Monday, July 5, 2010

The Romance of the Ruin Garden

I see the poetry and romance in old ruin gardens and old ruins in general. For me, they have a sense of history and time – and in my imaginings, a sense of people, long dead, but who's spirits remain as much a part of the ruin as the stone itself – ghostly, unseen things, locked within the ruin for eternity. Here, they once lived, once planted a garden, once watched the roses clamor up the walls and once fought the rogue nettles in the potager.


But when a place falls to ruin, it is claimed by nature, losing itself in flora, wild again. It's a remarkable thing how nature finds a way – how a rose, long abandoned, can prick its way through a tangle of ivy to find its place among the tumbling stones – how the garden unfolds and unfurls as nature intended.


Ruined mansion, Llanstinan © Copyright ceridwen 

Stanton Park Folly Ruin, Swindon, Great Britain
Photo © Copyright Brian Robert Marshall


I think my love of ruin gardens came as a teenager after reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The mood in the opening chapter takes my breath away now as it did then. 


I especially love this line in relationship to how ruins are impacted over time. 

"Nature had come into her own again and little by little, in her stealthy insidious way had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers." 
 
The photos above are a good examples of nature coming into her own. And for the romantic gardener, it's beautiful. 


Roses in Ruins


Flowering roses are actually rarely seen in untamed ruin gardens. When a rose is abandoned or left unchecked, the suckers will eventually win out; the rose could even revert to its humble beginnings as Rosa multiflora or other rootstock. That said, the rose mentioned in the poem below was indeed in flower when discovered on the overgrown grounds of a ruined castle. It was a rare gallica rose, Sissinghurst Castle, also available as Rose des Maures.



Writer, Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson purchased an old ruined castle in 1931. It was a wreck with a ruined tower and derelict farm houses. But for Vita, it was love at first sight. It tugged at her imagination and she "saw what could be made of it." The day they took possession, Vita wrote the poem, Sissinghurst.  Opening lines ...  

A tired swimmer in the waves of time
 I throw my hands up: let the surface close:
Sink down through the centuries to another clime, 
And buried find the castle and the rose.

 
  The garden at Sissinghurst, created within the ruin.







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