DryStoneGarden

Plants, Stone, California Landscapes

Flower

Piet Oudolf’s Vlinderhof Garden

One of the first things I did on this bike trip was check out Piet Oudolf’s garden at Vlinderhof in Utrecht. I’ve been following Oudolf’s work through photographs and videos for years and I’d seen the underwhelming spring version of his High Line plantings, but this was the first proper Piet Oudolf planting I’d seen in person, and it blew me away. Almost every plant was in full bloom, every plant was in synch, every plant helped to make every other plant shine. It’s the best meadow planting I’ve ever seen.

I’d read about Vlinderhof in other blog posts throughout the years: RhoneStreetGardens part 1 and part 2, Federaltwist a year later, video of the garden by photographer Hans van Horssen, in summer and fall.

Amsterdam to Italy

I did another bicycle trip this summer, riding from Amsterdam to Italy. Fun times. I started in Dutch canal and windmill country, rode down through Belgium, bits of France, Luxembourg and Germany, then to Basel, Zurich, and Innsbruck, and then down through the Dolomites to just outside Venice. I went thru 9 countries all told, though that includes about 20 minutes crossing Liechtenstein. I took lots of photos of gardens and stone along the way which I’ll be showing in the future. For now, these are my drawings from the trip.
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Piet Oudolf on TV

Piet Oudolf on the PBS Newshour and then a longer documentary from Holland (turn on the Closed Captioning if, like me, you don’t speak Dutch). The Newshour has some nice looks at his drawings. The Dutch documentary has a fun scene of him squabbling with contractors at a jobsite. My favorite quote: ‘I always enter like a kind of evil spirit at the last moment.’

Nubuo Sekine

Nobuo Sekine Interview: Sensibility of a Rock from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

‘One day, as one large rock that was on the ground was being lifted into the air — at that exact moment — I had an epiphany that this action had changed the meaning of its existence’ Nabuo Sekine

Japanese Sculptor Nobuo Sekine passed away a few days ago. He was one of the originators of Mono-Ha, a conceptual art movement from the late sixties that I find interesting but elusive. I’m hesitant to even try to describe it, I feel too distant from the time period and the culture, other than to say that a lot of it has roots in the Japanese rock garden tradition. There are other influences at play as well, but I see elements of both the rock garden philosophy and craft, and kindred ideas about materials, context, and spatial relationships. A lot of Sekine’s works use found objects, frequently those found objects are stones, and, as can be seen in this video, a lot of his work seem to have its origin in the artist standing and staring at a stone and meditating on how to transform it into a work of art.

Staddle Stones

In Switzerland I saw my first staddle stones, one of the more charming dry stone elements that humans have devised. Staddle stones are the round caps on each of the stubby posts that raise the barns off the ground, acting like a collar to keep rodents from climbing up into the barns.

In Switzerland I think they are most common in the side valleys of the Valais. These photos are from Saas Fee and Randa, near Zermatt. Read the rest of this entry »

The Messner Mountain Museum at Firmian

Along with Castelvecchio, my other favorite castle/museum in Italy is the Messner Mountain Museum at Firmian near Bolzano. I was restrained about taking photos at most of the castles and museums I visited, but I indulged myself at this one. Everything about it — the site, the historic stone architecture, the modern intervention, and the art collection within it — is top class.

The castle sits on a wonderful hill with formations of columnar porphyritic rock; it commands a great view over the countryside and would be a ‘power spot’ in most cultures. The castle itself dates back to 945 AD, with a rich history thru the intervening years. The restoration and adaptation is wonderfully done, most of the additions created with beautiful reddish steel; a tunnel was cut through the rock in one place and an amphitheater carved into the hillside in another. And Messner’s collection of art, statuary, and alpine memorabilia is interesting, varied but linked by the themes of mountains and mountain mythology.

The whole ensemble is a pastiche — Tibetan prayer flags on an Italian castle, Indian deities on midieval defensive walls, Buddha’s disciples in a defensive tower — but a fascinating pastiche, and one that Messner earned the right to create it as arguably the greatest mountaineer in history, a Tyrolean who climbed in Nepal. It’s not for purists, and I’m not going to argue with anyone who calls it a rich guy’s vanity project, but I loved it. Beautiful hill, beautiful castle, beautiful restoration, beautiful collection. An excess of photos are below. Read the rest of this entry »