Thursday, December 23, 2010

Le jardin d’eau

Les Jardins de Castillon-Plantbessin were one of the gardens that made the deepest impression during our trip to the coast of Normandy. This blog was meant to be all about this captivating place and the many things I admired there. But whenever I think of Castillon, the first thing that pops into my head is one particular garden: le jardin d’eau, the water garden.

The layout of this garden is as simple as they come: a long rectilinear pool surrounded on all four sides by plants. The pool is dark mirror, reflecting the sky and providing as porthole to things below. Around it, a jungle of green plants are just on the edge of chaos, completely overtaking the space and leaving only a narrow path to walk on carefully at the water’s edge. The entire space feels secret, magical and powerful. I’ll just leave it to the pictures to hopefully convey the atmosphere, and there will be more to come on Castillon-Plantbessin. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter is coming

Winter in Belgium generally means gray, rainy days with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing. Snow and ice are rare, and cause complete chaos across the country when they do occur.

Well, this year, we’ve been warned: a real winter is coming to Belgium. We could already see the first signs of it this weekend at our local botanical garden in Leuven: tiny specs of snow were nestled between the fallen leaves, even though it was a sunny day. This little evidence may seem pathetic to any Canadian, but in a country where rain is the only usual form of precipitation, it’s an ominous sign.

The sun is so weak now, it’s no wonder it can’t even melt a few bits of snow. It’s dropping ever lower in the sky, and by 2:30pm there was barely enough light to take these pictures. The soft, low lighting did make for some nice effects though, especially in combination with the dried skeletons of once lush plants.

One of the advantages of borderline freezing temperatures and moist air which characterize winter weather here is hoarfrost. It's a beautiful effect, one that I often saw in gardening books while in Ontario and usually thought what a scam! Any garden can look good silhouetted in hoarfrost, but how often does it actually occur? In Ontario almost never, but here (and I suspect in the UK, where most of the books were from) it's a frequent visitor during the winter months. The pictures below are from last winter, but we've already enjoyed a few mornings of it this year. It's just a tiny patch of un-mown roadside on my way to work, but doesn't hoarfrost just make the most mundane thing beautiful?