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Michael Harvey

The Little Sparta Trust is saddened by the news of the death of Michael Harvey.

Due to the longstanding relationship between Ian Hamilton Finlay and Michael Harvey there are many collaborative works at Little Sparta that  display Michael's fluency of design and elegant lettercarving.

His memoir 'Adventures with Letters' (47 Editions, 2012) contains a delightful evocation in text and image of his collaboration with Ian which lasted for over 30 years. A more detailed account, 'A Concrete Collaboration: Working with Ian Hamilton Finlay' can be found in the EJF Journal, no. 11, January 2007, and an edited version appeared in the Sculpture Journal, vol. 18, no. 2, 2009.

Achtung! Minen


New Gardener and his New Monthly Reports

We are delighted to announce the appointment of a new gardener at Little Sparta, George Gilliland, to work alongside Ralph Irving, helping him with the many tasks involved while learning about the garden at the same time. He and Ralph are helping to develop the Conservation and Management Plan, which is being drawn up by John Phibbs of Debois Landscape, and which will, when it is completed, not only map the garden, but incorporate a complete history of its creation, development and realisation by Ian Hamilton Finlay.

George is a landscape gardener and designer, who has worked in several major gardens in the Scottish Borders. Before that, he was Gallery and Exhibitions Manager at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, and at the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast.

Educated at the University of Ulster, Belfast, he did an advanced diploma in the history and theory of art and design, and his thesis was entitled Between Virtue and Revolution -- A Reading of the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay.
George began working at Little Sparta in February, and is writing up monthly reports on his experiences there.

Click here to read George's reports so far.




Golden Age Hut Renovated

The goose hut was repaired recently by Andrew Townsend, an architect based in the south of England . Andrew made the original designs, in collaboration with IHF, and built the goose hut in 1982. Following this he worked with IHF on a number of projects for the next twenty years or so, both at Little Sparta and elsewhere. This year he returned to the garden with two young assistants, Harry Wardill and Boris Bogdanovich (engineer and architect respectively on the Scholarship programme run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings), to carry our structural repairs and to renew the heather thatch roof on the goose hut.

Goose Hut - wooden columns with heather infilling - IHF with Andrew Townsend, 1982

There is a drawing by the 18th century French architectural theorist and cleric Laugier showing his idea of the first building ever constructed. He held that such a building was governed by virtuous principles of simplicity and rationality. This hut, formerly housing the geese of Lochan Eck, exemplifies the drawing.


Boreas fells our Ash Tree

The Ash tree in the Front Garden, with its plaque ‘Mare Nostrum’ fell in the autumn of 2010. Fortunately the tree’s sudden falling did not damage severely any of the works, but it did topple some of the trees of ‘Bring Back the Birch’ and damage the boundary wall and part of the bench with its inscription –

‘The Seas Waves The Waves Sheaves The Seas Naves’

The Ash, with its sound of the sea in its leaves was the foundation tree of the garden: an original source of the garden’s lyricism, and part of its metaphoric association with the sea. As tallest and oldest tree it had a venerable presence being the first sign of the garden, folded into the moorland, as the visitor climbs the stony path to the house.

We were initially going to remove the tree stump but decided against it as the Ash was regenerating from within the cambium layer, A new Ash sapling will be placed in the shelter within the shards of the trunk, protected from the strong winds that can sweep up the moorland. So the old tree will nurse and nourish the new as is fitting and as Ian perhaps would have wished, making for a gentle regeneration.

Gratitude to arborists Robin Craig, Donald Roger and to our gardener, Ralph Irving for their work with the Ash.

News Review - Summer 2011

"Gardeners' World Magazine 2-for-1 gardens card and guide went on sale on April 21st. Bring the card with you to Little Sparta to benefit from this offer on our admission fee."

"News for Friends and Patrons - this year's summer event is provisionally scheduled for Saturday 13th August and details will be sent out to supporters. We'd like to do this by email, so if you have an email address, please let us know it by sending a message to with the word 'supporter' in the subject line."

Radio 4's Start the Week with Andrew Marr (30th May 2011) had Charles Jenks on and unsurprisingly mentioned the influence of Ian Hamilton Finlay.



Mothballed Carrier Returns to Service

"I was so pleased that Pia Simig selected Homage to Villa d'Este, 1975, to be part of our recent exhibition of work by Ian Hamilton Finlay entitled Definitions (5 May - 1 June, Victoria Miro Gallery, London). To have been able bring this magical work back to life after 35 years and and install it in our canal side garden in London was real pleasure. The fountain is wittily placed in juxtaposition to Evolution of the Boat, 1995 - one of Ian's finer statements about the absurdities of progress - and the two pieces play off one another beautifully.

Definitions opened in springtime when our local water fowl were nesting on the banks of the canal. One intrepid moorhen even attempted to nest on top of the aircraft carrier and, for a brief moment, there was a true Finlay-esque meeting of nature and culture! Although the exhibition has now closed we have kept Homage to Villa d'Este and Evolution of the Boat installed in the garden, where they feel perfectly at home and, for the time being at least, this is where they will remain."

Victoria Miro

More information about the exhibition at:   .


The Ash (a note from Nick Owen)

I counted the rings on one of the Ash logs (I assume from the big Ash). Now, while I chose the biggest log I could see, I don't know where on the tree it came from (how high up) and this obviously makes a difference and also, the centre of the log was rotten and so my count is missing rings in the centre. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the result; the tree was planted in 1760 at the very latest and, possibly, much (depending on where on the tree my log came from) earlier. When was the cottage built? I wonder if the tree was planted when Stonypath was built?

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