Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A Secret Garden

In my early 20's I took a trip to Dungeness in Kent to see a cottage with a garden very close to the nuclear power station.
The cottage and the garden belonged to the late director, artist and writer Derek Jarman - but I discovered it wasn't 'just' a garden,
it was a garden built with passion by Jarman himself from the "flints, shells and driftwood from Dungeness", it featured stone sculptures, old tools, and other random objects he found, as well as plants and flowers native to the often bleak and desolate landscape of the power station.
Not exactly a vision of beauty I admit, but it's creation is loaded with passion.

I bought this book after my visit to 'Prospect Cottage' way back, but lost it during my many moves around the UK. Last week during a trip to Fowey, I noticed the lady who served me in a crafty garden shop reading it and immediately I was transported to the shingle of Dungeness, perplexed as to how anyone could create such a beautiful garden with a power station as it's backdrop.

What I love most about this book are the photographs (by Howard Sooley), and the easy way Jarman is captured pottering around his garden "walking, weeding, watering, or just
enjoying life", and also the inspiration at discovering that written on the side of the cottage is the first stanza, and the last five lines of the last stanza 'The Sun Rising' by John Donne.

I have been scoffed at in the past for describing things/people as "genuis", but I think I'm safe in saying Derek Jarman was, and the record of the later years of his life in Dungeness in this book are evidence of it.
'Derek Jarman's Garden' was the last book he wrote; he moved to 'Prospect Cottage' in the late 80's prompted by his illness and still managed to produce an enlightening record of the garden's formation in the mid 1980's to his death in 1994.

His cottage and garden continue to be attended, and remain a tribute to a man who had been a passionate gardener from boyhood.
Not everyone's cup of tea, but worth a browse just for the photographs.
Thanks for reading

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