Hauser & Wirth, Somerset (October 2022)

A look back but unusually for me, a new post and not robbing the back catalogue. October this year, so autumn rather than frigid winter (here in the UK it’s Arctic Blast all the way). But having visited Hauser & Wirth and making tentative forays into putting energy into these pages, well this was as good a place to start as any.

I was driving over from Bristol heading to Blandford to have another look at the house I’m hoping will be mine in the not too distant, and the very picturesque village of Bruton with Hauser & Wirth on a former farmstead just outside the village, well this was an ideal stopover. Well it was much more than that. An art gallery of repute, nestled in the Somerset countryside so art, of course and there was a Louise Bourgeois exhibition in the remarkable cavernous barns which was a good enough reason to make this excursion alone, a restaurant/cafe and busy bar that I didn’t sample, a very enticing farm shop plum full of pumpkins (and an excellent chocolate brownie, for energy) – and this landscape, the Piet Oudolf Field. The season and reputation doubling up for as good an excuse as any to visit.

This was in peak condition and happily a touch of sunshine and blue sky set it all off beautifully. Now of course it will be more architectural as all such prairie planting, a loose term but useful, beautifully declines towards a wintery death. Gold and brown, seed heads and structure. Shelter and food for wildlife, tick, and beauty in decay, tick.

Rigid structure defined by the sinuous paths and sharp edging to the beds, gravel and water, borrowing the surrounding landscape all softened by the blocks of planting, full, particularly this late in the season. You will find more examples of Piet Oudolf’s work in these pages, though his original planting must mutate, develop, organically grow and mature into something new unless there is a very firm hand at the horticultural helm. Scampston Hall in Yorkshire, the double borders at RHS Wisley leading from the lake to the mound at the top of the slope (and these are very different to the original planting). I’ll have to look back myself to see where else it pops up and refresh my memory too.

I recommend his book, co-authored with Noel Kingsbury, Planting – a New Perspective, where the genesis of this philosophy of planting, a combination of design and horticulture is detailed, well, very much in detail.

I’ll indulge myself a little with some of the interiors and the pieces exhibited. Louise Bourgeois (Drawing Intimacies) and Fabian Peake. Any will do if you are short on ideas for a Christmas present.

And the Farm Shop – I very much enjoyed the cheeky chocolate brownie…

The gallery exhibits are free as is entry to the garden. Next time I shall have to sample the hospitality and explore the village too.

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