Around the time that the ice crystal appeared, we’d been fortunate to experience another event so special that I have to mention it on the blog. I’ve frequently referenced other inspirational sources or ideas, that get the creative juices flowing. Indeed our ‘Garden Impressionists’ name resulted from a visit to Monet’s Giverny garden several years ago, and being amazed by the masses of flowers, planted in an unfamiliar intermingling style with some simple pastel combinations (for example 3 shades of pink tulips of slightly different heights, all in flower at the same time, under-planted with blue forget-me-nots, in a huge block of a bed), and others combinations just too brash for my senses (orange and dark blue-black shades of pansies). But all displaying a stunning eye grabbing aesthetic – and not just to the masses of human visitor’s eyes.
The garden was alive with insect life of huge variety and numbers, and not just because it was a warm sunny day. It set the scene for our garden to develop in the direction it’s taken, as being designed to be ‘insect friendly‘, as well as flower packed, for as much of the year as we can manage. So the special event? The new exhibition at the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter which has recently opened. It combines the pastel colours and beautiful hand stitching patterns of traditional Welsh Quilts filled with snug Welsh wool batting, from the 1930’s and earlier, with a range of contemporary quilts designed by legendary textile artist Kaffe Fassett and his Welsh born studio manager Brandon Mably. So, in some ways, a similar mix of vibrancy and subtlety to the Giverny garden experience we’d had all those years ago when we visited at the beginning of May. I’m including a few images which I was kindly allowed to take inside the exhibition one morning before visitors were allowed in, together with some images with Kaffe and Brandon featured, which were taken and very kindly emailed on to me by Roger Clive-Powell. We first met Roger around the time we bought Gelli Uchaf, and as a local architect with a passion for traditional local buildings and their restoration, we engaged him for the architectural plans for the renovation work here. A bit later we met his wife, Jen Jones, and were introduced through them both to the world of Welsh Quilts. Jen has patiently assembled the foremost collection in the world, with several hundred in total, of many different kinds. With huge tenacity, passion and determination they have converted the old town hall in Lampeter into a stunning display venue, for these works of textile art and craft. Now entering its fifth season, the latest exhibition is, I understand, the result of a serendipitous meeting between Jen and Kaffe in London. A selection of Kaffe’s quilts were in due course dispatched to Lampeter, and with critical help from curator Gwenllian Ashley, a choice of quilts from Jen’s collection made to complement the vibrancy of many of Kaffe and Brandon’s designs. The effect is visually stunning. And I reckon unique. The only event which has come close for me as a must-see visual and artistic experience was seeing the huge Monet water lily paintings in their purpose built rooms in The Orangerie in Paris.A major element of this visual impact, is the expert lighting and quilt hanging which Roger has organised himself. The very skilful presentation was acknowledged by both Kaffe and Brandon at the preview exhibition opening. Reference was made to the impression of a pack of cards thrown into the air by Alice in Wonderland. Truly, it has a magical, if not almost spiritual impact, as patterns and colour lift your eyes upwards in the nearly 25 feet tall room. A veritable cathedral of colour. How Roger and his team actually managed to hang these, several of which are suspended in mid air many feet off the ground, is beyond me. But Fiona, who volunteers in the Centre one day a week, says that Roger has some very tall step ladders!
And also, obviously, a head for heights. I do urge anyone who’s ever thought of travelling to this Western part of the UK to plan a trip for this year, whilst this exhibition is running. I can guarantee that you will be bowled over by the experience, which will live with you for a long time. The quilt centre is about 20 minutes from our garden, and you can find more details by clicking here. It’s hoped that Kaffe and Brandon may return in August for another lecture, and quilt making workshop. Watch the Quilt Centre Website for updates. At a follow on lecture titled ‘Colour’, on Easter Monday, we learned that this has been a long term and lasting passion for both Kaffe and Brandon. Kaffe commented on how he loved the Welsh landscape surrounding Lampeter, with its current subtle earthy, misty tones, which they’d both had a few days of fortunately sunny weather to appreciate. But to many locals, the currently bleached, tired, dried vegetation lacks the typical Welsh green vibrancy you’d expect in April.
Fortunately I’d taken my camera with us the other evening when we’d travelled a fair way to hear a lecture on Polemoniums, by Dianne Nichol-Brown who holds the National Plant Collection of these plants, commonly known as Jacob’s Ladders, after their leaf pattern arrangements. The images below, capture the unusually muted colour palette of the landscape for this time of the year, and are taken from the summit of Mynydd Llanllwni, just above us. There are snowy peaks to the East, and North. Dianne and her husband had travelled all the way from Durham for the evening meeting, and were driving back the same night – a journey of perhaps 250 miles each way I guess. We’d already discovered that the 3 Polemoniums we currently grow, are not only slug and rabbit proof, but that the pretty, and usually blue flowers, are also very much liked by bees. What’s more they’re as tough as old boots, and have coped with this year’s spring freeze as well as any other perennials in our garden. These attributes extend across the genus, and also the flowers are edible, so can be added to salads apparently, to give both visual interest and a sweet hit. (P. ‘Lambrook Mauve’ in the garden now).
Many of the popular hybrids, particularly between P. reptans, P.carneum and P. caeruleum have real garden merit, but are sterile, so need to be propagated vegetatively. By picking up some plants of a few more species from Diane, we fancy our chances of producing our own Gelli hybrid, once the pollinating insects get to work.A home grown seedling from P. yezoense var. hidakanum, originally of Japanese origin, P. ‘Purple Rain’, and below en masse in the meadow copse, 6 months after planting up.The only image I can find, below, from my files of the pretty flowers of my Polemonium seedlings from ‘Purple Rain’. They flower from June to September. I really must do better this year, but heck – bee friendly flowers, tough as old boots, slug resistant, rabbit proof, long flowering season, edible flowers. What more can you want from a hardy perennial? The theme of Kaffe Fassett’s lifelong exploration and excitement with colour and pattern, expressed through his talent in textile design, resonated with my own interest in such aesthetics within the garden environment. Unfortunately, creating visual impact here is more fleeting, weather dependent and can take years to achieve a planned for effect, but it’s still a great goal to strive towards. Another big influence on some of our ideas is the British land artist, Andy Goldsworthy. Doing a search on my blog for a previous mention of him drew a blank, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to rectify that, and give another huge recommendation for a beautiful film made about him, his aesthetic and influences, and of course his art. “Rivers and Tides“ can be bought as a DVD. If you want a flavour of what Andy’s art is like, I discovered two short on line video clips prepared, DJ style, by Riad HATTOUTI, which you can download or view by clicking here and here. They lack the background music from the actual film, though the musical selection still seems appropriate, and also none of the interviews with Andy Goldsworthy himself are included, but do look at them, and then buy the DVD, I’m sure you’ll love it, and be inspired. We have been, and guests love it too. I mention this because I know from WordPress stats. that very few readers ever click on these links in my blog.
Well this time DO! And be spellbound!. As promised, I’m including some more images of the ice crystal, or megacryometeor, which featured in my previous post (the black dots in the sky of the first image are starlings heading East at dawn from their night roost somewhere beyond Mynydd Llanllwni). The Met Office favoured ice falling from a passing jet as being the most likely origin of this intriguing mystery – see the letter in the comments section from the last post. As you can see from this last image, overflying jets are a regular occurrence here.
As the jet stream moves at last, some rain was predicted and fell today, so the last of the frenetic dry weather activity of the past fortnight has stopped and I can collapse in a heap and write this – greenhouse and mushroom protective painting, table oiling, ‘Rulsch’ harvesting – 6 big bags’ worth of compostable chopped rushes from 18 big bags of strimmed rushes – and finally a field, and brash burn off. To avoid this post becoming too lengthy, I’ll maybe talk about these a bit later, but a final medley of images from the garden in the last week, with a different aesthetic and colour feel.