Modern Hortus Conclusus: the Serpentine pavillion 2011

The rigour, geometry, spiritual and, to a degree, romance filled imagery of the pre-Renaissance and Renaissance italian painting tradition, seen below in Fra' Angelico's  Annunciation in the Convent of San Marco, Florence, are key elements in the  establishment of the cultural and physical identity of the 'hortus conclusus' or enclosed garden.

The pavillion at the Serpentine, built in the summer of 2011 and widely circulated, is such a form, an enclosure that links back to the original philosophical and spiritual meaning.

Showing a mute, sombre exterior, it becomes, physically and metaphorically, the container, the body, opening to reveal a centre filled with tranquil warmth, glow and serenity.

The structure, designed by Peter Zumthor, is complemented by an interior garden by Piet Oudolf, featured also on this blog for his gardens at the last Venice Architecture Biennale.

Here are some images to enjoy and reflect on, as an opportunity to develop a more continuous relationship, physical, emotional and intellectual with the interior green spaces that we could begin to integrate in our working and domestic lives.

Images copyright: Oscar Ferrari.

The planting experiences and individual approach of Oudolf is beautifully imaged and explained in Thames and Hudson's 'Oudolf Landscapes in Landscapes', 2011.

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Natural Coastal Planting in Italy

While the weather becomes decidedly colder and wintery, we at Esterni Design Partnership console ourselves with images of sunnier climates. According to the BBC Weather office, 2010 has been the second hottest year on record, following 1998. These statistics often don't register in our normal day to day life, though research, development and study of climate change, climate mitigation through planting and resource management and use of local natural materials with a low footprint  is central to the way Esterni Design Partnership approaches all our exterior design projects.

While we reflect on this, and the possibility of lots of snow in the Hampshire region in the next days and weeks, we  are sharing some images of natural wild planting, in late summer, at Talamone, on the coast of southern Tuscany, Italy.

We also find, scouring the internet, that it was one of the locations for the Bond movie, Quantum of Solace! Rugged, beautiful, sunny, planted coast. Perfect!

Till next time...

Planting ideas for Autumn

While we have been away working in Italy during the last month, the garden in the UK has subtly changed. It is charged with subtle tones and colour, leaves still, amazingly, on the trees, but cold night have spelled the end of the bright blue jewel flowers of ceratostigma willmottianum. In the UK garden it is partnered with old fashioned bergenia, miscanthus 'Morning Light' and sambucus 'Black Lace'. Chinese plumbago

They have all taken on yellow tints now, on the last day of October,  with exception of the elder, which is still strongly structural in form with a few dark leaves.

Autumn planting

When we took over the current garden, we inherited a mature acer, small in size but very sculptural. It is Acer palmatum dissectum, a weeping red japanese maple. Many people adore these trees, but I find it difficult to integrate into the new planting because of its compact strong colour and shape. As it goes through into late autumn though, the colour is softening and the planting around it is associating well.

Here it is with Hosta sieboldiana elegans, a large blue leaved hosta, at the end of its season.

Over the shed and boundary fence,

we are delighting in the colour of Vitis cognetiae...and will be planting another in a brand new Esterni Design Partnership garden to be featured shortly in a new post.

Autumn colour in small trees

Lastly,  a planting association that I find works well is between Cercis canadensis'Forest Pansy' and Hydrangea paniculata 'Chantilly Lace'. This has red stems and pink flushed flowers from August to October...

At  the recent Society of Garden Designers Autumn Conference, held on the 9th October 2010 in London, one speaker related the opinion that the Cercis was the perfect garden centre tree, attractive but very difficult/short lived,  in need of continuous replacement. In my experience this has not been the case; it was planted as a sapling in semi-shade and yes, it does not flower vigorously as the robust native mediterranean tree Cercis siliquastrum, but it is bought and grown for the colour of its foliage....

So here it is 5 years on, in late October.