Saturday, 16 September 2017

RA Summer Exhibition Gardens

Unless you count the front court, there isn't really a garden at the RA, as such. Perhaps in some secret member's space. But inside, especially in Room 1, there is a lot of gardening going on.

rabbit rabbit rabbit leg person (dead) wild mixed border eerie practice room
needlepoint gawkers treeferns and overgrowth fragmented narrowboat

Other beauties not photographed: Rocks Landscape, Seize the Night, and Pale Green Hydrangea.

This year the architect's room was concentrating on services, utilities facilities. This meant fewer models and more diagrams, not to its detriment. The mysterious and ?unrealised Edgveg project and a gorgeous 1920s pencil sketch of a pumping station provided gardenish interest.

edgveg 1 tree people edgveg 2

Elsewhere we found pictures of concrete spaces, garden thrones made of decommissioned arms, and a fancy birdbox (it's not a birdbox), among other things.

changing spaces quietness and elimination decomissioned chairseat
cathie's snake modern art birdhouse outside in 2

Other gardening pieces not photographed include a sinister Terrarium,  a bewildering mural, an exploration of garden statuary hubris, and a Magrittesque allotment shed.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

reading for a chilly evening : rakes progress

I was doing one of my regular searches for other punk gardeners (like you do) and found myself on the Worlds End website (yes the Kings Road punk shop) looking at this picture:



Of course I know about Vivienne Westwood's gardening ways (didn't I see her showing somebody around a studio roofgarden on GW at some point?) but the magazine.

It's called Rake's Progress, it's garden/photography/etc. and there are a bunch of sample pages online (or just look at the (very) pretty pictures. There's a certain loveliness here, but still, hmm. I've been drifting around their online content for an hour or so now, wondering about committing to a physical item.

More lovely things from Rake's progress: Milton Keynes Pinterest Board - very utopian. irrigation pinterest board - very functional.

Oh, and the flower installation board. The lovely, lovely flower installation board....



Saturday, 9 September 2017

formal and informal tender plants


It's a lovely time of year. The soil is warm so all manner of fragile lovelies are happily doing their thing, tender Salvia growing so fast the slugs can't keep up and Cherry Pies and Lantana kicking out deeply unbritish gouts of sweet tropical scent. The Morning Glories are having a glorious morning, and the Fuchsias are getting their lurid on. Above we have my favourite formal fountain in Christchurch Gardens and a bit of classy planting in University Parks. Below, the Morning Glories doing their best to cover up my disastrous shed.




Wednesday, 6 September 2017

I'm so proud!


 The beautiful Magnolia Tree I planted at my old place is lush, huge, and producing the famously disturbing Magnolia seed pods.


Magnolias are famous for pre-dating bees, and so are pollinated by a motley assortment of non-specialist beetles. They can be less than expert at getting everything pollinated, resulting in disturbingly misshapen seedpods. And just sometimes one that looks exactly like a thingy.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

body-gardening and dreamers awake

Surrealists have a particular take on gardens. Sometimes it's a sexy take, sometimes it's more plane disturbing. Gardens have an eerie smoothness, or inaccurate lighting. Grotesque gnomes with hidden secrets and objets with high insurance values look askance at art-washed functional items. 



These approved items belong to the Guggenheim collection (Peggy, Venice). Despite being a proper garden space, most of the artwork (even where it claims to be things like enchanted forests) is defiantly non-representational, although here and there it does veer off the canonical and into something a little more bright.

These surrealists came from another space; younger, less canon. The gardens they are building have the temporary feeling of fast-erected tents, pavilions without the curtain-wall of the canon.

dreamers awake

dreamers awake!     dreamers awake!

But this style of art, this deep-dive into the mists and shadows has elements shared with the gardener; of digging/revealing or contructing/depicting. Of assembling/appropriating or changing/building. Of finding the dreamer in the garden and not awakening her.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

glimpses of two gardens - querini stampalia and murano docks public toilets

Our hotel was next to a mysterious building dotted with neon signs, and on our last day in Venice we decoded the instructions on what turned out not to be its door and found our way into the Querini Stampalia, the bottom floor of which has a famous renovation which shades seamlessly into a fabulous modernist garden, designed by Carlo Scarpa. I missed buying my photographer's pass, so there is only the narrowest glimpse of it visible here, but you can read a lot about it elsewhere, including how it protects through submission, diversion, celebration and flow the lower floor and courtyard garden from the aqua alta.

querini stampalia the prettiest public toilet
the prettiest public toilet cacti outside

A similarly small glimpse here of the garden around the boat filling station and public toilets at Murano Dock, taken from the water bus stop. Spectacular Cannas and Cacti draw the eye, while the bright terracotta wall creates a lovely backdrop. Something fluffy in heavy stone planters (Astilbe?) turns back stumbling feet from the dock edge, while a drought-trimmed tree and a rich bushy mound of foliage punctuated with hot pink flowers provides an exotic but pared-back structure. Trees above provide cooling shade, and the space looks cheerful, functional and fun.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

municipal gardening : venice marco polo

Covered elevated travelator are words to fill the heart with joy. Admittedly, we were flying from Luton (which currently has the builders in in grand style) but Venice Marco Polo airport still seemed a thing of bright glamour.

This is the covered elevated travelator to the dock. It only opened last year, which makes the planting all the more impressive; already shading out the sun.

green tunnel travelator

Down below, the ceiling of the dock was modern glass roof, like the British Museum court; underneath, the planting featured glass chip and grasses, very modern, very serious, very durable.


Upstairs in the food court, floor-to-ceiling water walls cool the air and feed blousy semitropical foliage in their base planters, which are broad-walled in the modern style, meaning people can sit on the planters' edge, almost among the plants, cooled by the leaves.

The true test of an indoor space's greenness is the Centre MK test: are there birds? I did not see any wild birds (ucelli) in Venice airport. But we saw a colossal and bizarre insect, and it's early days yet. Where insects fly, birds follow.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

tumbling vines and secret gardens

giant mirrored rhinoceros

Venice, pink and green jewelbox full of art, glass, vines, cacti and petunias. A world of pastel arches and courtyards, everything tumbling over with dusty greens fed by the moisture that breathes up from the canals, that steals up the steps to swell the succulents and drip another trail a bright green leaves down a flaking wall.

art is a rollercoaster petunias and sullen Christ this house likes plants alley foliage tumble

Above and inaccesssible behind high windows, fire doors and private staircases float the roof gardens, tiny spider-scaffolding platforms swagged with geraniums, balanced on the tilts of terracotta tiles. Ambitious cousins to the flowery balconies and pot-crowded windowsills, extending horionzontal space upwards into the soft sky.

Venice roof gardens   Venice roof gardens

There is green behind walls, green behind bars, vines that ooze over high walls and dribble down from incontinent windowboxes. Glance up in any alleyway, and leaves will be fluttering from stepped balconies and choked windows, through shutters and railings and batiments.



garden behind bars

vinous tumble    flowers behind bars

Animals and birds are few and far between. A few pigeons in a square, a conversational couple of rats in a shadowy doorway, a dart of hoverfly, a buzz of bees. As if to compensate, there are man-made animals everywhere, glass and stone, mirror and fabric, artifical eyes on real greenery.

bird in a shop

Monday, 21 August 2017

inspiration: kelvedon hatch nuclear bunker

I went to Kelvedon Hatch for a night of experimental electronica from the delaware road, and found some garden inspiration in the lighting of the DJ/ projection balcony and the surrounding mature woodland.

Ian Helliwell and DJ Food     it rained while we were inside

Smoke machines are of course now just another cheap electronic consumable, so a set of all-weather fairy lights and a dangerously cheap laser projector is all you need for that rave-in-a-fogbank/x-files the-truth-is-right-here-behind-you ambience. Leave the weeds and leaves for that abandoned look.

outside the bunker

Concrete retaining walls, green accent lighting and decorative garden missiles. Sinister woodland backdrop (borrowed landscape). Bonus hipster eating a sandwich could be achieved by modding a garden gnome. Source some suitable warning signs. Encourage moss.

smoke and lights touches of terrifying whimsy

Nettles, dead things and whimsical signage can turn an old out-back bomb shelter into something altogether more now. Think of it as a 21st Century grotto. Don't forget to duck and cover.