Public Spaces

Ovid’s Garden Party

June 19, 2016

Note: After my talk at the opening of Ovid’s Garden at Winterbourne House in Birmingham, I was asked by several audience members if they could have a copy of my talk called “Creating Gardens with Narratives.”  I told them I’d post excerpts of it here. Photo credits: Joel Mills except where noted. ********* I had a very boring and uneventful childhood. In fact, it was so boring and uneventful that it opens my book: Reading A. A. Milne’s stories for children is like tasting my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie: the crust, tangy curd and pile of white meringue transport me to…

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Art

Le Quattro Volte

February 22, 2013

I’ve been honoured to periodically provide enrichment courses for sixth-formers at a local school — writing to digital media to film appreciation. The last course at an all-girls school was a four-part module reading films.  Even given limited time, constraints of film ratings, and in light of whole university programmes devoted to Film Studies, I was still dizzied by my options. Should I show “Melancholia”, a beautiful but apocalyptic sci-fi film about the end of the world? How about “Of Gods and Men”, a spiritually transcendent film about courage and faith in a group of French Cisterian Trappist monks? Terrence…

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Fabulous gardens

A quote of a place

August 11, 2011

One of the most compelling landscapes profiled in Tim Richardson’s 2008 book Avant Gardeners was Ron Lutsko’s “Sustainability Gardens” at Turtle Bay in Redding, California. Perhaps – because I’m from the part of the world where this park is installed – there was a ring of familiarity in the landscape.   What I think most resonated was the concept behind it:  native plants paired with modern design to tell a story of seasons and ephemerality. I have read accounts of John Muir walking from San Francisco through the grasslands of the great San Joaquin Valley to Yosemite.  I grew up…

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Fabulous gardens, Historic landscapes

A Blind Date with Chicheley Hall

February 7, 2011

Chicheley Hall Baroque Facade Readers, meet Chicheley Hall. I only recently met Chicheley Hall myself and merely by happenstance. It was in the autumn at the end of a Weekend Study Retreat in Oxfordshire with my Masters in Garden History cohorts.  We had just visited an array of historic landscapes — Blenheim Palace, Shotover, Heythrop Hall, Beckley Park — and my historically-shallow American mind was swirling with the names of Archer, Repton, Vanbrugh, Evelyn, and others.  My husband picked me up outside of William Kent’s delicious and classical Rousham and the LAST thing I wanted to do was drive to Buckinghamshire…

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