Sarah Coles

Painting Paradise

Bushey Park, 18th centuryThe garden: sacred sanctuary, place for scientific study, haven for solitude and thought, or just a space for sociable delights?  Children’s playground, sculpture park?   For me it’s a bit of all of these but especially a private place where I grow plants and sow seeds, weed and exult over a plant I’d thought lost, where I interact with nature and am blissfully at one with it.  I don’t have to talk with anyone. small lawn surrounded by flowers I put my arms round the birch, my lady of the woods.  Together with plants and trees extending new shoots, I stretch fingers to the sun and yearn for its warmth.  In the old days I used to dance naked in the garden at night.  My garden is the nearest I get to paradise.

So, to London to see Painting Paradise, the Art of the Garden at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, with plant and garden paintings gathered by the royals over the centuries.   I loved the manuscripts of IMG_0190FullSizeRender (4)Islamic gardens with octagonal ponds and chenar (plane) trees, lovers and flowers (alas their deep symbolism barely touched on).  Ditto Rembrandt’s painting of Christ as a gardener, complete with trowel – transcendent.   Ditto some medieval gardens.

Then royal and aristocratic grandeur.  We Bushey Park, 18th centuryget to 16th and century baroque gardens for show and prestige, knot gardens, 17th and 18th landscape gardens creating an idealised countryside with temples and waterfalls, then Edwardian herbaceous borders – all interesting historical stuff, but – for me a lot of the time – the soul has turned grey in its cage.

Roof garden, ItalianI liked the 16th century eco garden with a green roof carrying herbs.  But best were the early sacred gardens.


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