Six on Saturday: An Artist’s Garden

IMG_6162It is exactly a year since I started volunteering one day a week in the garden at Charleston farmhouse in East Sussex, where artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived and painted in the middle decades of the twentieth century. So for this week’s six I am sharing some photographs I took of the garden on my iPhone earlier this week. As you can see from the sign above, on Tuesdays when I volunteer the garden is closed to the public and it is pretty special being able to garden there with almost nobody about, apart from head gardener Fiona. The house and garden are open Wednesday to Sunday and are definitely worth a visit if you have never been

  1. Painterly planting

IMG_6111IMG_6115Vanessa Bell, artist, sister of Virginia Woolf and a leading light in the Bloomsbury Group, was a keen gardener. She liked to plant in bold colours, in drifts and her garden is the subject of many of her paintings. One of the views she painted was along this path in front of the house. At this time of year wallflowers provide a splash of bright colour. Along the edge of the path are Dianthus ‘Mrs Sinkins’ which will soon flower in an old-fashioned pink. Some of the many apple trees in the garden can also be seen still in blossom.

2. Statues and busts

IMG_6107IMG_6141IMG_6156Sculptures are an important feature of the garden – many of the statues and busts were by Bloomsbury artists, in particular by Vanessa’s son Quentin Bell, such as Pomona, the fruit gatherer above. Others, including the busts that sit atop the garden wall were from Lewes Art School. In winter, they are all wrapped up to preserve them, before emerging again in the spring.

3. View from the studio

IMG_6123IMG_6125IMG_6127Another view that Vanessa often painted was this path leading away from the studio she shared with Grant. At the moment it is a subtle palette of blue forget-me-nots and purple honesty, but soon it will explode into colour with roses, irises, foxgloves, poppies and more.

4. The piazza

IMG_6103IMG_6102IMG_6161Vanessa Bell loved visiting the Mediterranean South of France and she brought a little bit of it back home with her when she and her friends created this mosaic piazza, a sunny south-facing place to sit and talk with friends. There is a little pond with a water spout and one of my favourite planters in the garden – the woman’s torso with hydrangeas.

5. The vegetable garden

IMG_6101IMG_6131IMG_6135With the help of one of the other volunteers, head gardener Fiona has restored the vegetable garden this year, using the bricks from the old path to created new raised beds where she is growing beans, sweet peas, chives, lettuces, rhubarb and gooseberries, as well as an entire bed devoted to Charleston’s trademark artichokes with their ornamental silvery foliage.

6. The orchard and pond

IMG_6149IMG_6147IMG_6155Next week sees the start of the annual Charleston Festival when the quiet orchard with Quentin Bell’s brick statue of a sphinx will become a bustling cafe area and literary types will discuss the talks they are going to, while contemplating the peaceful pond with its waterlilies, blissfully unaware that in a few week’s time the gardener will be wading in to remove the parrot feather pondweed before it takes over!

To discover the highlights from other Six-ers’ gardens this week, head on over to The Propagator’s blog.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. n20gardener says:

    How lovely it must be to volunteer in such a glorious place, so much to inspire and to garden in such a well organised garden must be a joy – no shame inducing corners! I must tidy up more!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is very inspiring and has helped with my gardening at home!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed your post. The pictures are lovely too. Definitely a place I would like to visit now

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – it is a beautiful garden and I am lucky to volunteer there.


  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Yes, you are lucky to volunteer there. I love the torso with the hydrangeas and the beautiful borders.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. fredgardener says:

    You were very lucky to spend time in this beautiful garden. Thanks for sharing these pictures !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Heyjude says:

    A garden I have long wanted to visit so thank you for the tour. I love ‘painterly’ planting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ali says:

    This is beautiful. We visited the garden last year, perhaps a little later in the season. I would love to visit again this year. It must be lovely to have such an intimate experience with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tonytomeo says:

    Oooh, some of those statues and busts are creepy. There was a very big and heavy statue of Jesus at the Sacred Heard Jesuit Center (the Novitiate) above town that fell down in the earthquake. It is so dense and heavy that head broke off. Well, the statue was such an important feature of the landscape that it was ‘repaired’, by epoxying the heat back on. That would not have been a problem, except that the epoxy discolored the stone, leaving a slightly visible seam around the neck. Those who notice it sometimes irreverently refer to it as a statue of John the Baptist (and beheaded martyr) instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. byrnejudy says:

    Excellent photos, bringing out the early spring feeling of this gorgeous walled garden

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, my visit to Charleston Farmhouse and Monks House were two of my all time favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

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