Of timelessness and moment

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In a French garden, for instance, or an English garden, it’s possible to have a building of, lets say five hundred years old alongside trees of one or two hundred years, alongside a flowering shrub of ten years old, alongside a poppy flower that burst from its bud this morning, and will be smashed apart by a sun-shower by three this afternoon: the ‘eternal’ and the ephemeral, and everything in between.  It’s how, even in an old garden, every passing moment beckons to be noticed, and to be appreciated.

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For the most part, the passing moment in gardens – the call to seize the day – is flower-generated.  Shorter time-scales are marked by the swaying of plants in wind, and of birds in arrival and departure, but the poignancy of the passing is largely provided by flowers.

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In Italian gardens, which are mostly flowerless (at least at this time in history – some suggest they were not always so), and in which I’m currently steeped, it seems to me that

DSC_0304the ‘moment’ – the conviction that this very second is unique – is provided by the movement of water. Not much else changes from week to week, season to season, or even year to year, but it doesn’t need to.

Against a background of inanimate and living stability is an eye-grabbing flash and sparkle – the revelation and instant disappearance of jewels that add passing value to every passing moment.

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This is never more evident than at Villa Lante (where all these pics were taken), which for all its genius of conception is as flat as a tack without the animation of water.  The stone sits dry and dead.  This year, with plenty of rainfall to keep the natural water source flowing, it was virtually dancing.

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