Never forget nature's very own calming colour, green
"I SPEND hours in this garden." We are visiting a good friend of Geraldine's: an artist, sculptress, potter, poet, gard- ener, eccentric and almost a recluse.
Hannah dislikes visitors in her garden, "They destroy the magic of it. Something is permanently lost." I am very lucky. She loves me to amble around: "You should be here permanently Michael, as a living statue. The plants love you to bits!" she says. While the two close friends are chatting art and throwing ideas at each other for new projects, I have slipped off to walk the garden.
To begin a walk along the long winding pathway you enter a world of surrealism. A work of art: A bicycle wheel without its tyre and five tennis balls jammed into the spokes each one painted a different colour, called 'The Universe'.
Further on, a life size model of a woman posing provocatively but her modesty covered by a single weaving of a small-leaved ivy stem. A pool with a girl sitting at its edge and trailing a finger in the cold water. And, suddenly, a clearing.
I'm actually now sitting on a large stone in the garden and writing these notes. I haven't brought you here to show you the works of art. Look around. This garden is remarkable for another feature. You will not see any flowers, just many shades of green foliage. Green is the most important element of any garden. Not only does it create the feeling of peace and calm but here it is the perfect foil for all the artwork.
I'm completely rebuilding our garden. It's in a mess at the moment because the incessant rain of last year stopped all operations and this winter has been a non-event. I want to build a whole series of small cameos to set off some of Geraldine's large pots.
Even though Hannah's is a very large garden, I always come away with ideas of small cameos that all of us can copy, inspire us. Look just there – a large stone ball. Covering the bottom quarter is the Mind-your-own-business plant, helxine soleirolii smothering. Its foliage is black at the moment because of winter but very soon it will be a mass of tiny evergreen foliage. It looks like a huge golf ball in the rough!
Thomas the cat has joined me, purring a greeting. In the distance, the male head of a statue watches us, peeping out amongst a planting of laurel which is regularly pruned – properly pruned too I am pleased to see.
Never prune laurel with shears, always cut stems with secateurs.
So many people buy a statue, put it on a concrete slab and then surround its base with gravel. The result? A Victorian churchyard.
No, look around here. A statue of another pretty girl, see how her lower part disappears into a soft covering of green-leaved ivy foliage at the moment rashed with snow. She and the ivy are one.
Green has such different qualities. Blue-green is a cool receding colour; yellow-green stands out and makes a statement amongst sombre shades. bright green looks as if lit by a shaft of sunlight and darkest green gives the air of mystery.
Then there is the foliage: smooth, rough, hairy, glossy, matt, enormous or tiny, all their surfaces reflecting light in different ways. And of course, the foliage of tall grasses which gives softenings of movement.
When we plan areas of garden, we often neglect the most basic but most important colour, green – nature's gentle softener.
Must leave you now, but Thomas and I are going to sit here longer, sharing the peace and tranquility of this precious, remarkable, private, secret garden.