29 September 2011

Garden Clichés No.3

The Outdoor 'Room'
The inverted commas are a problem. The garden 'room' is no longer a 'new' idea and nobody will be upset if we call an enclosed outdoor space a Room. The concept has been around since before th Alhambra and it is a lovely concept, after all. Like a walled garden but less large, enclosure can tame a space and keep out unpleasant things. If there is a tree in it, or on the other side of it, right up close to the hedge or wall, it can be as unobtrusive but just as useful as a standard lamp. Its canopy meanwhile forms a kind of 'ceiling' and a lawn, if edged neatly, is a 'fitted carpet'. Do sit down and relax.

On my first day at Brooke Hall back in April I had to stop and stare, in a part of the garden which is really a passing-through place. The combination of wall on one side, tall hedge on the other, grass underfoot and some leaves overhead gave it a stillness, with auditorium acoustics. The garden is like a theatre just here, with the wings on either side. Enter stage left, exit stage right, and on to the next thing.

The magnolia (above) is in perfect shelter against a yew hedge, its branches floating laterally above the top of it. On the other side of the theatre-like space is an upright gingko, by the old brick wall. On the other side of the yew, by the magnolia, a cherry (further down) peeks over. Both trees have winding, Chinese-looking branches which are held clear above the very straight lines of the hedge. It's a good contrast for any tree.

It is helpful of course if the tree peeking over or even growing through a neatly trimmed hedge is a special one like Cornus Kousa (above and top). The bracts are refreshing in late spring after the blossom on the other trees has blown away and autumn brings knobbly red fruit.

The Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonica, above) is also a good nosy neighbour, hanging over a wall, and it sends out big wafts of caramelising sugar, as its leaves begin to turn pale orange.

Set in a corner, the hedge seems to be hugging the cherry (above) and the Katsura (below). It's very cosy.

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