botanical, collecting, Floristry, garden design, Great British Bake Off, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Michael Pollan, national plant collections, plants, Royal Horticultural Society, Southport Flower Show
“Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart.” (Karel Capek)
Another strand of gardening was evident at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in additional to that of pushing the boundaries, featured in my previous post – the traditional, in fact positively retro. As well as a whole marquee devoted to roses, and floristry with a vintage theme, the main flower marquee boasted many old fashioned flowers and retro displays. My partner beat a hasty retreat but I had a rare girly moment and lingered.
“Are we, finally, speaking of nature or culture when we speak of a rose (nature), that has been bred (culture) so that its blossoms (nature) make men imagine (culture) the sex of women (nature)? It may be this sort of confusion that we need more of.”
– Michael Pollan, Second Nature, 1991
Floristry seems to have developed into a new art form since the days of Constance Spry.
Britain (in particular) has long been a nation of collectors, from the art works of the Grand Tour to Dinky toys, and plants have not been excluded from this obsessive behaviour. From tulip mania in the 17th century (which started in Holland in fact) through the plant collectors, the Tradescants and 19th century landowners, who travelled the world in search of new species to bring back, on to the allotments and flower beds, potting sheds and greenhouses of suburban gardens of today, where many National Plant Collections of particular plants are found, individuals have had their plant obsessions – cacti, dahlias and chrysanthemums, Alpines etc.
Alliums (the amazing varieties here are from a Dutch nursery) may now be more fashionable than cacti, garlic more so than onions, but fashions change in plants as in everything, and hydrangeas, lavenders, gladioli, fuschias and bonsai may yet again take over from tropical jungles or carnivorous plants. Conventions in displaying plants similarly change with fashion, from serried ranks and symmetrical arrangements to prairie planting and the wild and untamed look.
I always remember from my Southport youth the impressive displays of giant onions, leeks carrots and marrows which were a particular feature of Southport Flower Show, held at the end of August and in Lancashire, a bastion of competitive vegetable growing. Having happened upon Highgate Horticultural Show last weekend in a church hall in London I was pleased to see not much had changed in local amateur shows, which I have also enjoyed in the past, with plates displaying 3 runner beans, or a group of potatoes, as well as vases of flowers ‘5 different perennials’, in fierce competition for silver cups and the elusive 1st, 2nd or 3rd prize certificates. The selection of Victoria sponges I saw competing in the cake section there was a reminder of the recent resurgence of popularity of home baking, as shown by the Great British Bake Off televised competition and the ubiquitous cupcake. So as this piece is bit of an indulgence and I am celebrating the 2nd birthday of my blog it seems appropriate to finish with some cake, albeit made from flowers.
Thanks to all of you have who have not yet jumped ship!