Residency at the Walled Garden at Great Glemham House Part II
In the previous entry on the gardens, I briefly outlined my residency arrangements during my second visit and collaboration with the garden. In this post, I thought I would elaborate on some of the history of the garden, particular plants and their accompanying significance. Historically, the gardens produced food for around 40 people at one time; mainly the household and those working on the estate with their families. It sits on an octagonal plan, originally established with the building of the main house in the 1820s. The garden until very recently was largely managed by Lady Caroline Cranbrook.
In truth, nearly every variety of vegetable, fruit or plant in the garden appeared to hold some meaning or nod to an event or experience. I was very kindly taken around the garden on more than one occasion by Lady Cranbrook, the barer of many botanical insights and a walking, talking archive for garden anecdotes. As the garden itself supplies food for the family, local shops, the gardeners and the festival when running, I was careful to check in before picking produce for my own purposes.
A great many of the plants when I visited had been grown from seeds or vegetable purchased by the Cranbrooks during various trips. Many of the tomatoes originated from a garden market in Lucca, Tuscany, and the squash from Palermo, Sicily, for example. The vast collection of beans were the result of a bundle of seeds Lady C found in Budapest, with new varieties subsequently sourced from trips and locations all over the world.
On my very first trip to the gardens, Jason Gathorn-Hardy, the artist and curator behind the Alde Valley Festival and connected residency programmes, pointed out a particular apple tree. The Lord Darby apple tree is around 200 years old and grows as a twisted horizontal, supported by various metal stakes. The bulk of the tree is dead but this last section appears to have rooted itself into some source of the Water of Life since it renews each year without fail. The apples are tiny, dwindling in number, but Lord Darby consistently produces a tiny harvest. These apples have been some of my favourite casts. They perfectly exemplify the values of the project as the product of dedication and care over centuries; equally they are the simple, marvellous routine and honest work of the old apple tree.
Along the exterior of the garden, there is an enormous apple store. The space is long and dark, with slatted windows and a large wooden rack running along one wall. Visiting this store with Jason one time, we found a bushel of shrivelled apples, presumably forgotten and left at the very back of the slats, which I opted to cast too. The last apples from the previous harvest.
I managed to obtain quince and medlars from the trees just outside of the garden for the Glemham series too. The final series, comprised of over 50 pieces in total, was exhibited at White House Farm as part of the Alde Valley Festival at the start of 2019.
Working with the gardens at Glemham was an important step in my own rootedness in this region. I was initially a little concerned about moving back to Suffolk to make work when the majority of artists or young professionals my age were flocking to London. It felt developmentally regressive to return to the county I grew up in, out of step with the expectations of my generation. But the place provided learning and space, and discovering places like Glemham in addition to reading the thoughts of others about the region allowed me to see the area anew. In my opinion, the works in this series are best viewed in the quiet. This is perhaps an extension of my own needs as a practitioner as I came to recognise by learning more about the existing influence and inspiration of this area in the creative work of others.
If you would like to find out more about the gardens, I recommend the book The Artist in The Garden by Jason Gathorne Hardy and the artist Tessa Newcomb.
For further details on the Glemham series, you can contact the festival gallery via the main website: www.galloper-sands.co.uk or through www.aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk.