A Matter of Follies

Any large garden worth its salt should have a folly.  What’s the point of having acres and acres of land and not surprising visitors with a daft focal point to inspire secret rendez vous, amusing assignations or simply yearnings for a peaceful retreat?  An unending vista is not the same without an object in the midst of it to give a sense of scale, destination and most of all, a feeling of how small we are in the scheme of things. Needless to say, follies are, by their nature, romantic.  They are themselves lonely creatures but serve to transport us to another realm beyond our cognitive world.

It’s no wonder that a lot of follies are Gothic in style.  One could quite well imagine Jane Eyre stumbling onto a Gothic ruin to find her Mr Rochester, always so pensive and brooding.

Medieval ruins. How they pop up everywhere…

The folly towers. They are the most popular forms of follies.

As possible places for meditation, follies in the form of temples are quite common. Greek colonnades and rotunda forms appear quite regularly in the British landscape.

The lone structure with an excuse to be whimsical. The Chinese theme.  If one were meant to be carried away, why not all the way to China? or someone’s dreamland?

Architecturally, follies are opportunities for quite a variety of roof shapes and miniature castles.

The gardener’s cottage or garden shed as a folly. The dead give away is that usually, these sheds don’t stand in the middle of a vista but rather are tucked away from view.

If we were to ignore the non functional aspect of a folly and keep to a small structure in a garden, we could extend to many other forms of a folly. After all, the old follies in English manors were also used as hunting lodges. The old follies weren’t all quite that useless. It could be a one room cottage tucked in a profusion of foliage…

A dovecote or pigeonnier can be included in the category of loose definition of a folly.

The visual quenching one gets from a teahouse or pavilion is akin to that from a lonely folly in the middle miles of greeneries or volumes of water.

Reflecting follies.  One couldn’t come up with a more romantic scene than a folly seeing its own lonely reflection on a pond. Sigh sigh sigh…

The modern follies will work if they still carry the allure of romance about them.

And then who needs a folly when we have Mr Darcy walking up toward us from a swim on an overwhelmingly hot summer’s day?  That’s when the entire population of Jane Austen fans would give up their favorite bonnet to be in the shoes of Elizabeth Bennet.  Pemberley never had a finer folly…

Photos: click on images for links to their sources.

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