Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 23, 1972
Lecture 4, Part 4.7
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
The full text of this lecture segment
Contents of this Segment:
Planting Anemone corms; Freesia; Ornathogalum; Oleander repels gophers and deer; Garden layout within the natural setting; The Clairvoyer.
Villa Montalvo Lecture Series
Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 4,
The Totality of the Garden, Part 7
...in a kind of thing they call soil with seeds sown, this monstrosity. I don’t know what, that’s put it right out of my head, I’m afraid.
However, the whole of this thing... Now, understand that if you plant the corm of an Anemone, you must time it three months to three and a half months to bloom. Now, if you take your seed, or you buy seed of the Anemone and sow it, you may say ”In seven months, this seed sown will actually have made a corm and will come into bloom.” And this is first year bloom, and that these corms will live for four years, getting better and better, and more and more. And that from each corm you will get fully thirty blooms a year, each. Therefore you allow seven months from when you sow your seed to start your bloom.
And you know this enchanting flower, Fresia. A wonderful flower of the most exquisite scent, that you can have in bloom through November, December, January, when there’s frost or snow or wind or anything. It will grow in a cold-house in pots, or in beds. It’s better grown in the winter in containers, and the scent is absolute magic. Seven months to eight months, again, from seed. It will develop its own bulb, and it will bloom immediately within that time.
All those Ornithogalum, I can cut you, if you like, twenty thousand tonight. And I raised the whole lot for eighty cents. From seed. It’s a Lily, Ornithogalum thyrsoides, this wonderful flower, it’s known in in Africa as Chincherinchee. It goes to England, and each of these sell for ten shillings, a dollar, more than a dollar each, in the shops in London. Every one of those buds will come into bloom. Every single one will come into full bloom. And when these are in full bloom these will not be dead, they will be in bloom. That the whole flower will last in water for three months. It grows on a bulb. When there was once famine, in Persia and Mesopotamia, the whole of the humanity of that area lived upon the bulb of this plant used as a flour. I have also found an extraordinary interesting matter, that this bulb, which is edible to man, is never touched by gophers. And, in fact, they don’t like even to go through it. If you grow a bed of them around other things where you have problems, it definitely stops them.
You must also note—I am terribly, you know, free and easy tonight, discussing all sorts of things—that Oleander as a shrub, as a hedge will prevent gopher entering your garden, and will also prevent deer, frequently. Well, that produces something of the idea of what I want to relate to about seed. Do not overlook the matter that you have to buy anything from bulb or tree or shrub if you don’t want to, and the enchantment is growing it from seed.
I wanted to talk, just very briefly, on certain aspects of laying out gardens, of landscaping. When you listen to a symphony, or any classical music, when you look at any master painting, in fact when you look at any classical art whatever, you are brought to a sudden realization of the minuteness of the actual subjectivity. When you look at the visage of a Madonna, or a child, or a still-life, that the actual presentiment of what is the total vision of the subject is just so small that it’s almost insignificant. That the background, the air, is really the whole important matter that makes the whole thing come to life.
And this must not be overlooked in whatever you are building in the garden, or the farm, or the small holding. It’s part of the whole enchantment of the classical entry into the thing that produces your happiness in doing it. That it is the setting of the subject: the diamond in the ring which is so exquisite a matter. And the handling of this can never be too delicate, or too much focused upon. In other words, what I am saying, is that many people overload the subjectivity. In fact, to use a phraseology, every amateur automatically does it. And it‘s the thing that you’ve got to get away from. You will find that when the beginner sows a seed bed, the whole of the middle of the bed comes up with a great mass, and the edges and corners haven’t got anything in them at all.
So, what I am really alluding to is that in the first place, anything that you are constructing in the garden―even though it be livestock and pens for livestock, or orchards, or a garden, or vegetable garden, or fruit garden―it should be a vision of contemplation of the lie of the land, of the nature of the atmosphere and the land, of the contour and the undulation and the flow, having received the contemplation of this clearly as a totality. And you must not look strongly at it with your eyes, you must let it enter you. And the emanation of it all will then guide you how to follow and to build into it the constructiveness of what you want to create.
At all times it is so important to do this. For what is more charming than a garden which fits into the indigenous, that uses the trees and the undulations and the little stream, and some of the wildflowers and the shrubs, and the odd little plants, and things that the average person would say “Oh, weed! What's it doing? Take it out!” And it very much belongs. And the manipulation of a garden into woods, into natural indigenous areas is a huge enchantment that is very difficult to conceive and to come about. But it is the greatest mastery of them all.
It is terribly easy to say “Poof! Wipe that out, the whole thing goes!” And in goes the whole of my indoctrination. This is a huge mistake, because you will be bored with yourself before you’ve got very far. You will have concrete paths, privet hedges, and flowers standing up like sentries. And they become quite horrible.
And I want to mention certain matters in conjunction with that, that the flow and the undulation should lead us, and that always you should remember Clairvoyer. Vision. That the whole magic of our lives is the knowledge of what is total, what is beyond the senses, what is the essence of spirituality of all of us. And that always, somehow, this is like looking through the trees, over the hills, beyond the rivers, into the sky forever. And that we must never lose this classical matter, this classical technique in our garden construction. The Clairvoyier, vision always somewhere. Even though you have monstrous things in front of you saying “Look at me, aren’t I magnificent, aren’t I wonderful?”
But at the same time you must always say, “Yes, yes, I know you are, yes you’re absolutely wonderful, but I want to see, I want to think forever.” And suddenly, your eyes go out and travel, and you realize that you’ve suddenly struck the matter of eternity. This huge joy, of when you go from the town in a wretched motor car, in a wretched built-in street, and suddenly you’re on the cliffs, and the great ocean, and there’s a sunset and great clouds are rolling. And everything is open suddenly. Do you realize the enormity of eternity?
We mustn't lose this in our landscaping, ever. However small the garden, it must have it’s Clairvoyier, its outlet. And that of course, into the whole of this enters the vision of what landscape gardening always was. And that is it leads out of the Oikos, the home, which you always enter from the north, and suddenly the great windows are looking out onto the terraces, the parterres, and then the avenues, and the Clairvoyier that go over the countryside, into the sky, into the distance, forever. That give you your dreams, and your magics, and your creativities.