Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Cover design, inspired by South African Native flora.

First: several reasons to rejoice, dance and sing:

1. If you haven't already seen it, the inimitable, hiliarious, tip-top quality Cashmere Sock has launched a magnificent new blog here. Huzzah for more pearls, all gift-wrapped with lashings of jollity and humour! There's nothing better, on a desperate Monday morning, than to postpone work for a bit and have a good chortle at other people's blogs - especially if they're funny and clever.

2. I've just checked up the 10 day weather forecast for my area and we're promised 10 days without it falling below 1ºC. The day temperature will positively soar, on Thursday, to a staggering 6ºC. I must rummage for the shorts and sandals at once.

A rather rare crocus opened in the watery sun, this afternoon and I rushed to find the PG, so I could show it to her. But by the time I'd found her, the sun had failed and the lovely roseate mauve inner flower had slammed shut faster than Akrwright's till. (The outsides of Crocus tommassinianus 'Rosea' are a dismal pale grey and unutterably boring.)

Detail from the cover design, showing Zaluzianskya

3. At last week's Westminster RHS Show, I bought a Dracunculus vulgaris tuber. This, if you don't know it, is the dragon arum, a Mediterranean native whose huge, liver-coloured spathe and spadix smell exactly like a donkey that has been dead for five weeks in the middle of a midsummer heatwave. It is pollinated by flies.

This is just the thing with which to entertain the grandchildren. My only dilemma is, should I move it into the garden, or dare I keep it in Wendy (my greenhouse?) If I do the former, the stink may dissipate a little too quickly - although it might impress passers-by. But in Wendy, gosh! Imagine the pongle that will cause! What a larf!!!

I might even organise a sponsored fundraiser and get people to volunteer to be paid by the minute, for every minute that they stay in the greenhouse - all windows and doors closed - and endure the stench. (I sense a Catherine Tate moment! 'Worrit is. . . .')

Anyway --- enough of all that rubbish.

THE nicest thing to rejoice about - was the job one of my daughters did for me and my chums who sit on the RHS's very best and most distinguished Floral Committee - the one which is responsible for Tender Ornamental Plants. (No caramel coloured heucheras for that lot, I'm proud to say!)

Anyway, our long-serving secretary left us at the end of the year, to move on to greater things. We thought it would be nice to work up a little scrap book for her. And my dear daughter who happens to be quite an inspired and skilled artist, very sweetly agreed to design and make the whole thing.

When I suggested South African flora, she said, 'OK, give me a few pictures and I'll see what I can do.' I found photos of such lovelies as Cussonia, Zaluzianskya, Leucospermum, Pelargonium, Osteospermum, and so on and so on.

And she came back with the rather snazzy design that you've already seen at the top of this post.

Carved pattern on a Toraja hut, in Sulawesi, inspired by buffalo horns.

It always fascinates me to see how artists can gather up the essence, the nub, the core, the very foundation of the shape that gives a natural object its identity, and then use that shape to as a form of their own expression. The centrepiece of the design, based on a Leucospermum (Pincushion protea) set the mood off beautfully, I thought.

Barringtonia asiatica, fish poison tree.
The fruit remind me of those Beretta things some Roman priests wear.

I recall visiting a Toraj community, in Sulawesi, this month some years ago, and being staggered at the beauty of the their crescent-shaped houses. The design, we were told, is inspired by the water buffalo, an animal which is reverred in Torajaland.

Many of the buildings were intricately patterned, again, with the curves and shapes which recalled bovine horns.

I'll never forget that trip. The Toraja people are animists. When members of the community die, the funeral rituals are lengthy and complicated. Death itself is merely a transition and the 'deceased' stick around, physically, to watch over those still living.

A Toraja resting place. Rather macabre to have one's deceased relatives, literally watching over one.

Im listening to some totally insane music by Charles Mingus, recorded at Cornell University in 1964

This day in 2006 I was at the official opening of Delamore Young Plants. Their vast acreage of glass produces more bedding and other plant material than almost anywhere. Peter Seabrook did the honours and at the lunch I found myself sandwiched between two Israeli plant breeders.

This week's film was Festen, a second viewing, for me, of the mould-breaking 'Dogme' work which took the world by storm when it was made in 1999. It's all filmed in home-video style jerkavision and according to the rules, gaffes have to stay in and re-takes are not allowed. Yeah, right! But in spite of the pointless rules and some truly awful lighting, I really enjoyed it. A horrible story which lifts the scab of social convention and manners to reveal the festering mass of gruesome corruption beneath. Lovely!

Bye bye for now!


  1. Nigel I have to say I absolutely love your daughter's artwork. She is exceedingly talented; it's a fantastically vibrant and uplifting illustration.

    RO :o)

  2. I also have to comment on the artwork. It's absolutely tip-top! It's the sort of picture that is a joy to look at on a wintery February day.


  3. I don't think a grandchild could ask for a better grandad! I would have loved to be locked in a greenhouse with the Dracunculus!

    Your daughters artwork is splendid and what a great leaving gift that must have been.

    As always love reading your blog and your passion for horticulture is something to behold!


  4. Hello... Thanks! The pic looks good. I am rather pleased! Little grandchildren think their grandfather is the bees knees already anyway...

  5. Very beautiful art work. If I had needed to guess I would have guessed Japanese because it is so very delicate.

    I see what you mean about the berettas.

    I find myself gruesomely drawn to the bones. One doesn't usually come across them in friendly settings. Where are they kept in relation to people's homes?


  6. I planted a dragon arum in my mother's garden a few years ago. I put it in the shelter of a hedge in order to preserve the scent for as long as possible. The dead donkey analogy is extremely apt: it always made me think of Gallipoli.
    They have now sold their house so the new owners are in for a surprise this spring. There may be panicky calls to Dyno Rod or the abbatoir.
    Excellent artwork.

  7. EEK! I can feel myself blushing. Thanks for the link to my new blog although I'm afraid that readers will find it more self-indulgent than witty. We shall see..

    What a talented family you have! I adore the artwork - so vibrant and I'm sure the new seasons heucheras will be equally replendent!

    Go for the greenhouse with the dragon arum - it can always be moved out after its performed!!