Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind

Parrot looking over its shoulder

Though I remember going to see the film, I had no idea what the number referred to, so I looked it up. A mere sighting of an alien ship – a close one, mind – is the first kind. The third kind that gave name to the film means seeing an alien. If you speak directly with one, it’s the fifth kind.

It baffles me why we don’t have the same avid fascination to talk to the wild creatures we have on Earth, to find out what they can tell us. You can pooh-pooh this, but if we spent the money collectively invested in looking for the man on the moon to achieve a close encounter of the fifth kind with intelligent life on our own planet, dolphins, say, would we have had a breakthrough by now? Continue reading “Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind”

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 “Street Art, Key West, Florida Keys”

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 “The Arbor Gate, Tomball, Texas”

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 “Bird House Refurbishment And A Hauntingly Lovely Journey”