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DOWNTON DOWNER Highclere Castle by garybembridge via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons A GRAND PALACE KEEPS ITS NATURAL ADORNMENTS AT A DISTANCE By Rick Wielgorecki Contributing Writer As I was enjoying the most recent installment of the PBS nighttime soap opera Downton Abbey, I was startled by the contrast between the interior and the exterior of the mansion. The real-life Highclere Castle was one of the inspirations of author Julian Fellows. Inside, no expense was spared in decorating the walls with rich wood paneling and exquisite artwork. The castle's cavernous chambers are filled with elaborately upholstered furniture and stately accessories. Wooden columns tower in the library; gilt balustrades surround the upper floors; and grand arches beckon one to stroll the plush carpeted floors and wander from room to fantastically appointed room. teau is a surface of gloomy gray gravel. The immediate environs around the Abbey seem to my taste to be strange, stark and sterile. Immediately outside, by contrast, the foundation is completely devoid of a single tree, a solitary leaf or an isolated flower. The choice for enhancing the perimeter of this grand cha- Here in "the Colonies," we commoners generally abide in more modest structures. However, the foundation of almost any home will be decorated with small trees, shrubs, oc- Once the camera pans away from the palace proper, there are spectacular gardens and wooded areas — out on the "back 40," as it were. That is perhaps the prerogative of the spectacularly wealthy — to keep untidy living things at a distance. Trees drop messy leaves in the autumn and go bare in the winter, and many plants turn brown or go into dormancy when temperatures plummet. This is the province of hired gardeners, to deal with the landscape through all seasons, whether cultivars are at the zenith or at the nadir of beauty.

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