PHYLLIS ODESSEY

I’m an Addict: Xa Tollemache

Xa Tollemache
A Garden Well-Placed
A Designer’s Harmony Between House & Garden
The Royal Oak Foundation
Seeds for Thought Garden Lecture Series
2010
“The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied.  They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done 
 before.”
Vita Sackville-West
Xa Tollemache’s Home:  Helmington Hall
I’m an addict: 
My idea of a good fix is planting a garden.

Xa Tollemache minced no words at her talk Tuesday night.  She made it clear from the beginning, that gardening is her life.

Xa’s description of a garden “A matrix of energy”.   A lot of energy is what you need to design gardens the size of Rhode Island.  From Dunbeath Castle in Scotland (1860) to Wilton House in Salisbury (1653), Xa started at the top of Britian and worked her way down to southern end of the island. 

Photo from Xa Tollemache
Few people get to design gardens which include cutting gardens, walled gardens, conservatories, kitchen gardens, knot gardens, woodland gardens, follies, wildflower meadows, rose gardens, and 500 acre English “parks”.  Xa is a great plantswomen.  The combinations were beautiful.  When designing a garden, she paints a picture in her head and this becomes the basis of her planting design.

Using house, landscape and the lives of the people living in the house,  Xa’s starting point is personal. This includes her way of describing plants:  “Every plant has a shout out moment.” And some “plants die very disgracefully. ”

Photo from Xa Tollemache. Helmington Hall, The Knot Garden with Xa and her busband’s initials in two of the knots. 
Besides a lot of pretty pictures, a few gardens Tollemache designed stood out.  In the photo below, the garden design is contemporary.  The water fountains were fashioned from old kitchen washtubs.  The majestic simplicity of this garden implied that Xa could bring a different aesthetic to her repertoire.
  
Papaver orientale Patty’s Plum photo by Steve Law – a favorite of XA
Rosa ‘Queen of Denmark’
Photo from countryliving – used by Xa in her gardens

 Fuschia Hedge- used by Xa in a country garden

There were many OO-AH moments in Xa’s lecture,  but no AHA moments.  My husband asked what I had learned from Xa (pronounced ZA).  I had to think for a second… or too.

“Garden as though you will live forever.
xa tollemache

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