August 1, 2011
At the Shore: Sculpted Hedges
As often happens to me when I am in a somewhat familiar place, I notice something that never struck me before, something that was always there, but never moved to the front of my consciousness. Thoreau has an apt phrase "...we find only the world we look for.", which I quote in this blog post. So during my short trip to the New Jersey shore, I suddenly noticed all the shaped hedges and trees in gardens throughout the borough of Deal. Above is the fanciful arrangement of shrubs and tree in front of the Catholic Church. It looks more like a setting for Alice in Wonderland, where magical happenings might occur, than the entrance to a serious place of worship.
Some of the sculpted hedges are privet and some are evergreens. Here the large plants are cut in swooping volumes, great curving masses whose shapes are emphasized by their straight sides. I wish I'd asked a gardener who I saw where he got his ideas for this sculpture; it is the professional workers who make these forms, not the owners of the large houses.
I love this grouping of a large round cake in front of a huddled array of tall forms, looking as though they are leaning together for comfort or for a good gossip, or maybe they're waiting for a slice.
The artificial nature of the shaped trees is in keeping with the grand formality of the homes. It's hard to imagine seeing this kind of gardening here in Vermont, where the wild of the woods is part of the garden aesthetic.
At another beautiful old home, the muffin rounds of shrubs are contrasted with the dripping lines of parallel leaves of a cherry tree. The tree, though not trimmed, has a remarkably formal presence.
Lastly, here is a marvelously inventive hedge, one that I didn't see repeated anywhere else: pointed cones rise up from the body of the rectangular hedge, adding a surprising bit of geometry, little hills above a flat plain. None of the hedges I saw came up to the complexity and exuberance of some of the most imaginative topiary, but I certainly enjoyed seeing their artful shapes in the gardens.