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

The Arbor Gate, Tomball, Texas

I’ve met many horticulture people I love, admire or both, but few I admire more than Beverly Welch who, together with her husband, Max, owns The Arbor Gate. No matter how many times I visit, I’m always taken by her hospitality, kindness and composure even on one of the busiest days in her calendar.

My sweetheart lectures there, so I don’t claim to be impartial. I’m a fan. It’s my favourite plant centre outside the UK and I suspect there aren’t many better ones in the world. I love wandering around, admiring the plants and marvelling at the garden art while trying to avoid being taken off guard by the Texan sun.

He’s actually lecturing at The Arbor Gate as I write, while I’m back in England, feeling nostalgic and making up for not being there by sharing a much overdue gallery of pictures from my visits over the last few years.

Colourful bank of petunias and annuals

Petunias and other bedding plants help give visitors a cheery welcome

One the plant front, visitors can expect to find roses, perennials, annuals, succulents, trees, shrubs, vines and a big collection of herbs.

Continue reading

Bird House Refurbishment And A Hauntingly Lovely Journey

Brightly coloured birdhouses on wooden poles with a white picket fence

While I was in Mississippi, we were passing Suzie Cranston’s house when a ball of energy with a beaming smile bounced out of the driveway, exclaiming “I’m painting them! You must look! And I’m really enjoying it!”

She’s the lady, some of you may recall, with perhaps a hundred birdhouses in her garden.

Polka dot birdhouse with tin roof

Waving us down the path to her workshop, she pointed out the detailing of the ones she was working on. Any bare wood had been painted over with cheerful colours. Continue reading

Parliament Of Owls In A Woodland Garden

Eight stone owls with etched details and yellow eyes

If the idea of gardening merely prompts memories of garden chores such as leaf-blowing, mowing, edging, dead-heading, thank your lucky stars you don’t have to engage in large scale owl-shifting.

Hearing Sherra Owen (whose garden these owls inhabit) on MPB radio reminded me that I had not yet shared my picture of her stone owl log. It is unfair of me not to say once again what a wonderful woodland garden she has, but she’s such a lovely person, I feel sure she won’t mind. Even her wooden fence thrills me, to say nothing of her trilliums, hellebores and other woodland ephemerals.

Apparently one of the things about encouraging owls to roost on fallen timber is that the wood decays and the owls fall… or rather they would, if the lady in question did not move them to a freshly fallen log. Continue reading

Beach Huts for Birds

Rows of colourful bird houses

These colourful birdhouses from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show made me think of beach huts, each painted slightly differently to their neighbours, but all in keeping with the spirit of the place. I need to rein in my imagination at this point before I start twittering about birds emerging from their huts in swimming costumes, clutching beach towels, ready for a few hours in the sun… followed by a refreshing sand bath… see what I mean?  Continue reading

Baby chickadees

Baby chickadees in a nest box

These baby chickadees are off to a great start in life. They’ll be flying away soon and I can’t imagine what their future holds. Five tiny nestlings, five different futures.

They’ve had the very good fortune to have hatched inside a nest box provided by our dear friend, nature lover Greg Grant. Outside a beautiful, wild landscape is waiting for them that seems lifted out of a storybook.  Continue reading

City Twitchers’ Garden

Hampton Court City Twitchers

The post inspired by this week’s photo challenge (circle) has been hatching for some time – since July’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show to be precise!

When I first saw the garden, the snug dimensions of the globe wicker structure puzzled me until I realised it was a bird hide, woven by willow sculptor Carole Beavis. I must have been experiencing sensory overload at the time (Hampton Court can be like that) or you would have thought the bird houses on the walls, the log pile to attract insects and the wildlife-friendly flowers might have been a clue that this is an urban bird watchers’ garden. Even the cushion covers inside the hide have birds on them!  Continue reading