Visitors these last weeks will have noticed changes to Cloudehill. For one, the Thuya Smaragd hedge between the water garden and the warm borders has vanished and been replaced by several pots on plinths. This is the first significant alteration to this area in 20 years. A less obvious change has been the ‘nymph of the grot’ sculpture. To our surprise we sold this some months back. It wasn’t really for sale you see, except a customer was keen to have it and happy to pay and we thought, “well, why not? This might be reason for a re-arrange!” So out came the poor old hedge.
The ill-fated Thuya Smaragd hedge.
Our lost 'nymph of the grot’ sculpture.
First, the hedge! It’s been giving problems for ages and all because Thuya Smaragd has a very fastigiate growth habit. Upright growing plants make lousy hedges. This is true despite nurseries full of such plants bristling with labels boasting they’re fabulous for hedging. Fastigiate plants branch at the base. As they reach full height wind and rain always pulls them apart and once they’re apart, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot get them back together again. The moral – the best plants for hedges are those with a conventional growth habit. Allow a leader to reach desired height, clip the lateral (sideways) growth to a vertical (or better, a slightly battered) face, and voila – you have your hedge. And it will never fall apart.
So our thuyas has gone to the bonfire and now we have a very pleasing arrangement of pots on handsome plinths, mostly by Graeme Foote (of Hawthorn Studio and Gallery – thank you Graeme) and the chance for some fun planting them this spring with colours appropriate to the warm borders just below. Mind you, there’s also the vacant water temple. Here I have very grand ideas. At present I have a strange ‘mask’ affair floating near the rear of the temple in front of the blue-stone wall. Strange because, whatever it is, it’s covered with aluminiun foil! Under the foil there happens to be a fiberglass copy of a famous sculpture held by the British Museum: the Satala Aphrodite.
The original was found in eastern Turkey and dates to 100 BC. My copy is a lovely thing and something I’ve prized since visiting the museum back in 1981.
Satala Aphrodite in the British Museum
Apollo, Little Sparta, Pentland Hills of Scotland.
In its shady nook and covered in silver foil Aphrodite shows up nicely from the far end of our main terrace. This is what I was hoping for. The plan is to replace the ‘Al-foil’ with gold leaf so that then our gleaming Aphrodite will pay homage to the extraordinary golden Apollo one finds in some shrubbery in the atmospheric garden of Little Sparta, in the Pentland Hills of Scotland.
I expect our Satala Aphrodite to add considerable drama to Cloudehill as she glances enigmatically along the main terrace (and I'm hoping Graeme Foote will help me with the gold-leafing).
Oh! And our snow drops are flowering gloriously and will be good for the next three or four weeks. Come and see!
This is our rare double snowdrop which was kindly donated to Cloudehill by Otto Fauser!
See you in the garden – Jeremy Francis