Peek at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show ’18

Welcome to RHS Chatsworth Flower Show
Welcome to RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

I never take for granted the privilege afforded me by the Royal Horticulture Society to attend its world-famous flower shows, especially on Press Day when a few selected journalists are allowed to mingle with and interview designers, horticulturists, craftspeople, and vendors. Over the years I have visited behind the scenes numerous shows including Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton Court, Harlow Carr, Sissinghurst, Wisley, and others; in their unique ways, all are just…WOW.

Sculpture by Fantasywire
Sculpture by Fantasywire

This summer kicked off with a new one for me, held for the second year at Chatsworth, a magnificent house and gardens nestled high in the Peak District of Derbyshire, central England. Though last year’s Press Day was closed early due to horrendous downpours – what the British correctly call “chucking it down” – this year the weather was perfect. Continue reading “Peek at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show ’18”

Bottle Trees on the Big Stage

Ever see an old guy jump with joy and click his heels in the air?

Bottle Trees at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show
Bottle Trees at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Exactly what I did when I first walked into the HUUUUUGE tent – over ten times bigger than my entire home property – that housed the astounding floral exhibits for the 2018 Royal Horticulture Society’s flower show held on the grounds of the majestic Chatsworth estate in the Peak District of north central England.

First thing I and all the other visitors saw was a pair of bottle trees adorning a major display, right under the big marquee. Not by a long shot the first of the many popular glass garden sculptures found at every RHS flower show, but the first authentic, home-made bottle trees. Ever. Continue reading “Bottle Trees on the Big Stage”

Dr. Dirt’s Legacy

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Leon “Dr. Dirt” Goldsberry

This is saying a lot, but “Dirt” was without a doubt one of the most overflowing humans I have ever encountered. Bigger-than-life he was – tall, colorful, thoughtful, bawdy, humorous, and, yes, easily outraged and loudly opinionated (usually spot-on).

First met him by accident, while cruising backstreets of small-towns looking for interesting cottage gardens and the pass-along plants usually found in them – one of the best ways to uncover hardy, garden-variety plants.

His unmissable garden stopped me in my tracks. The outstanding “total yard show” was overstuffed and overflowing with kaleidoscopic combinations of plants and home-made yard art made from found objects. Its care-taker – a tall, lanky man with a do-rag on his head and a Kaiser blade in hand – met me at the gate. He wouldn’t invite me in, much less tell me his name, instructing me to just call him Dirt.

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Dirt Garden in Autumn

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Swinging Garden Saints

Feel a little oddly uneasy on your garden swing? There’s a saint who may offer comfort.

There are some quirky saints, to be sure, patrons of every imaginable profession or situation, from farming to protecting beekeepers, even keeping ants out of the house. But some are peculiarly suited for gardeners.

One of my favorite garden sculptures is my three-foot concrete statue of a saint – not Francis, the environmental/wildlife guy with the bird on one hand, but St. Fiacre, the most popular and official patron saint of gardeners.

St. Fiacre in Felder's garden
St. Fiacre in Felder’s garden

St. Fiacre is said to have sailed from Ireland to France looking for a quiet place where he could devote himself to God. An obliging bishop offered him as much land as he could turn up in a day,  and clever Fiacre, instead actually plowing the expected small plot, used his wood staff to dig a row all the way around and enclosing a larger area. His garden became a hospice from which he shared his vegetables, herbs, and flowers with travelers, some of whom claimed he performed miracles. He is now recognized as the patron saint of gardeners – and, by the way, of Paris cab drivers, whose taxis are called fiacres – because the earliest commercial rides-for-hire in Paris originated near the hotel Saint-Fiacre. Continue reading “Swinging Garden Saints”

Giant Glass Bottle Tree

The finished bottle tree is over 17 feet tall and is accented by two smaller bottle trees nearby

I think I just created Mississippi’s tallest bottle tree in my front garden.

I know these folksy garden sculptures, based on three thousand-year-old Arabian folk tales (not African “voodoo” as some people say), aren’t every one’s cup of tea. But there are thousands of them scattered across gardens of a surprising assortment of people; I’ve photographed them in poor country gardens and upscale and even antebellum settings, done by “dirt” gardeners and those with the wherewithal to have used classical sculptures instead.

Bottle trees are especially beautiful when backlit by the sun
Bottle trees are especially beautiful when backlit by the sun

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Keep Fondren Funky

Most folks think their neighborhood is a special place to live, but I give my little town-within-a city extra points for how it has dealt with falling between the potholed cracks when tastemakers passed through.

Not braggin’, just sayin’.

We’re certainly not better than others, it just doesn’t matter. While we have our share of VIPs and upmarket homes, some of our areas are not as well-heeled or as “precious” as nearby other communities; still, we feel loosely akin, wary lifeboat passengers from different decks of a foundering ship, doing our best to pull together.

Continue reading “Keep Fondren Funky”