Monday, 23 June 2008

The Moon and Flowers

Saturday was Midsummer's Day but who would have believed it! "Unseasonal" was how the weatherman put it, which was sad because so many people were looking forward to our special event in the garden. Nevertheless, lots of hardy folk turned up, even in the afternoon when it was steadily raining, and had picnics in the yurt in a resiliently British way.

It was the world premier of The Moon and Flowers, a collaboration between poet Linda France and sound recordist Chris Watson, which started as a seed of an idea when Linda visited the garden once a month on the day of the full moon for a complete year. The resulting cycle of poems reflect the seasonal changes in
the garden and much else besides - I can't do them justice by describing them, you need to come to the garden and here them relayed in the clematis-covered arbour where they can be heard for the next couple of months or buy the limited edition copy in the shop.

Chris Watson, world renowned sound recordist who has worked on numerous wildlife programmes, visited the garden with Linda during September's full moon, once at dawn and again at dusk the same day and recorded his soundscape of birdsong and natural noises. Linda said "It was magical. Chris has worked all over the world but, here, we were both almost awestruck. Being in this beautiful place seemed such a privilege." Last Saturday, Linda gave two live readings of the poems, followed by which was Chris's recording of her voice overlaying the birdsong.

The garden was serenely green and lovely in the rain and the readings took place in a beautiful yurt hand-made by Oran Villiers-Stuart ( using local timber, larch, oak and ash. It was the perfect place to hear the poems and to listen to the evocative sound of a Northumbrian piper and, later, a cellist. The whole event was funded by our local arts centre, Queen's Hall in Hexham, and brilliantly brought together by Holly Clay. People came out from Newcastle for the day and we were amazed by just how many ignored the weather and came for what for me was the high point of the year.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Really sharp hand shears!

At this time of the year there are so many jobs to do in the garden and I have discovered a really useful pair of single-handed hand shears that leave your left hand free to grab grass, long trails of clematis or whatever it is you are trying to cut back. They are also great for harvesting herbs such as this marjoram in the picture. Called Jakoti shears, they are imported by a family in Somerset, who were given a pair by a friend who bought them from a hardware shop on a Greek island. They found them to be so useful for all sorts of gardening jobs from topiary to lawn edging, that they bought them in to sell in Britain.

I like their bright red handles which are cheerful and not easily lost in some box hedge in the garden! They are also, very usefully, self-sharpening and we have now used them for some time in the walled garden and they are still as sharp as when we got them. They are also used for sheep shearing and you can see them in action on the website - - with a Greek farmer shearing his sheep in a video. It's a strangely lovely video to watch with the only sounds being the tinkling of sheep bells, the snip-snip of the shears and the occasional baa!