“Paradise haunts gardens and it haunts mine,” wrote the late painter, filmmaker, theater designer and author Derek Jarman. His vast garden was established in 1986 on the bleak British landscape of Dungeness, Kent around an old tar-painted fisherman’s cottage, neighboring a nuclear power station. “It becomes part of the landscape and the wildness becomes part of the garden,” says the director and narrator of the last in our Great Gardens series, Howard Sooley. A photographer, gardener, and Jarman’s dear friend, Sooley first started visiting Prospect Cottage in the late 1980s. Together, they went on to produce a record of how the garden evolved, Derek Jarman’s Garden—the last book Jarman ever wrote. “My favorite thing that I ever planted there was a perfect circle of foxgloves from scattering seed collected near the power station,” he adds. “But above all I love that, visually, the garden doesn’t end.” The keen plantsman still tends to the garden along with Jarman’s partner Keith Collins, who lives at the cottage. Beauty punctuates the sparseness with sea kale, wild red poppies, and fiendishly blue cornflowers. Beachcombed metal sculptures, stone circles, and wind-twisted wood mark the framework for the various areas, while poet John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” adorns one of the cottage walls.—Lee C. Wallick
“The Sunne Rising” (abridged) by John Donne (1633)
Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motion lovers’ seasons run?
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes and sowre prentices,
Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call countrey ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clyme,
Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time…
Thou sunne art halfe as happy as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy spheare.