Human Flower Project
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
From the days of its early “field preachers,” Methodism advocated mixing up interiority with the great outdoors. A beautiful window in Oxford makes that luminously clear.
Detail from the Flower Window c. 1878
Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Oxford
Photo: Brother Lawrence
In the tall, gleaming panels of church windows, one expects to see saints in heavy robes and Bible-toting evangelists. But this is Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford, England, and as with so much of Methodism the rules are gently broken.
Rather than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see lilies, grape vine, bull rushes and pomegranate (roses and camellias also). The Flower Window at the west end of the chapel is gorgeous and, we understand, completely original in design. One source says its theme is “flowers of the English countryside” but church secretary Dorothy Stepney says the sources are Biblical.
Perhaps there’s some influence of both. Methodism sprang up here in Oxford. A few university students in the early 17th century – including John Wesley, his younger brother Charles, and George Whitefield—formed a “Holy Club” and soon began their own ministry. Led by Whitefield’s then-radical example, they turned to “field-preaching.”
“I thought it might be doing the service of my Creator, who had a mountain for his pulpit and the heavens for a sounding board; and who, when his Gospel was refused by the Jews, sent his servants into the highways and hedges.” So Whitefield addressed 200 coal miners in February 1739, as in defiance of church convention, he preached in the open air of Kingswood.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Bloom—Guitar Gardening with Eric
Strings are six green fuses that drive the flowers from Eric Johnson’s guitar. Nine years in the making, his Bloom is a prolific beauty.
Photo: via Amazon
Talk about “Eric” with the guitarzans of Austin, Texas, and they’re most likely twanging about local wonder Eric Johnson. We’d never heard of him till we moved to town in ‘99, but catching Johnson’s “SRV” (tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan) on the radio one afternoon, we phoned the DJ. Who was that???
What makes EJ ripe for HFP is his most recent musical offering, a collection called “Bloom.” There are lilies, plumerias, and sunflowers sprinkled around the liner notes, but beyond decoration there’s Johnson’s talent – a force of nature. No matter how many styles he sprouts, Johnson keeps true to his fixation—tone.
We find his playing pure, aromatic – even intergalactic. Johnson’s critics call him a “gearhead” – who labors so fervently for technique he loses his soul. We don’t hear it that way. For us, his playing is as bracing as eucalyptus. Not just “I Want to Take You Higher” but “I Can and I WILL!”
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Mighty Floozy: Rose of Sharon
Korea’s beloved national flower gets no respect in many parts of the U.S. Do you chalk it up to aesthetics, history or character?
Korean postage stamp of the national flower Mugunghwa, issued in 1993
Though landscape designers work out of doors, they’re privy to their clients’ interior lives. One customer fantasizes a Roman empire on a quarter acre; another lives in terror of pink.
Years ago, we asked our landscape designing friend Mac Reid what his work as botanical confessor had taught him about flower snobbery, and Mac allowed that, yes, around Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, there was one definite plant non grata: the Rose of Sharon. (Hibiscus Syriacus L. ).
Too easy to grow? Too blowsy? Too, dare we say it—pink?
Those very qualities that made Rose of Sharon distasteful to Kentuckians strike people quite differently on the other side of the world. Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) is revered in South Korea, the national flower. And it will be in special evidence there today. Not only is this bloom season for mugunghwa, August 15 is a national holiday twice over, so the Korean emblem has sprung up all over Seoul.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
‘Wake Up the Energy Field!’
Showman, designer, and mobile gardener Simple lets go another wonderland before an audience of plant experts, among them seedsman-writer-fan Allen Bush.
Musicians jamming in Simple’s garden
Photo: Rita Randolph
By Allen Bush
I am impressed by those who love their gardens. I like all sorts and have shamelessly cribbed from many. I admire English gardens - especially in England - and am still trying to figure-out what a native garden can be (having planted dozens of Kentucky native species.)
My favorite gardens are kindly tended though not always thoroughly weeded. They run the gamut from fussy to messy. I confess to a fondness for plants, though in some gardens they are scarce. Few are design originals….
A few weeks ago, my next door neighbor brought over Shocking Beauty, a book written by Thomas Hobbs, the author and garden-center owner from Vancouver, Canada. There are colorful plant combinations in dazzling garden photos from Mt. Cuba in Delaware to Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland. This leads to Hobbs’s own inspired garden, surrounding his 1930s Mission Revival-style home. Toward the end he writes about an occasional epiphany, “Being overwhelmed by what you see (in gardens) is an experience that does not happen very often.” He adds, “Gardening without fear means taking risks that saner heads would never contemplate.”
…another way of saying, a garden should be fun. Simple’s is FUN!
Though Simple’s gardens have not become fodder for a coffee table book, I’d lay down a twenty and bet Hobbs would be impressed.