Wednesday, 6 May 2009

From the sublime to the ridiculous

We're not habitual visitors of grand houses and their gardens, but we'd heard good things of Great Dixter, just over the border into Sussex. For a start, part of the house is fifteenth century, with sixteenth century improvements swept awayto restore the original features.

The other half of the house was designed by Luytchens to complement the style of the first part.
Furthermore, the gardens have been redesigned in a cottage garden style, higgledy-piggledy, as is our prefered style, rather than formal rose-and dahlia-dominated rigidity. The effect with the old buildings is sublime.
A host of early purple orchids adorn the lawns which at this season have been left to become meadows.

In comparison to the softness of the weald, the cliffs and shingle of our coast are harsh, with plants and animals seeking their niches in a barren landscape.
Sea Kale is coming into flower, white and later than the yellow sea cabbage.
Mouse-eared Hawkweed and Stonecrop work together to keep a root-hold in the shingle.
A wall butterfly waits for the sun.....
..while the first common blue basks in it.

On the cliffs, kittiwakes seem even scarcer than usual, with last year's nests mostly vacant.
A few call from the sea, and just one was spotted on the cliff.
Maybe the graculus family is partly to blame - they have fledged now and will presumably roam far and wide, leaving the other residents in peace.

PS Last year's blog shows that similar concern over the kittiwake numbers was expressed at this season; by late May there were more birds incubating, and fluffy chicks were apparent by late June.

Sublime to the ridiculous? A phrase coined by Tom Paine according to my Dictionary of Quotations (not wiki or google).


Anonymous said...

Mouse-ear Hawkweed - thanks for that. Saw it growing on brick walls at Fort Victoria last week (not yet in flower) and hadn't id'd it yet.
Couldn't resist looking up 'Sublime to the ridiculous' via Google and Wikipedia, by the way. No mention of one Tom Paine in this connection though. Apparently 'Sublime to the ridiculous' was an album recorded by the band Sheer Greed, one of whose members was the excellently named drummer Pete Barnacle.

Anonymous said...

That is beautiful..I remember seeing places like that on our visit to England..

Mary said...

I love those gardens! I wish I could just let our yard look like that, but neighbors would complain..sigh. Are those grey things chimneys or vents that stick up on that building? Odd looking, but great for a photo. I can't imagine how the kittiwakes every make nests there, let alone be successful at it.

Kingsdowner said...

Rob, Paine's quote (from 'The Age of Reason' apparently predated Napoleon's use of it.
We have a band locally called 'Bill Baracle's Jazz Band' - also a good name:-)

Michelle & Mary, it's a lovely building (unfortunately no photography allowed inside).
The vents are oast houses - they are an overdue subject for a blog.

Goosey said...

I have never been to Great Dixter, but it does look well worth a visit.Really nice flower borders and the house so attractive too.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
Snap on the Common Blue .
As for the Mouse Eared Hawkweed , I was looking at some today , and it is just rosettes of leaves , miles from flowering .

Phil and Mandy said...

a lovely selection of picyures and some fine days out.

Anonymous said...

Great Dixter is superb - one of the few non-natural history related places* I miss from my time living in Kent. The head gardener (Fergus?) has done a great job carrying on where Christopher Lloyd left off.


* not entirely true this - I saw one of only two Red Kites I ever saw in Kent at Great Dixter in 2003.

Mary said...

Thanks for the info! I wrote a paper on Thomas Paine once, but don't remember that quote. Obviously, I didn't do a thorough job.

NW Nature Nut said...

Those gardens look a fairytale. Although to us Americans all your old buildings look like a fairytale!