Monday, 30 December 2013

Every picture tells a story....

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Rue in Surgeres

For some time I have been planning to transfer the Sock family photo archives onto my computer.  This is an enormous task as we travelled extensively around Europe when I was a child, my parents whisking us out of school for a month every year in order for my father to drive us to some far flung (by those days standards) destination like Dubrovnik.  We saw a lot of Europe - but mainly from the back of the car, it was called 'touring'.  I keep meaning to write about some of these adventures on my Fourth Plate blog but that means prompting my memories with the thousands of archived 35mm transparencies, each one taking an age to transfer and clean up in photoshop.  I get too easily distracted every time I start this task, either by something else on the computer which demands my attention or, as in this case, a curiousity about some particular photographs.

These are dated 1965 and labelled 'Surgères (The Garden City)'. We were travelling from Sable D'Olonne down the Atlantic coast towards Biarritz (my first but by no means my last visit to the latter which became a favourite holiday haunt over the years). Surgères would be close to our route but I can find no record of there being a garden festival or garden city there at that time although it would appear to be somewhere we stopped at with a purpose so something must have drawn the Socks to this small French town.


 The picture I find most haunting from a 'time gone by' is the one at the top of this blog, a road in Surgères. The complete lack of traffic or parked cars, the tortured trees forming rather attractive archways across the road, the very 'Frenchness' of it all.  

At the Bedsock's suggestion I checked Surgères out on Google Earth, it's not a big place and although it has plenty of greenery there is no obvious Rue of tunnelled trees.

YoungMaSock (pictured below) had obviously found some horticultural delights for us to sample. I wonder if she nicked the oranges when no-one was looking - certainly I remember us eating foraged fruits on our holidays and knowing MaSock's liking for food for free it wouldn't surprise me.


BroSock and I don't look particularly impressed with the donkey!


This below was probably the height of horticultural sophistication at the time!


This last photo is of Bayonne further south down the coast  - another of the Sock's favourite French places.

Bayonne 1965

French municipal planting probably hasn't changed a great deal since then (although they often do a good roundabout, far more imaginative than the majority of British ones!)  It's the sort of planting scheme that Anne Wareham must surely hate but personally I think it has just a hint of je ne sais quoi!

I remember the dress, YoungMaSock had made it as she did most of my clothes - many of them extremely pretty and remembered with great fondness until MaSock discovered the joys of drip-dry, no-iron crimplene and my wardrobe took a drastic turn for the worse.  The Clarks, T bar sandals and white ankle socks were standard wear for little girls - I was still forced to wear them to school into my teens often changing into tights and slightly more sophisticated shoes when I was half way down the road and out of MaSock's sight.

You can see how I get distracted! There are another 90 photos to go on this holiday alone.  Doesn't look like SockTowers will be cleaned any time soon!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Savillers in the Mist

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Christmas coloured cornus brightens the misty mood

Time for the 'Ladies who Launch' pre-Chrimbo meet and this time the chosen venue is the delightful Savill Garden in posh Surrey.  Leaving the bright blue skies of sunny Brighton behind I headed up the M23 in the Sockmobile - a hair-raising  journey of frequent fog patches worsening the nearer I got to the Savill Garden. By the time I arrived I could barely see my 'Ladies' through the mist!


A steaming mug of coffee in the fine cafeteria at the visitors centre and we were ready to brave the penetrating damp cold.  It seemed such a shame to be visiting at this time of year, that brown, soggy, mournful, misty season when the dreary autumn leaves have dropped into damp decaying piles and everything is a bit dead or glum.  Add to this mournful scene the swirl of a dull grey smog and reasons to be cheerful were rapidly vanishing. Or so I thought...

A brocade of dying flower heads in rich autumn hues

How wrong could I be? Apart from the delightful company of my silly friends who always light up any occasion - the gardens themselves were fantastic! A lesson in how winter creates its own wonderland without the need of Santa and snow to show it off.  The rich brown and purple autumn hues were punctuated with the brightest of Christmas reds. (Double clic on any picture to get a better slideshow, as usual blogger fuzzes the photos slightly.)

Tree bark redder than  a reindeer's nose!

Every tree, every fallen leaf, every shrivelled bud or fruit on tree had its own form, and texture creating wonderful patterns .

A carpet of silver and brown

 Whilst the wider landscape was enshrouded in mist



the minutiae was all, I couldn't look at it without imagining it inspiring the finest textiles rich with pattern and threadwork, embossed with the tiny crystals of dew on spider's webs. 


Whilst my fellow 'Ladies' are both very knowledgeable about horticulture (LazyTrollop applies her talents gardening for people and the Highly Organised Helen Reeley has her own Landscape business) I am not particularly a plantsperson.  I garden by colour and texture as far as possible with random regard to any rules - much as I live the rest of my life.  Had I listened properly, I may have heard my companions naming the various trees and shrubs we passed but I was too busy  recounting the latest set of disasters to befall the Socks and my "Why I hate Christmas" stories. I was stopped in my tracks (for a while) by this fabulous tree, which I think they agreed was some sort of malus. With its tiny yellow and red fruits just beginning to shrivel - it looked like a modern art picture  This was my absolute favourite


We moved onto the rose garden which I didn't realise was designed in 2010 by twitter friend Andrew Wilson (@andrewwilsonii).  It was a shame we hadn't read the blurb (interesting piece in the Telegraph here ) because it was quite marvellous and it always adds to the occasion when you can associate a place with someone you know. The walkway in the centre reminded me of the prow of the titanic and impossible not to indulge in the Winslet/DiCaprio thing at the end.   [LazyTrollop took the pictures here so I can't share those with you until I have persuaded her to let me have one and then photoshopped out any superfluous chins and wrinkles.]

It was obvious from the moment we entered the Savill Garden that everything was immaculately kept, even down to the perfect edging of the borders.  Nowhere was this truer than in the rose garden where Helen voiced her astonishment at the extraordinary way all the roses had been pruned to exactly the same shape and size, as if someone with an extreme OCD had been in control of the secateurs. The overall ordered effect was very pleasing even in its winter bareness. In summer standing on the walkway with the scent of the roses rising up to its prow must be a very special experience.

 We warmed up in the greenhouse where despite the no-entry barrier stopping people tramping all over the Chistmas display, Helen was determined to get a robin on her hat again like last year..

Helen & robin 2012
Helen and robin 2013

Unfortunately, after we had left, a naughty child entered the display and chucked fake snow at us. Really some children should be kept under control!

Shiny bark like chic Christmas wrapping paper

On to the New Zealand garden - this was being constructed when I visited with the Bedsock some years ago and we had always meant to return to see it. Here again the joy was in the form,  this ocean of carex comans rolling waves of grass onto the shoreline


I found the subtle shades of autumn leaves caught up in this curly stemmed bush most amusing


It may just be clumps of blue grass but the patterns formed when grown en masse like this add a whole new dimension


Who needs to buy tinsel when spiders can spin it for  free?



The cafeteria food is good and my fellow Ladies felt the visitors centre was one of the most beautiful architectural buildings they had seen (I was not quite as taken with it).  The gardens have obviously got a lot to offer at all times of year - I visited with the Bedsock previously in early Autumn and the hydrangea collection was a revelation. No faded pastels of old lady pants here - these hydrangeas are chic and classy!

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Savill and will ensure my next one is not a long time coming.






Monday, 2 December 2013

Wisley Autumn Wonderland


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Feeling in need of a bit of autumn colour and some banana cake I knew it must be time for a RHS Wisley fix before the full winter drab sets in.  The sky just the blend of blue sky'd, storm clouded, sunshine that lends itself to vibrant colours and a decent photo. (clic on any pic to enlarge and get a sharper pic). Sometimes I wonder if the fact I wear transitions lenses has both intensified colours but made my life seem stormier than necessary the dark contributing to my winter SAD.


I had been in two minds whether to brave Wisley on a busy weekend - more so since the Craft Fair was sure to draw in a whole lot more visitors than usual.  But as usual I had forgotten that most folk mill around the shops and cafes maybe taking a short route to the glasshouse - the rest dissipating around the large gardens all able to find a quiet space of their own.  That having been said some noisy kid still managed to stand in the way of one of my photos for a good five minutes!

I love these echinops? I can't believe I used to cut down all the dead flower heads of plants in my garden to 'tidy' it for the winter.  These will look even more magical sprinkled silver with winter frost.


 The colours and textures around were just stunning.. enlarging parts of the various photos revealed the fine threads of the autumn tapestry - one of the things I love about photoshop!


The 'cornus' pond! I always gravitate towards this on my autumn/winter visits


I liked the way the neatly piled gunnera leaves echo the roof of the pagoda


No visit to Wisley is complete without cake.  The main Conservatory cafe is closed until mid-January to be re-opened as a food hall with even bigger slices of banana cake! As it was the smaller cafe near the Glasshouse was somewhat disorganised and overwhelmed by the extra crowds and I didn't have my usual 'Ladies who Launch' with me to gossip with over lunch.  But sitting outside with a view of the borders and aforementioned cake in front of me it would be difficult to feel anything but content.

A sudden shaft of sunlight backlit these grasses making their feathery heads glow.


Just time for a quick whizz around the Craft fair and a foray into the plant shop to buy some (hopefully) rather tasteful Christmas decorations.   I feel restored - the wonder of Wizzers has worked its magic on me again.