RHS Campaign For School Gardens, Chatsworth Flower Show

Mayflower Primary School’s sensory garden, It All Makes Sense, was one of my favourite corners of the Chatsworth Flower Show 2019. If there’s a child in your life, you might like to take some inspiration from these recycled tin cans, painted with cheerful motifs. Pop a herb or a flower in one and you have a tiny garden to enjoy, with potential lessons in art, the environment, nature, nurturing and cookery along the way.

While my secondary school had a small greenhouse, I only have the vaguest memories of going inside it. We never did anything as exciting as making a garden for one of the RHS flower shows. I love it when I see some of the kids who have been involved at the shows, proud of what they’ve achieved and excited to explain to visitors what they were thinking about in this or that part of the garden.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Although my schooldays preceded the RHS Campaign For School Gardens by decades, my childhood was filled with small lessons like these as part of family life. Caterpillars in jars that turned into butterflies. Rose petal scented water. A succulent that grew in a pattern. Owl pellets to pull apart, looking for bones. Flowers to plant. Potatoes to dig (well before their time as we were too excited to wait). Pebbles to pick out of streams. A bat cave to explore. Continue reading

Gourd Luminaries By Thompson Farms

Gourd luminaries with bird, butterfly and turtle pinholes

Lights inside the gourds project patterned shapes as darkness falls

If you’re like me, you can never see a gourd without a snatch of verse flickering in and out of focus in the recesses of your mind – this one:

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease

Keats, from To Autumn

Now even the bees have been forced to admit that Autumn is a memory, and nights are longer, a great way to give a gourd new life is to turn it into a winter nightlight.

The ones pictured here are part of Thompson Farms of Raleigh, Mississippi’s collection of crafted gourd novelties that include tree decorations, mandalas, baskets and thunder gourds as well as luminaries. Continue reading

A’net by Brenda Jet at Broomhill Sculpture Garden

A'net by Brenda Jet displayed upside down on a tree

A’net is made from discarded fisherman’s twine collected from Devon’s beaches

A’net by Brenda Jet was one of the installations we were able to get up close and personal with during our stay at Broomhill Art Hotel and Sculpture Garden in Muddiford, North Devon. The garden is a naturalistic one that runs alongside a stream, through a meadow and in the woodland of a steep-sided valley.

Brenda Jet collects plastic waste, such as tangled fisherman’s twine which she patiently cleans, unravels, then winds into neat balls of raw material. The finished sculpture is felt-like, colourful and textural. Continue reading

Reflections on Glass: Fräbel in the Garden

Glass clowns in different postures by Fräbel

The Cavorting Clown Fountain

Clowns helter skelter after each other in what, we sense, ought to be an ordered line, but just isn’t. Embodied verbs, they pose, plunge, stumble, balance, strut, slip, bow and clamber, one or other body part defying gravity in that frozen moment to anchor the whole. Straight backs lend them dignity even as they take risks and cavort. We’re in the whimsical world of flamework glass artist, Hans Godo Fräbel, as seen at the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida, earlier this year.   Continue reading

Street Art, Key West, Florida Keys

Street art of a giant cephalopod's tentacles lifting a sail boat

A pink and turquoise kraken seizes a sailing boat

Kraken are giant, predatory sea creatures from the North, something like an octopus or squid. This one has, not unusually for its sort, seized hold of a passing sail boat and now has the terrified mariners at its mercy (unless, as we cannot see any onboard, they were all partying onshore when the kraken sneaked into the harbour). It’s a detail from a painting on a hotel car park wall we stopped to admire.

Strictly speaking, the second is fence art. It’s a detail too, of a large design featuring birds, animals and vegetation that runs around the back patio of a restaurant in Key West. It’s worth reading this one upwards, so you get used to each level of the story before taking the next leap.

Pink flamingos, one with a crown, painted on a fence

Pink flamingos painted on a fence

First, leafy foliage with two pink flamingos. So far so good. They wear a decorative form of eye makeup.  One is wearing a coronation crown that Queen Elizabeth II would not be ashamed of (it looks lighter than her own). The artist has added a scroll and swirl design to add movement and break up the background. A space craft is leaving the scene to fly off into a universe of stars. Continue reading

Sculpting With Wool: Debie Deaton, Mixed Media Artist

Bird, bug and goldfish made from felt

Crow, bug, goldfish and tealfish wool art waiting for new homes

At Chimneyville Arts Festival in Jackson last year, one stand was a Shakespearean comedy, full of colour, reverie, laughter and life. Was it just in my imagination that Falstaff, Feste, Caliban and The Man In The Moon cavorted with felt acrobats, goofy-looking puppets, elves, Pod people, birds, bees and bugs?

A lady dressed in a bright jacket sat quietly by the stand, rising to greet visitors with a Duchenne smile. This was Debie Deaton, a member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi. Continue reading