The word Lindisfarne might mean a great deal more to me had I ever lived on the coast of Northumberland, near to Holy Island, but I haven't, so the minute I hear it my mind reverts to this and I start humming...
Were you a fan and if so did we, or did we not adore every note of this 70's album, or am I the only one who can still sing the first line, which whooshes up out of nowhere when bidden...
Sittin' in a sleazy snack-bar
Suckin', sickly sausage rolls
Slippin' down slowly, slippin' down sideways
Think I'll sign off the dole
Cause the fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine, all mine
The fog on the Tyne is all mine
So I am very grateful to Rhys (who has followed dovegreyreader almost since the first scribble) for finally laying that one to rest and replacing it with much more age-appropriate associations. Knowing my penchant for all things Gertrude Jekyll, Rhys took the trouble to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne recently and see for himself, and for us, the famous castle garden designed by Edwin Lutyens and our Gertrude.
One of their many collaborations, and one of the few that Gertrude Jekyll actually visited in later years (she was carried ashore much to Edwin's amusement ) the castle garden was commissioned by Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life magazine, and is now owned and maintained by The National Trust. Plants were sent from the nursery at Munstead Wood and laid out according to Gertrude's plan for the Lutyens' designed garden.
Though her plans are often notoriously difficult to follow Gertrude Jekyll's garden has been faithfully restored back to the 1911 layout, and though some plants have been lost many others have been re-discovered, the gardeners still find the occasional pleasant surprise.
Looking at the photos I sense subtle heathery colours with splashes of sunshine planting and the deep blue of cornflowers, perfectly matched perhaps to the seascape backdrop...
One of the species that had sadly vanished was the very first Spencer type sweet pea, 'Countess Spencer.' I have planted Spencer Mixed this year, and know not a jot about sweet peas, but they have captured my heart in every way, from the construction of my money-saving twig-wams (very 'Lindisfarne' I now see) and the growing, to the sudden appearance of colour and the regular cutting of exquisitely scented flowers, so I plan to explore some more adventurous varieties next year. Those used on Lindisfarne are 'Queen Alexandra', 'Etta Dyke', 'Asta Ohn', 'Pink Spencer' and 'Miss Wilmott,'
And what's a 'Spencer' sweet pea when its at home I then thought to myself, and thanks are due to my new best friend of a website seedaholic for the answer...
The Spencer varieties were originally developed by Silas Cole, head gardener for the Earl of Spencer at Althorp (the family of Diana, Princess of Wales)...
Seedaholic log the history of every plant they sell as seed and I have spent an age reading up and making some sowing choices for next year. I fancy growing some Isatis tinctoria (woad to you and I), and how about some proper old-fashioned Viola odorata (violets), I'm going to have a go.
Other Lindisfarne planting includes roses... 'Hugh Dickson,' 'Killarney' and 'Zepherine Drouhin' amongst them, along with Santolina (hooray) Rudbeckia, Delphinium, Chrysanthemum, Gladiolus... all the tall things you'd think wouldn't stand an earthly against a stiff offshore breeze, but clearly the walls do their job.
In her book Gardens of a Golden Afternoon, Jane Brown discusses the merits and the difficulties of preserving a Lutyens/ Jekyll garden to its original plan. They are expensive and labour-intensive to
maintain, and understandably many have fallen by the wayside, there were so many it was inevitable, but you wonder how many people live in a house that once had a Jekyll-designed garden and may not even know. Jane Brown argues for the preservation of a select number of them on the basis that we still need reminders that gardening was once a gentle art,
'a tribute to the high standards of the quiet craftsman who were to be found working for country building firms before the war to end all wars.'
Jane Brown goes on to highlight the difficulties of preserving these 'ephemeral' and 'fragile' places, comparing the importance of their preservation to that of a collection of Wren's City churches, Viewed in that way perhaps these gardens would be valued more, and for posterity, or at least the 300 years of which Lutyens dreamed. It's a tall order indeed, the gardens need money and sympathetic self-effacing guardians who can cope with their gardens, and the beauty therin, being largely credited to someone else. In the National Trust at Lindisfarne (and in that new garden at Cheristow) at least that has been found.
Listing what she calls the 'Hallowed Two Dozen,' Jane Brown identifies the gardens which, when funds are limited, deserve to be preserved, and were currently saveable back in 1982 when Gardens of a Golden Afternoon was published. Lindisfarne was on that list, and described as 'Miss Jekyll's legerdemain,' so it is good to see that twenty years later the funding was in place, and ten years on from that we can enjoy it here.
My thanks again to Rhys for saving us all the bother of that boat trip and feeling queasy, and for sending the photos along with the leaflet and the planting plan (click and should enlarge)
I have really enjoyed looking at the pictures and browsing my fast-growing collection of Gertrude Jekyll books for more information, as well as thinking about these gardens and long term plans for them, and I hope you have too.
So...to preserve or not to preserve... what are your thoughts??