On one of our projects, which is in an old fruit growing area, Lesley and I are going to extend an old orchard as part of the design.

 And so of course the quincunx comes into play!

 Yer wot?

No I had not myself until recently encountered the quincunx. And then we visited a National trust garden not far from here:

‘Of course, it’s a quincunx ‘ said Lesley meditatively when looking at this natty little arrangement of silver birches. I had never heard the word. In fact she could have made it up and I would have been none the wiser. I just knew I didn’t like it design wise.

And it’s an odd word isn’t it?

It sounds a little Harry Potterish.

Or like something you might say of someone behind your hand at a cocktail party:

‘She’s a right little quincunx, that one.’

But I did know the concept. We all do!

(At least I didn’t know that I knew it then, but sad creature that I am I said nothing, went home and looked it up. And found I did.)

It’s the number five on a dice. The romans used the quincunx as a symbol of five twelths of an as, the roman standard bronze coin, often indicated by five dots.

Its dictionary definition is a geometric pattern consisting of five points, objects if you will, four of which form a square or rectangle and the fifth is at its center:

Its features in heraldry and flags.

It is also architectural. A ‘cross in a square.’The floor plan of hindu temple architecture featured the quincunx. Think Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

But of more relevance to us at Hegarty and Webber is that its also one method of laying out fruit trees or any tree in fact.

The dictionary goes on to say ‘ especially an arrangement of trees in such squares continuously.’

Thomas Browne, in his Garden of Cyrus of 1658, claimed that the Persian King Cyrus was the first to plant trees in a quincunx. He also claimed to have discovered that it also appeared in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Seventeenth century diarist and garden guru Sir John Evelyn also thought it was the best way to lay out apple and pear trees.

‘A collection of trees in such squares forms a regular grove or wood, presenting parallel rows or alleys in different directions according to the spectators’s position.’

Now this  I do like! When you are in an orchard and which ever way you look there is a line.

And the Webber expression for that is ‘diamond – wise’.

But this? 

Not really!

Its great for buildings. In temples the outer pavilions build to inner greatness:

But since usually with trees it is in such squares continuously and this is just a fraction of such a scheme, that is its pitfall here. They seem rather inelegantly plonked down ‘four square’ rather than ‘cross square’.

And a square within a circle?

I want a circle in a circle – more emphatic.

And a low focal point in the centre and then the bench as a focal point in distance?

And why not line it all up properly, guys ?

Of course, as a symbol in ancient alchemy, the quincunx represents the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

Well that is certainly true of life, but maybe not here. At least, however I have now learnt about the quincunx. 

And I am certainly looking forward to seeing the expression on the face of the contractor when I ask him to plant the apple trees ‘quincuncially’!

I think I will get a reaction!

R

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