Roy Strong Ornament in the Small Garden

ISBN 13: 9781552975602

Ornament in the Small Garden

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9781552975602: Ornament in the Small Garden

Whether practical or purely decorative, ornament is the most immediate way of bringing distinctive character to a small garden, and the very stylish Roy Strong is the ideal guide to the world of garden ornament. In this inspiring book, he shows how to consider size and scale, materials, shape, color and texture, and, crucially, he offers invaluable advice on placing ornament in the garden to best effect.

Ornament can provide an accent, create a surprise, enhance or disguise an existing feature, alter a perspective, evoke or complement a mood or feeling. It transforms the mundane and ordinary into something different and special, and makes a statement that reflects the gardener's taste and personality. Choosing from the huge range of available ornament, however, or creating your own individual piece, can seem daunting.

Superbly illustrated and including in-depth studies of 12 small gardens where ornament is used with particular success, and often with daring originality, Ornament in the Small Garden breaks free from convention and demonstrates the inspirational decorative possibilities.

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About the Author:

Sir Roy Strong is a well known historian and garden writer, lecturer, columnist, critic and regular contributor to both radio and television. He was director of England's National Portrait Gallery from 1967 to 1973 and director of the Victoria & Albert Museum from 1974 to 1987. He is also an enthusiastic gardener who has designed gardens for Elton John and Gianni Versace and contributed designs to the Prince of Wales's garden at Highgrove. His many books include Creating Small Gardens, Creating Small Formal Gardens, The Artist and the Garden, Royal Gardens and Garden Party.

What the critics said about Garden Party by Roy Strong

"His persona on the page is as large as life. This collection of witty stories about gardens and gardening amounts to the sort of conversation most people would love to join in."
-- BBC Gardeners'World

"Sir Roy writes with candour in a style that is intimate and accessible, and his ideas are imbued with energy and erudition."
-- Times Literary Supplement

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Discovering Ornament

I have just come in from walking around The Laskett garden on a chill early February day. Created almost thirty years ago, largely from an open field, and stretching now over some four acres, it can hardly be called a small garden. And yet in a sense it is, for it is made up of a series of small gardens, each one a compartment or a corridor beckoning the visitor to new delights and surprises. The leaves on the trees have long since fallen, leaving only the beauty of the pattern of the branches against the sky and the differing textures of the bark to contemplate. A few berries and fruits, those not taken by the birds, still spangle trees like the Crataegus crus-galli which I can see from my writing-room window. And for blossom there are hellebores in plenty along with the earliest spring flowers, snowdrops, crocus, aconites and puschkinias. All of this gives joy, but these incidents would add up to little without the keen delight and satisfaction gained from the garden's geometry and architecture. Dense green yew, clipped into hedges with swags and crenellations or standing as single topiary specimens, is a handsome sight in winter's sunshine. Beech which retains its rich caramel leaves adds a different colour to the palette, as do the myriad greens of thuja and juniper, box and holly. Nor should one forget the splashes of gold afforded by fastigiate golden yew and gilt-edged ilex. It is these seemingly fallow months which provide the yardstick by which to judge the success of a garden. But there is something else which needs to be added to that list: ornament.

Ornament was always in my mind from the moment my wife and I embarked on The Laskett garden in 1973. At that period my point of departure was unashamedly nostalgic, pictures of the great gardens of Renaissance and Baroque Italy with their statues of classical gods and goddesses, stately steps, mysterious grottoes and plashing fountains. To those were added similar pictures, but of the vanished country house gardens of Edwardian England, the world of Miss Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens, gardens articulated by the use of weathered brick and stone, a world of herringbone paths, handsome gate piers, trickling rills, sundials and pergolas. Those were the dreams to which I aspired, ones in which I hoped the inhabitants of Olympus would one day also terminate our garden vistas or flank entrances saluting the visitor and in which a sturdy brick-piered wisteria-hung pergola would lead us onwards.

But, alas, such a garden calls for a substantial chequebook, of a kind I did not have. However, we did what anyone should do in making a garden: got on with the planting, leaving spaces for the ornaments which would come as and when we could afford them. In the meantime I fudged things as best I could, for instance piling up rocks, which I found on site in the middle of what is now the Rose Garden, to form some sort of rudimentary focal point. Today I have replaced that with a handsome stone urn. But it is a point worth making. Ornament need not happen in a day. It can be a cumulative affair built up over the years. That is why I counsel not cementing items down initially, for you will find that as you acquire better things, you will want to move the earlier ones. Also first sitings are often the wrong ones -- as the garden grows or its structure changes, some ornaments suddenly seem ill-placed.

Siting is always crucial. I recall making endless rough groundplans, marking where an ornament should eventually go. What the ornament exactly would be was unclear in my mind but there would definitely be something. For years we had vistas which culminated in a blank space, but I knew that in the end they would be filled, as indeed they have been. But that took thirty years and we are still not wholly complete.

Let me say at once that I have no snobbery about garden ornament. Over the years our garden has taken in everything from reconstituted stone statues, urns and balustrading to antique pieces with fascinating histories, from concrete paviours purchased in the nearest garden centre, to Victorian ironwork and tiles from architectural salvage firms, from found objects, like broken china, to arches and trellis bought off the peg from a catalogue. Old and new are intermingled and the jeap jostles comfortably with the costly. Handled with skill and imagination they all form part of the same composition.

The earliest ornaments to arrive were indeed out of a catalogue; they were reproductions, in reconstituted stone, of originals often found in the gardens of some of the great English country houses. The excitement of the arrival in a van of the first two stone finials and an obelisk, all in pieces which I had to assemble, is difficult to recapture. They were to be part of my first attempt at a parterre in a yew room just planted. The finials were in the beds and the obelisk formed a terminating exclamation mark. All have long since migrated several times until they have finally come to rest, the finials on pedestals flanking a yew arch and the obelisk set as the culmination of a long vista from the Rose Garden.

This was but a preliminary canter. The first really serious ornament I could afford was again a reproduction, this time a facsimile of an imposing eighteenth-century urn. It was bought in 1980, the year I was given the Shakespeare Prize by a German foundation. I told the donors that the award money would commemorate the event in our garden. That decision prompted us to spread the commemorative concept through the rest of the garden. So what we call the Victoria & Albert Museum Temple, a small classical building, was erected in 1988 to mark the end of my fourteen years as the Museum's director. Later we added an inscription on the pediment, which says, in Greek, 'Memory, Mother of the Muses'. The Muses dwelt in a museum, our lives have been spent in the arts, and the garden in all its aspects was about memory, above all of our own lives and of our friends.

That inscription was a commissioned piece. The journey, therefore, had been made from reproduction to original. The inscription also represented something else pertinent to garden ornament: it can be embroidered upon. That Shakespeare Monument now sports two added plaques which spell out what it is about. Artists and craftsmen need work and garden pieces need not be costly commissions. Inscriptions are not expensive and give rich resonances to a place. One of my favourites is the roundel of slate at our garden's entrance (see page 7). Another adorns the base of a recumbent stone stag whose antlers have been painted gold: 'a circling row Of goodliest Trees loaden with fairest of Fruit, Blossoms and Fruit at once of golden hue Appeerd, with gay enameld colours mixt:'. Encircled with a ceramic garland of fruit and flowers, these lines, from the description of the Garden of Eden in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, speak of blossom and golden fruit and are perfect for the orchard over which the beast presides.

Over the years we have moved on from that tribute to the classical tradition. Colour has been one of our greatest discoveries. When we started gardening the vogue was for everything to be distressed. The phoney effect of moss- and lichen-decked ornament, crumbling seemingly from the hand of centuries, was achieved by painting a raw item with sour milk or yogurt. It took some time to discover that this passion for antiquing was a late-nineteenth-century phenomenon. In the past, garden ornament was often in bright and garish colours with an abundance of paint finishes from gilding to marbling. Those lead statues of shepherds and shepherdesses which graced the formal gardens of early Georgian England, for example, were once polychrome, and often placed not on pedestals but dotted around to give the illusion that they were real, thus transforming the garden into Arcady.

Some of our earliest experiments were with gold, first gold paint and later gold leaf. Paint, sad to say, is no substitute for leaf. But, I must add, it matters

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