We found these colourful cubes balanced on old tree stumps at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey. We had called in to see how the famous long double borders were filling out, so their annual Art In The Garden exhibition was lagniappe.
I’m not sure if the cubes were part of the art exhibition. As they were in the children’s garden, they could be for children, or by children – either way, I love their quirkiness, the variations on a theme and the way the frames hallow the objects inside.
They reminded me of that feeling we surely all remember from our childhoods: the fascination with the tiny, not just because we were a smaller scale ourselves back then, but because we paid attention.
Anything could catch our eye or set our imaginations racing; our view of important hadn’t been particularised by outside forces. Owning a toy motorbike with sidecar was not really that much different from owning the real thing. We gathered small treasures – shells, leaves, feathers – placed them down reverently somewhere – and we admired them.
That’s why I feel sure that the painted frames with the easels in the centres have something of the grown-up, directing mind about them. They call out ‘this is worthy of your attention’.
If you’ve read Aldous Huxley’s book Island, you may remember the myna birds, trained to fly around squawking ‘Pay attention!’, and ‘Here and now!’ to remind the islanders that they should savour the moment. Now that would drive me wild with irritation after a day or so, but I do like the concept of a frame and all it represents.
My sweetheart takes this down to its simplest level: people who visit major gardens for inspiration should take one of those card centres you find in the middle of a toilet roll to peer through, he suggests. By narrowing their field of view (framing just part of the garden in a small circle) they’ll find interesting vignettes and plant combinations that are easy to recreate back at home. Well, that’s the theory anyway!