Tag Archives: Acanthus

SMITTEN BY THE GARDEN OF THE PETIT PALAIS

SURPRISING GARDENS IN MUSEUM & GALLERIES IN PARIS AND LONDON

IMG_4060 (1)               Petit Palais garden with pool, palm trees and golden swags.

I was so surprised by the iridescent energy of the garden of the Petit Palais when I visited this month that I stayed out much too long taking in the different views, framed here by a pair of heavy leaved palm trees…

IMG_4056Petit Palais Garden  – pool and palm trees

…and here, guided by the upward-sweeping branches of the cherry trees with their copper-brown trunks and rosy haze of grasses behind and electric green eyes of just-opening Euphorbia characias in front.
IMG_4106Petit Palais garden – grasses, cherry tree, euphorbia

It is a freezing, clear-skied January morning in Paris. The vistas are open and enticing, huge expanses of pale grey and blue laced with gold:

IMG_4021              Pont Alexandre III, Paris.

A glimpse through a side-door into the empty cavern of a between-exhibitions Grand Palais gets my heart thumping – I am always happily seduced by the heady potential of a rough studio-like space:
IMG_4020
                                               Side entrance to the Grand Palais. 

Up the steps and through the imposing arch of the gilded Beaux- Arts doorway – The Petit Palais art museum was built in 1900 for the Exhibition Universelle and then completely renovated over four years from 2001-2005 –

IMG_4022Petit Palais entrance.

and then into the sweep of sunlit corridors of this entirely circular building, with towering glass doors and windows in every direction.

IMG_4127

A series of windows overlooking the Seine.

The floors are entirely of mosaic in subtle shades of rust, green, black and mustard against soft white:

IMG_4126Mosiac floor, entrance hall, Petit Palais.

The spacious exhibition halls glide seamlessly into a curved outdoor loggia, with a pair of deep blue and white Sèvres porcelain pots on plinths coaxing you on. The swirling mosaic of the floor is punctuated with lovely circular frosted aqua glass sky lights.

IMG_4035IMG_4043 (2)External loggia, Petit Palais, with a pair of Sèvres porcelain pots on plinths.

Even the curving ceiling of the loggia is decorated with a brown-on-gold trellis festooned with powder blue clematis and pink roses:

IMG_4098The Loggia ceiling, Petit Palais.

Looking back against the interior wall of the loggia, the delicate, punched metal chairs and deep green marble tables add just another layer to the subtle grandeur.

IMG_4050Perfectly judged café chairs and table, Petit Palais.

And then, between the soaring scale of the grey-brown Vosges granite columns, you get your first proper look at the garden.

IMG_4053The Petit Palais garden, framed by Vosges granite columns.

If you look up you see the pale gold swags silhouetted against the sky:IMG_4055

 

 

 

Decorative gold swags silhouetted against the sky

If you look across, out into the garden, you begin to get an idea of the intoxicating lushness of the place.

IMG_4048The lush planting of the Petit Palais garden

This interior courtyard was always intended to provide a breathing place for visitors to the gallery itself. It is a grand but inviting framework for a garden – a deftly designed space with curves and columns of the palest mustard, grey and pink stone, with the deeper tones of the roof tiles and the uplifting gleam of decorative gold.  IMG_4083                                  View along the central axis of the Petit Palais garden.

IMG_4105Curves and columns of the Petit Palais garden.

IMG_4103Close up swirly marble table top and skinny milk-green café chair against strong shapes in pale stone.

It has a fundamental dynamism which invites you in to explore and – enriched by simply brilliant  planting – every view is different.
IMG_4060Palm trees adding structure, gloss and glamour.

I love the mix of tropical plants with grasses and evergreen shrubs and perennials. Palm trees add structure, gloss, glamour and a constant sense of surprise. I have never seen the delicate scattered flowers of the winter flowering cherry Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ against the weighty arching branches of a banana tree, but here the combination works brilliantly, not least perhaps because of the glint of gold peeping through.

IMG_4059Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ against banana leaves.

Tough stalwarts of the shadier garden are employed with confidence and energy. Here the waxy dark green leaves and perky just opening flower buds of Fatsia japonica look fresh and handsome against the golden stone:
IMG_4111                                                        Fatsia japonica, Petit Palais garden.

IMG_4044 (1)

Euphorbia characias, Acanthus, Fatsia japonica and Bergenia provide an understory for the deciduous trees.

Elsewhere Euphorbia, Acanthus, Bergenia and Yucca plants combine to make a strong rich green understory for the deciduous trees. I have seen photographs of these cherry trees in spring when their vase-shaped branches are covered in deep pink. This is their moment to swan around outrageously like dancers from the Folies Bergères and I would love to catch the sight for myself.

The other surprising element of the garden is the extensive use of grasses. Here is the most elegant use of pampas grass I know, and the Miscanthus sinensis look graceful and distinguished with their pale fragile heads and rosy winter foliage.

IMG_4064

IMG_4084

IMG_4109Grasses, including Pampas grass Cortaderia selloana & Miscanthus sinensis, Petit Palais garden.

On either side of the main steps into the garden there are two magnificent fleets of strapping white-painted Versailles planters filled with handsome specimens of palm tree and Magnolia grandiflora:

IMG_4074IMG_4115 IMG_4080

Versailles planters with specimens of palm and Magnolia grandiflora, Petit Palais garden.

I go into the café to warm up and eat an elegant slice of lemon cake with my coffee. “Bon appétit, Madame” says a guard, who is also taking a break. “You must have become very cold out there”. I can barely feel my fingers, but I have had a brilliant half hour. The guard leaves,  bows slightly and wishes me a ‘bonne journée’. I am indeed having a very good day, I think, as I gaze for one more time at the banana leaves and the dancing Miscanthus heads catching the winter light:
IMG_4119Winter heads of Miscanthus sinensis and banana leaves catching the winter sunlight, Petit  Palais garden.

Back in London, I am at the Royal Academy on a glowering January day, a week or so before the opening of its ravishing Painting the Modern Garden exhibition. I am still musing about what it takes to make a successful garden within the walls of a gallery or museum.

IMG_4266Royal Academy, Painting the Modern Garden, 30 January – 20 April 2016.

Clearly one of the main challenges is to create a garden that will look good all year round, often within a very limited space. I head for the Keeper’s House, now a restaurant, café and bar, open to RA friends until 4pm and after that to everyone. Tom Stuart-Smith created a garden here in 2013 in what he describes as ‘one of those curious architectural left over spaces’ with almost no natural light. His aim was to make the garden feel as if it has been dug out of the space with an ‘almost archaeological’ quality.

First glimpses of the garden from the windows of the sophisticated mohair velvet sofas of the Belle Shenkman room are as vibrant and seductive today as they would be in midsummer.

IMG_4269

IMG_4271IMG_4270

Views from the Belle Shenkman Room at the Royal Academy onto Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden.

The green of the spreading arms of the 250 year old Australian tree ferns brought into the UK under license is dazzling, and Stuart-Smith is superbly vindicated in his use of his favourite  grass, Hakonechloa macra. In its winter form it is a fiery, eye catching streak which lights up the garden further.

You have to go down a flight of stairs to start climbing back into the garden which is elegantly tiered and tiled throughout in dark brick so that the ground and walls are of the same deep earthy tones. The exuberant tree ferns are accompanied only by the hakonecholoa, the low-growing evergreen shrub Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’, with just two climbers, Trachelospernum jasminoides and Virginia Creeper for the walls and railings. Here, restraining the planting palette is key.

IMG_4276IMG_4284

IMG_4294Ground level views of the Keeper’s House garden, Royal Academy.

When you look up, the energy of the tree ferns is celebratory and infectious.
IMG_4282

IMG_4285Looking upwards, Keeper’s House garden, Royal Academy.

I go back into the gallery and start climbing the stairs. What Tom Stuart-Smith has achieved so cleverly is a garden that delivers from any level in the building. I look down through huge panes of glass from the second floor onto David Nash’s blackened wood sculpture, ‘King and Queen’.  The tree ferns and egg-yolk yellow grass are a wonderful foil for these dark figures. This is a fine platform for art and the Academicians must enjoy selecting work for this space.

IMG_4304

IMG_4297IMG_4299IMG_4296View onto the Keeper’s House garden, Royal Academy, with ‘King and Queen’ by David Nash.

In 2010 my design partner, Helen Fraser, and I were asked to develop a planting scheme for a new garden at the South London Gallery on the busy Peckham Road.  IMG_4258IMG_4261Exterior of the South London Gallery with and without bus

The Fox Garden was a new space that emerged as part of the 6a architects‘ extension of this constantly innovative contemporary art gallery.

IMG_4241

The garden would link the ncafé, NO. 67, with a new building, The Clore Studio, and was flanked on one side by the enormous exterior wall of the main 1891 gallery, and on the other by a tall garden wall.  A much simpler proposition than the Petit Palais or Keeper’s House gardens, but nonetheless a rather unevenly lit garden with the need to look good all year round and to offer change throughout the seasons. The noise and grime of the road outside would increase the sense of surprise when the visitor came across the garden for the first time.slg before 1slg before 2Framework of The Fox Garden – the towering gallery wall with elegant new buildings by 6a architects at either end and a wonderful, sinuous brick path.

Our solution was use tough, hard-working plants which could create an impact for as long a season as possible. The star plant has perhaps been Nandina domestica – or heavenly bamboo – which has thrived here and provides an almost constant succession of white flower sprays followed by red berries:

IMG_4255IMG_4243IMG_4253IMG_4256IMG_4250IMG_1463Nandina domestica – or heavenly bamboo – creating a lush and welcoming atmosphere in The Fox Garden, South London Gallery on a January day.

We have used three flowering dogwoods – Cornus kousa var Chinensis – including a fabulous almost outsize specimen directly outside the café. These illuminate the garden in June, matching the glamour of Paul Morrison’s covetable gilded wall painting in the café atrium, and provide a period of rich autumn colour.

slg cornus

IMG_5568Cornus kousa var Chinensis – with a close up of the beautiful white bracts which surround the tiny flowerhead.

Non Summer 2010 005Non Summer 2010 005

Views through to the flowering dogwood from the No. 67 dining room with its exhilarating  Paul Morrison gold mural.

IMG_2229Claret red autumn colour of the Cornus kousa var Chinensis with Lawrence Weiner’s swooping ‘wall sculture’ on the gallery wall, part of his 2014 ‘All in Due Course’ exhibition.

Other repeated plants are Euphorbia characias with its long lasting lime green bracts…IMG_2179                                      Euphorbia characias with its lime green bracts.

…and Libertia grandiflora which we love for its white flowers in May, long lasting seedheads, and year round architectural presence:

IMG_5567IMG_5555Libertia grandiflora which makes everyone smile the garden in May.

The Libertia even makes Heidi smile – Heidi, gardener of The Fox Garden, is of course the secret ingredient:IMG_5543                                        Heidi – The Fox Garden’s secret ingredient.

Happily it seems that gardens within museums and cafés are providing so much enjoyment that there are new gardens in development wherever you look. Right here in the South London Gallery a new garden by artist Gabriel Orozco is slowly emerging to be unveiled in the autumn of 2016.

A couple of miles away at the Garden Museum, next to Lambeth Bridge, Dan Pearson is designing a completely new garden within a substantial extension by Dow Jones Architects.

v0_large

 Tradescant Knot Garden, Garden Museum – image thanks to www.culture24.org.uk.

The design has been a challenge, not least because a decision had to be made to lose the knot garden of the existing Tradescant Garden, but Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward tells me ‘Dan has designed a new garden which will try to startle the visitor with unusual shapes and beauties and surprise you with unfamiliar plants … I hope the space with have something of that atmosphere of the Zumpthor-Oudolf pavilion at the Serpentine a few years ago’.

ImageProposed garden café within the new Dow Jones Architects’ pavilions. Garden to be designed by Dan Pearson. Visualisation by Forbes Massie, image courtesy of The Garden Museum.

The Garden Museum is in the safest possible hands with the thoughtful and often magical input of Dan Pearson. The reference to my absolute favourite of the Serpentine Gallery‘s annual summer Pavilions – the 2011 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion designed by architect Peter Zumthor with planting by master plantsman Piet Oudolf  – makes the new garden a tantalising prospect.

I look through my photographs and find only a few hazy images of my visit to this blackened, open-roofed, box-like cloistered garden that landed for a few summer months next to the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens. I remember being surprised and deeply cheered by the almost physical pull this hidden garden had on passers-by on a completely beautiful day in an already completely beautiful green space. The contrast between the plain, rather severe building and the planting (which became taller and blousier and more relaxed as the summer wore on) was compelling, and the impact of sunlight and shadows on the space was exciting and dynamic.
IMG_4493IMG_4506IMG_4494

IMG_4521Images of the Piet Oudolf planting within the Peter Zumthor Serptentine Gallery Pavilion, September 2011.

I hope that when it is warm again I will have the chance to return to Paris to visit a museum garden that fell off my list on my recent trip.  The Musée de la Vie Romantique is housed in a green shuttered villa in Montmartre which belonged to the 19th Century artist, Ary Sheffer. It is said to have a lovely garden and outdoor café with poppies, foxgloves and fragrant roses. I read somewhere that it is the perfect place to sit amongst the roses sipping tea and pretend to be Georges Sand who famously lived nearby. Now this is a whole new angle on museum garden visiting.

A piece I have written for The Daily Telegraph on other gardens to visit in Paris will be published in the Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CASA DE PILATOS, SEVILLE

BRILLIANT TILES, PAINTED WALLS AND FRAMED VIEWS IN A PERFECT COURTYARD GARDEN
IMG

It’s cold outside in London. Although I can sometimes enjoy a dreamy morning like this, as I set off  around my local park…

IMG_0632

…and sometimes foggy days in London town do indeed have the ability to turn into mornings like this…

IMG_0599

…what I am really dreaming of, as the rain begins again and every stretch of green turns into a murky expanse of brown, is THIS – soaring palm trees and walls heavily, exuberantly cloaked with billowing Plumbago, Bougainvillea and Jasmine:

palm trees

The Casa de Pilatos in Seville is one of my favourite gardens in the world. A wonderful series of elegant, slightly faded gardens, courtyards and loggias, exquisitely and abundantly decorated – with five hundred year old Cuenca tiles (Casa de Pilatos holds one of the largest collections in the world):

more tiling

detail tiling

and richly pigmented paint:IMG_0001

It is above all a masterclass in thinking about the garden from the interior of a building, with the different garden rooms, framing the view , luring the visitor from one part of the space to another.

entrance gate

yellow chamber doorgreen beyond the corridor

I could be lured there again anytime.  Seville in Southern Spain is a great place to visit in the cooler months of the year.  The last few days of January 2014 will apparently be sunny, with day time temperatures of between 15 – 20°C.

I start to smile when I am in a part of the world where the windows are bordered in yellow

entrance cleaner

and where you can stop for a moment to  enjoy the muscly elegance of its doors. Here is  a wonderful glossy green paint and brass door in the nearby hilltop town of Carmona:

palace of justice door detail And here is the kind of soft geometric wall pattern that you find a burst of everywhere:

painted wall cordoba

It would be great to try something like this in a London garden:

close up painted wall

Cool, verdant courtyards are crucial here to provide somewhere to sit and calm the spirit when temperatures rise.  And there are lessons everywhere we could take away for urban back gardens anywhere.

The rusty orange awnings that can be drawn to completely enclose a courtyard

orange blind close up

are clean and elegant and cast a brilliant glow on the patio below.  IMG_0007

Casa de Pilatos itself, in the Santa Cruz district of Seville, is the ultimate courtyard garden.  Created within the exquisite walls of an innovative and influential Andalusian palace, it was built in several phases in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for a wealthy Aristocratic family.  The first ambitious phase built by the Chief Governor of Andalusia, Don Pedro Enriquez, and his hugely wealthy wife, Dona Catalina de Ribera in 1482.

Behind the simple, gothic facade (with excellently riveted double doors):

IMG_0005 IMG_0006is an elegant cloud- coloured mansion built around a spacious central patio in the lacy, Mudejar style :

IMG_0001

During the sixteenth century, successive generations of the family travelled to Italy and returned inspired by Renaissance ideas  – and loaded up with classical sculpture.   Remodelling – to include ideas found in Italian architecture – took place between 1526 and 1539 and again in 1568 when Neopolitan architect, Benvenuto Tortello was commissioned to build a ‘new palace’ within the gardens of the Casa, the main purpose of which was to house the now extensive collection of classical art.

In particular, Tortello adapted the Italian notion of the Loggia – traditionally an open-sided building with views over the countryside – to suit the Casa de Pilatos’ position amongst a dense urban network of Seville streets, and of course the Aristocratic desire to be screened from public view. Two loggias and an arcaded corridor were built opening instead onto the enclosed gardens – creating an intimate and yet monumental setting for the extraordinary family collection.

IMG_0003

Here, the combination of deep ochre yellow walls, perfectly placed sculptures and fragments of classical architecture and a soft green fringe of lingering foliage is seductive and feels entirely personal.

tablets yellow wall green fringecentral stone

Everywhere, the extent of the detailing is breathtaking. If you look down, the chalky terracotta floor is embedded with jewel-like coats of arms:

detail floorIf you look up, an iron gate may be framed with a gorgeous corrugated roof of jade-coloured tiles:

green roof tileEven the steps up to a working area of the palace are densely lined with pots of impressively lush spider plants IMG_3825

A tactile mannerist grotto – turbulant papier-mâché style pebble work against a crumbling Venetian red wall – houses a sixteenth century marble ‘Sleeping Venus’

pink grotto–  it is a delicious surprise after the cool, intricate elegance of the Mudejar plasterwork. lacy wall and tiles

The planting itself is a slightly ramshackle version of formal, with fading Acanthus casting laddered shadows against the walls,

IMG_0002mounds of suckering but sweetly scented Clerodendrum bungei,

IMG_0003and trees of rather mismatching scales amongst ranks of Aganpanthus.

IMG_3847

But it is this relaxed, comfortable imperfection, combined with the quality of the architecture and decorative elements that make it such a pleasure to visit.

I love the rugged, hairy  palm tree trunks and their stiff strings of fat pea-like seeds –IMG_0009

in such close proximity to the fine, Mudejar, marquetry doors and shutters:

IMG_0010

and the intense, sometimes incredibly freely-patterned, tiling.

IMG_0004I love the way the trees are allowed to close over sculptures to form a bright green canopy:

verdant towerand the way shadows form new patterns of their own against the rich backdrop of colour and tile.pot shadow tile

I love the way a bench can be merely another curving line of green against an intense, multicoloured tapestry of tiling:

tile benchor it can provide a perfectly judged balance of red against yellow in a neighbouring room.

yellow chamber with benchCasa de Pilatos has the eclectic charm and multi-layered beauty of a house and garden which have been cherished and invested in by generations of passionate owners.  It has a romantic, timeless atmosphere that could perhaps be the starting point for lifting an interior or an exterior design simply by painting a wall in a rich yellow geometric pattern:

IMG_0002Or it could be the trigger to a hundred stories and daydreams.  It is not surprising to discover that David Lean used the Casa de Pilatos along with other locations in Seville to represent Cairo in his film, Lawrence of Arabia – Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence meets Jack Hawkins’ General Allenby in the main patio:

3620131502184552w lawrence-of-arabia-1962I am very tempted to jump on a plane …IMG_0008