Not everyone has the space, or indeed the spare couple of grand, needed to accommodate a 5m tall jubilant bronze woman in the back garden. In truth those that do are in the minority but this need not exclude us plebs from enjoying art in the garden. By reducing the proportions to suit the size of your estate it is easy to use sculpture to add an extra dimension to any outside space, be it public park, domestic garden or backyard, be it fishing gnome, Henry Moore or Rodin. Somewhere to gain inspiration (and eat chocolate brownies) is Broomhill Art Hotel and Sculpture Gardens, near Barnstaple in North Devon. This late Victorian building perches above a wooded valley and is the artistic equivalent of a packet of M & M’s, every flavour you could ask for: realistic, bizarre, thought provoking, amusing, puzzling, constructed of wood, metal, resin and even recycled plastic bottles. Anyone who fails to find something to please here is beyond hope. In the Hotel gallery there are smaller items, paintings, ceramics and prints (and chocolate brownies). This Carol Peace creation is my fantasy purchase and I remain optimistic that one day I will own it. Foolish, undoubtedly, but I am an advocate of Think Big! In the meantime I will continue to visit this special place to dream and eat the wonderful chocolate brownies.
ps They do serve other food, all of it delicious!
This is the puzzle – how could a monkey climb through these vicious branches without doing himself some serious harm?
Answers of no more than 15 words on a postcard please to:
The winner will be notified before the end of time and will be awarded with a great big sloppy smackeroo!
Today I am going to sing the praises of the humble crab apple, Malus sylvestris. To me it is the tree that has everything so brace yourselves folks, my sales pitch is extensive and may involve a PowerPoint presentation with laser pointer.
Firstly there is the long-lasting and stunning blossom which heralds the spring and is welcomed by early bees and other nectar lovers. The length of flowering period means that these trees are often used as companion pollinators in orchards. The flowers are followed by decorative fruit ranging in colour from crimson to buttermilk. These little orbs of delight are enjoyed not only by fruit loving birds but once fallen (unless they are particularly adventurous) by foxes, badgers, voles and mice. Many varieties then reward us with a spectacular autumn colour show, after which the tree has a few months well-deserved rest. The species is long-lived, it can reach 100 years old, and is one of the few hosts of mistletoe as well as for many species of moth. When burned the wood is aromatic and is used not only in the domestic hearth but when smoking food. The fruit are very sour but when transformed into the iconic crab apple jelly they make the perfect accompaniment to cold meats. They are also sometimes added to cider to improve the flavour.
So in conclusion, the merits of the crab apple are:
1. Beautiful for at least nine months of the year (although to me still attractive when dormant)
2. Wildlife friendly over a long period.
3. Beneficial to other plants.
4. Fragrant and delicious.
5. Does the washing up and puts it all away in the right place.
I am hoping that you were convinced before No. 5 as I made that one up. Sorry if this is a great a disappointment but you never know what the plant breeders are up to …….
Sometimes only a proper sunflower will do. Supporting cast, one bee and a blue blue sky.
Just has to be honesty!*
* This is a gardening joke so apologies to those who are not of that persuasion. Explanation as follows: This is the seed head of Lunaria annua whose common name is Honesty. The name is thought to be a reference to the transparency of the seed head. The phrase “honesty is the best policy” is attributed to the 18th century American Founding Father and polymath Benjamin Franklin. Doesn’t seem quite so funny anymore.
Guerrilla gardening has interested me for a while. I love the idea of improving our environment by planting neglected spaces with food and flowers, doing something positive as opposed to merely moaning about the short comings of those in charge. In the optimistic hours before sleep I have planned forays to seed-bomb abandoned building sites, perhaps sneaking out under cover of night in boiler suit and balaclava planting overgrown corners with surplus bedding or maybe secretly donating an apple tree to an underfunded park. Unfortunately my good intentions have always evaporated as I brushed my teeth the following morning. All dreams and no action.
This is a modern housing estate just outside Cardiff but it could just as well be Coventry or Carlisle. At the edge of the main thoroughfare an inspired soul has removed a section of grass verge and planted it with bright annuals. Mallows, poppies and marigolds stand jubilant in stark contrast with the adjacent neatly mowed grass. So simple, so effective, so beautiful. All it took was a couple of packets of seed and a little work and a public garden has been created. Guerrilla gardening doesn’t have to be 007-esque, dramatic and involving judo rolls, it can be small, it can be under-stated. Of course it may not be strictly legal and some folk (disillusioned to my mind) may consider it not as “tidy” as a boring piece of turf, but surely only a complete idiot would object to this “amendment” to the council’s landscaping. This joyful piece of planting has been generously donated to the community, I hope they appreciate it, it certainly made my day. Thank you whoever you are!
Today I saw a humming bird with no feathers, here is a toad that can’t swim.
Although I haven’t undertaken a controlled scientific survey, my initial observations would suggest that those who visit gardens are generally of a “type”. These fine folk are generally middle aged and above, sometimes coast path walkers or family groups complete with sulking teenagers. Anyone under thirty is rare, except under duress (see sulking youths). There are complex reasons for this anomaly. Some are understandable, retired folk have more time, and some more unfortunate, gardens are often perceived as not places for the young and trendy. As my philosophy in life is inclusion not exclusion I was pleased to see this couple in the garden today. The rewards of horticulture should not be confined to a certain demographic. Share the love. Whether they just wandered in on a whim or took a wrong turn, I don’t care. All that matters is they arrived and they took photos and they said nice things, just like many other visitors. I’m not sure which particular tribe this couple belong to, if any at all, perhaps they would like to join mine. The Edge Tribe, we are a diverse lot, but jewels each and every one.
These are the fruit of Vallea stipularis in various states of repair. This South American shrub has given me much joy this year. Firstly there was the thrill of buds which fulfilled all their promise with glorious flowers, blooming just above the deer nibble line. Then the excitement to find that these rosy pink lampshades had been pollinated. Over the last few weeks I have been watching the lime green pods swell, I have been poised like a coiled spring ready for signs of ripeness. Then, seemingly over night, I noticed that a fair proportion had turned a promising purplish brown. At this point I will admit that in the preceding days there is a chance I may have been distracted away from my vigil by a kitten, a pack of chocolate hobnobs or suchlike. Anyway now my concentration was focused and like a cougar I leapt into action. My heart sank, it appeared that most of the pods were empty, telling gaps remained where the treasure had once lain. It seems that the window of seed collecting opportunity is very small, the exact point of seed expulsion remains a mystery to everyone except perhaps the plant itself. In a fit of pique I picked the immature that remained, my logic that they would perhaps ripen successfully off the plant. As anyone who buys supermarket fruit promising just that, I may well be deluding myself. Too late now for advice to the contrary, it is done. This seed collection lark is much harder than it seems. Luckily there are far more intrepid, knowledgeable and darned right brilliant seed collectors than me in the world and we should spare a thought for what they have to endure to feed us our ever increasing demands for the new and exotic. One such hero is my blogging friend Diversifolius, read here about how it should be done http://botanicallyinclined.org/the-last-push-orchids-from-the-inca-trail/ Respect!
Tired and tetchy. In fact I am so worn out I can only muster two adjectives at the moment. Mind you come to think of it there is always “weary and weather beaten”, “dreary and down trodden” and let’s not forget “lethargic and leaden”. Enough self indulgence! The apricot conserve blooms of Rosa “Lady Hillingdon” have lifted my spirits. I would imagine there is little this elegant rose wouldn’t improve.