...

I'm with Fat Rascal, you should retain your aura of mystery.

However, if Keith Wiley ever looks up from his very beautiful garden and remembers to check the Best Bloggywog Ever, he will recognise you in retrospect.


I wonder why those boys were not standing by the compost heap at the beginning of that film clip...

Ms B said...

Just think, if you had introduced yourself Wryly Wiley might well have been so over-awed & star-struck you might never have got another word out of him!

Wonderful planting & a description to match!

Arabella Sock said...

I think Wryly Wiley was more likely to wonder why this odd woman had coleslaw stuck in her hair - a remnant from the picnic we had just had whilst watching an osprey at a nearby nature reserve. The Bedsock can never understand why I always seem to get food in my hair, it just happens.

For my Art 'A' level billions of years ago I used to do pictures worked in fabric and thread. Looking at 'Wildside' I really felt like I wanted to try and capture the essence of the garden in that way. Perhaps I'll try that as a winter project and see if I can create the gushing geysers in thread!

Rothschild Orchid said...

Oh god I'm so depressed! What do you mean no Matthew Wilson until next year? Sob!

HappyMouffetard said...

Lovely imagery you conjure of the planting 9and photos too). Do you often decorate yourself with food, Arabella? I seem to remember you covering yourself at Chelsea, too.

Arabella Sock said...

RO.. I read on some Hort Weak blog that the programme was being postponed and then when I checked Amazon to see when the book was out it had been moved from September to March next year. :( It isn't fair as we need some decent programme to sustain us over the winter.. Well if they won't show us the 'Wilson files' then the Sock will just have to create them!

HappyM - I just don't know how it happens. I have untidy curly hair and there is always something stuck in it, crumbs, a leaf, spiders, (that last is true I walked into a web today and the spider ended up in my hair EEEK!!). A bee once got tangled up in it and the Bedsock took the opportunity to slap me hard across the head in order to kill it before it stung me. It stung me anyway plus it hurt where he hit me!!!! :( :(

VP said...

I can't believe I missed this entry in my Follow list of blogettes the other day :o

I've had all of Keith Wiley's books on my Amazon wishlist for aaaages, so I could present the list to NAH in time for that C word I won't mention until December. However, with the absence of MW (sob!) from our screens until next year, I think I need to take my credit card out for a bit of light retail therapy.

There's nothing like a bit of comfort reading now the nights are drawing in...

Martyn Cox said...

The garden looks magnificent. I visited way back in 2006 when he had only just started to plant up what was at the time, a moonscape. I must return now everything has started to mature.

Anna said...

I was fortunate to be in the area last month on a Thursday afternoon returning home from a holiday. Usually we make a beeline for 'The Garden House' but not this time. Greatly enjoyed my visit to Wildside and will be now be looking out for the television programme. Have started a blog post on my visit - you have beaten me to it with the title :)

Arabella Sock said...

Hi Anna

I'm afraid the post title wasn't the most original and I suspect everyone who writes about it uses it! LOL

I'm looking forward to reading your blog about the garden.