Friday, 16 September 2016

Little Sparta

Little Sparta  - A Guide to the Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay by Jessie Sheeler photographs by Robin Gillanders (Birlinn 2015)
I am an admirer of Little Sparta, the garden created by poet Ian Hamilton Finlay on an otherwise bleak moorland site in south Lanarkshire, not far from where I used to live.

I am indebted to my sister Jenny Gough-Cooper for introducing me both to Ian and his garden many years ago, and to my friend Janet Wheatcroft for lending me this recent book (pictured above) about the artefacts in the garden.

There is a series of three watering cans in the garden, each of which exemplifies aspects of Ian's wide-ranging interests, allusions and word play in his concrete poetry.  One ceramic can records the date of the death of Robespierre, guillotined on the day in the French revolutionary calendar named 'Arrosoir' - watering day.  Another, a white can, bears the inscription 'a rose is a rose is a rose' -  a play both on the French word for the can 'arrosoir' and a quotation from the American author Gertrude Stein appropriate for a garden.  The third can has a typical IHF word-association string: Tea Kettle Drum Water Lily Cup.

These examples lead me to my garden at 23 Well Road in Moffat,  where I am planning some changes to the area currently lawn with narrowish borders of well-established shrubs and perennials.  By chance, before I was reminded of Ian's watering can theme, I had chosen a bright pink watering can to mark a focal point at the far end of my garden. 

Ian's master mason, Peter Coates, whose work is displayed in various mediums throughout the garden at Little Sparta, engraved the lines 'Heureux qui, comme Ulysse' on the pavement in my first garden at 21 Well Road

Let's see where all this will lead...

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