The walled kitchen garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex.

The walled kitchen garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex.

Cultivated – Fence me in: Lessons from the Sun King

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria

What is it about being embraced? Held? Not solely by a loved one, but a garden?

Enclosed gardens have a history almost as old agriculture itself. What may have begun as a practical consideration – to keep animals out and plants in – has evolved into spaces designed for pleasure. Think of the courtyard gardens of the ancient world, the delicacy of Japanese roji wrapping around a building, the urban oases of modern life.

As Julie Moir Messervy writes in The Inward Garden, “a cloister, court, plaza or square are the architectural equivalents of the wing chair, booth, playpen, or fenced-in yard that formed the harbours of our childhood landscapes.”

Winter is a great time to examine the structure of your garden. In areas unused, can you work vertically to enclose a space and make it more inviting? Or can you divide a space using a panel, pergola, arbor or a wall?

For very little money it’s possible to sink two T-posts into the ground, wire on a panel of cedar trellis and plant seeds of an easy annual vine like Cobea scandens, the old fashioned Cup and Saucer vine, which can easily cover twenty-feet in one season.

Step up that set-up to a permanent post set in concrete or a saddle and pier block combination and perennial vines and roses will delight in covering it over the years. (You might even plant tender annuals like cucumbers or trailing nasturtiums (which climb with a modicum of assistance) to give you first-year interest while your roses fill in.

Somehow I’ve managed to talk about vertical gardening when what I really wanted to natter on about was the history of walled gardens – grand in scale no doubt, but some lessons for the home gardener apply.

I recently visited a walled garden at Gravetye Manor in Sussex, England, where two and half acres still produce produce for the manor’s restaurant. The garden is a fantastic example of all that once was and can still be grown: apples espaliered, tall Jerusalem artichokes, purple Brussels sprouts, hedges of kales, tidy rows of salad greens, herbs and edible flowers edging paths.

Gravetye’s walled garden was established in 1901 at the end of an era for these great gardens (in the UK most were built between 1750 and 1880). The decline in skilled labour during Great War and the development of refrigeration afterwards changed how food was produced and consumed and many gardens fell into disrepair. Restoration of Gravetye’s walled garden began in 2010. Head gardener Tom Coward manages the walled garden for productivity using Victorian cultivation techniques.

But back to our enclosures: As you move up the expense ladder the benefits of enclosure increase. Rock and brick store radiant heat. Plus, walled gardens block wind thus raising the temperature inside. Interesting fact: a one-acre kitchen garden could produce food for 12 people in Victorian times. Do the math and technically I could be growing food for a family of four on my large urban lot. (Yet another argument for smaller house footprints…). I do consider my own garden a bit of a playpen and delight in growing tall plants to create small private spaces.

Humans have long loved a proximity to – nay, an intimacy with nature, but we seem to love it best on our own terms; a little controlled chaos close to home. And speaking of chaos, one last European digression. On my flight over I happened upon a historical drama I hadn’t seen, directed by a man that I will miss forevermore: Alan Rickman. It wasn’t a great movie, but the title is: A Little Chaos. And the musical composition of the same name (by Scottish cellist Peter Gregson) evokes precisely the grandeur and intimacy of the garden featured in the final scene. It’s known as the Bosquet de la Salle-de-Bal at Versailles and over the course of the movie we witness its construction. In that last scene of the film, Rickman – majestic as Louis XIV, enters the sunken garden for the first time. People dance around him while he stays still, a centrepoint of glory and magnificence.

Messervy says it best: ‘enclosures…give us the security to perceive ourselves as the weighted center of any landscape…by feeling enclosed, we feel as though we are the center of the world.”

 

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria. She writes here twice a month on all things gardening.

 

 

Just Posted

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

Emergency health services treated a person after they were blocking traffic at the intersection of Fort and Douglas Streets on June 17. (Evert Lindquist/ News Staff)
Victoria intersection traffic returns to normal after protester blocked roadway

A person in a motorized wheelchair was blocking the intersection at Fort and Douglas Streets

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

With local high schoolers unable to have a traditional graduation ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions, Amica Douglas House celebrated the momentous occasion of eight of their dining room servers. (Courtesy Amica Douglas House)
8 Greater Victoria teens don fancy dresses, celebrate grad with seniors

With celebrations nixed, Amica Douglas House hosts event for its serving staff

Eric White’s roadside farm stand in Metchosin sits stocked with produce. (Photo courtesy of Eric White)
Fledgling Metchosin farmer frustrated by thefts from stand

Eric White said every dollar made at the roadside helps sustain his farm

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read