Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ingenuity and catching boats

I knew it: it slipped past me again. I’ve missed London Open Squares Weekend, which was 8-9 June. I went for the first time in 2007 and it was a real inspiration to see so many green oases in the midst of the concrete jungle, many filled with vibrant colour. For me, the most creative spirits belonged to the Thames barge owners who had created gardens atop their boats moored not far from Tower Bridge. The ingenuity - and engineering – required to create tranquil spaces floating on the water is tremendous, let alone their colour sense and plant choice. There were even fruiting trees aboard. 

I must bookmark the weekend for next year so I can get to see more of the amazing roof gardens, which particularly fascinate me, which work on a similar principle to the boat gardens. I’m a great fan of the work of Nigel Dunnett, who’s done so much to augment the space available for wildlife via roof gardens and wild spaces, and whose recent RHS Chelsea show garden was much acclaimed. With so many roof spaces potentially available and Britain’s biodiversity rapidly decreasing, there’s no reason for society to miss the conservation boat. We just need to move the boundaries of gardens to a 21st century height.  

As a ‘dyed in the wool’ spinner, if you’ll pardon the expression, one woolly-related boat I don’t want to miss is definitely on my calendar already. Wysing Arts in nearby Bourn are having their open weekend from 6-7 July. Central to the weekend is the exhibition of work by Jonathan Baldock, including large-scale felt sculptures and knitted and crocheted ‘sculptural growths’. The picture opposite has kindly been lent by Wysing Arts for which I’m very grateful.  

Some of the elements of the Baldock exhibition will also be brought to life through contemporary dance under the direction of choreographer Henrietta Hale and the Dog Kennel Hill Project on the Saturday of the open weekend. More ingenuity and creative surprises to look forward to! I hope they choose some of the woolly elements to bring to life: that would shed a whole new light on the potential of the gentle material we spinners work with. Here’s wishing you a week full of new possibilities in whatever you do.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Gertrude and The Bees

Around this time a few years back I was enjoying a deliciously indulgent day course at David Austin Roses, trying different rose scents, from apple through to myrrh, in a way reminiscent of a wine tasting. It was a well-designed affair and your nose didn’t get tired at all of going from one stunning fragrance to another. This year, spring has been sold cold here in the east of England that everything plant-wise about a month behind so I’m still waiting for Gertrude.  The rose Gertrude Jekyll, that is, my favourite Austin creation, which resides outside my front door.  

It shares the space with a cutting bought at Hestercombe gardens, which Gertrude Jekyll herself had a hand in designing. It’s now a large WinterSweet (Chimonanthus praecox), which is doing a bit too well and will shortly take over the window if I don’t get stern with it. One day I’d love to have a garden full of Gertrude’s favourite plants, many of them my favourites too, but right now my concern is for the bees, and making sure there’s something open and available for them in this tough season. Rosa Gertrude Jekyll, alas, beautiful as she is, is not really bee-friendly, but I’ve plenty of species roses, like Rosa mutabilis, which are. 

I have a small Oxford Bee Co Red Mason Bee nest which is making a tiny contribution to bee kind, and I leave areas of my garden rather too wild for the neighbours’ liking at this time of year but full of flowers, to help the ‘proper’ honey bee-keeper two doors along. It’s wildflowers like these that have been in the news this week, the glorious magic carpets of their colours now having declined by 97%. And that’s not helping any of the bees out there to thrive.  

There’s a plan to create Coronation Meadows across Britain for conservation, in remembrance of HM The Queen’s coronation anniversary, but listening recently to a radio adaptation of Dave Goulson’s ‘A Sting in the Tale’ about bumblebee conservation, it’s going to take more than 60 meadows amongst our 66 million population to make a difference. So if, like me, you get a lot of inspiration for yarn colours from the artworks of nature around you, then why not sprinkle a few surreptitious annual seeds about and inject a little bee-friendly colour chaos into your garden.  Wishing you time and space to create your own magic carpet of bee-friendly flowers somewhere nearby.