Monday, July 13, 2009

A Question of Style: Do You Have A Preference?

A Question of Style
Do you have a preference?

So many gardens.... so little time
A fitting summary of my personal approach, when I plan a garden sojourn. Mapping out a journey generally results in an itinerary that takes in gardens of every persuasion.

Lately I find the modern language of visionary, iconoclastic designers most challenging and engaging. They draw me into their process, one of reinterpreting the elements of a garden. 

Often raising the question: What is a Garden? The designer's reinvention of how such elements come together stirs me to learn this new language.

And so, I enjoy expansive spaces defined by sleek, clean lines. I also revel in an exuberantly planted cottage garden, or a serene Japanese landscape. I soak up the manicured formality of atmospheric historic settings, and seek out over-the-top urban retreats: those densely-planted, art-laden gardens created by zealous collectors.

The English garden tradition knocks my socks off. I've been totally enchanted by the intimate confines of a B&B garden, and the renowned landscapes of National Trust properties.

In all my travels, one garden stands out as having left me fairly cold. I hesitate to name it, because if statistics are correct, it may well be the most visited garden in the world. That says something about my taste in gardens, even as I've been describing my bent as being of a catholic character.

I love the idea of exchanging viewpoints, so I'm dedicating this post to Esther Montgomery. See Esther's comment on the previous post, and visit her on:

Esther, I believe you might well be unimpressed with the modern aspects of the Alchemist's botanical garden. And the black and red gardens you might dislike, too, although they were newly installed when I photographed them.

But I have a hunch!
If you walked through the white garden in the early morning or at dusk, when no one else is around and the roses are blooming (iceberg roses bloom for months on end in Provence), I really think you'd find the unfolding panorama along the winding paths to your liking.

Waddesdon Manor - 2001
Click on the link to see an earlier post: A Garden Without Plants - A Dialogue


  1. I love the carpet bedding image, beautiful.

  2. I like the idea of a post being dedicated to me. I'm feeling all warm and chuffed inside.

    I might like the white garden if they took the pond out . . . but the red garden with the star looks like a crematorium and the square pond with the slate looks like somewhere abandoned and the terracotta planters look like the chimneys of a terrace buried and I'd be tempted to add my own washing to the sheets or white curtains tied to poles in the last photo.

    Can I have another post dedicated to me now?


    P.S. Whenever I go out to see how my 'Woking Belle' is doing, I think of you. And I think about how funny you would find it if ever you went to Woking. And I wonder what it will be like when none of my family can get out of the house because 'La Belle' has taken over during the night.

    P.P.S. I once had a landlady who asked me to look at some fabric samples and say which I thought would be the best design for re-upholstering her furniture with . . . and there wasn't one single one that I liked even slightly . . . so I struggled with my taste and tried to imagine which one would be best if it were the same as hers. It's hard work that kind of thing.

    P.P.P.S. Is 'taste' the same as 'style'?

    P.P.P.P.S. I recognise that a lot of thought and work has gone into the garden at Mas de la Brune and, although I don't like the result - I do respect that.


  3. Nice blog with very nice pictures. Keep it up the good work.

  4. For my personal garden I have planted a dense tropicalesque sanctuary - that translates into big bold foliage plants along with a healthy dose of succulents and bromeliads. - A collectors garden who channels Bali.

    If given the freedom of choice in style from my clients I tend to gravitate to a contemporary line , unless the architecture is so powerful that it influences the planting style.

  5. Alice Thank you for faving my blog. I hope you enjoyed my recent Hampton Court posts still more to come. There is much there for every taste.
    I often peek at your posts but you have probably guessed my taste is more towards the cottage garden style and landscape and architecture on a large scape in garden design does nothing for me. I don't understand why, as I enjoy a natural landscape.
    I look forward to yours and Esther's spirited debate.
    I do hope my post Lime for lyme has helped others to be more aware of this horrible illness and hasn't put people off from visiting my garden blogs.

  6. I like both styles–chaotic cottage and fancy formal. My front yard is a "cacophony" of flowers, plants & shrubs. The backyard is lines, rows, columns and hardscape. When I travel I like to see both. I am now intrigued though–I want to know what famous garden leaves you cold.

  7. Sassafrass, the detail photo gives a sense of the overall texture and interplay of color. It was luscious to see, but I was frustrated at not being able to capture an overview of the entire design. It was vast.

    Esther, Esther... the shallow pond is a focal point where one is able to stop and smell the roses! Its clear water reflects the sky above, while the circular shape adds a note of harmony, and helps to unify the design. But moreover, its stillness is serene and the stone is beautiful.

    Is 'taste' the same as style? We must debate that point further!

    Thank you, Beth, for your kind words.

    DD, great to hear from a designer, and one of your skill and talent. I find it interesting to consider how your own garden reflects your personality & joie de vivre, while you tend to design with contemporary lines for clients. I think we create gardens for ourselves that are set apart in many ways.

    Joanne, the information on Lyme disease is very important; thank you.
    I hope you'll continue to 'peek' at the posts. I'm featuring a wider variety of gardenscapes and green settings.

    Jim, I love that you have integrated 2 distinct approaches in your garden. How wonderful to be able to enjoy that diversity! And how cool that you've expressed 2 different aspects, dare I guess, of yourself?


  8. I admire gardens of all styles, but as a plant nerd with a background in art I love the interplay of light & shadow, the contrast of colors & textures & the experimentation of plant marriages. In other words a little chaos with flair!

  9. As a plant nerd with a fine art background I love all styles of gardens, but I especially love the interplay of light & shadow, color & texture, and experimentation with plant marriages.

  10. Alice, thank you for the post and great images! I have a mix of several garden styles in my garden and enjoy it.

  11. Susie, "Chaos with flair" sounds irresistible!

    Tatyana, Are we not lucky to be 'in charge' of our personal spaces, and able to do just as we please. A statement, rather than a question.

    Cheers, Alice

  12. I have worn his perfume but was not aware that Oscar enjoys garden design too. Enjoyed your post Alice and am wondering which is the garden that left you cold. Can you give us a clue e.g. country ? :)

  13. Anna,
    I've been pondering just how to reveal more about the garden in question.
    Your question might be the perfect introduction. Think: Canada.

  14. Alice, I love this post and your question has me thinking! Do I have a preferred style? I've been in many gardens and not one has completely turned me off. I've been fortunate to have felt at home in a few...One interesting note...I have a naturalistic garden but when i added a bit of grass as a calming effect...surprise! I really love it and apparently needed it! Every garden needs a place where one can rest, pause, breath; just my opinion...but thank you for asking! gail

  15. Gail, Creating a calming effect is an interesting aspect of garden design. After years of planting and planting! with barely room at all to sit, I removed a section of a long border that enlarged my tiny patio area. I was equally surprised to find this was just what was required. Thanks for visiting!

  16. Yes, that's the question, what IS a garden. And how interesting that most people nowadays call their garden the yard (front or back). And really, they treat it as if it were just an expanse of concrete, or rather, let the mow-and-blow crew take care of it.

    For me, a garden that's beloved by someone is a garden, even if it's not my style. If people actually care, that's enough.

  17. TM, I'm not a zealot, BUT... if I could banish leaf blowers & gas lawn mowers I would die feeling I'd accomplished something (probably lawns, too - but maybe lawns will undergo a sea change. Maybe there are appropriate grasses or grass like plants on the horizon to replace the thirsty, inappropriate grasses. Or not. Maybe folks will get the hang of replacing grass with low-water species boasting color, texture and form.)

    Beloved is a fine word, a word that's an excellent point to spin off from if we are to conjure up the definition of a garden.

  18. Different aspects of myself? I'm thinking that's a polite way of saying I'm dealing with multiple personalities. And we agree with you.