Human Flower Project

Culture & Society

Saturday, March 10, 2012

This Blessed Plot

What happened to the front garden? The original home theater and neighborhood forum, a gift that’s been retracted. (Thank you, John.)

imageEssay and photos by John Levett

There’s a saying: ‘Don’t change yer clout ‘til may is out.’ Discussion used to always arise about whether changing clout (clothing) should take place after the may (hawthorn) came out or May came in. Whatever. The may is out and in these parts it feels as if the season is on the turn. The weather has been kind this year. It’s just turned March and I’m in credit with the energy company. We had a cold spell at the opening of February but you get the feeling that that’s that.

March is busy: finish pruning anything left before nesting time, clear the space of rubbish, repair paths, wash out the shed & re-prime, buy in the mulch, first feed, tie in stray shoots, secure ramblers—get to the point where you feel you can start sitting in the garden. It’s a long month to come before I’m in that state but it’s started.

It’s a time when the planning trope creeps back in. What’s the new grand design? What’s not there that should be? What have I always planned to raise? Everything’s possible at this time. Nothing that’s not worth a shot. Gardening in heroic mode. (Note to self: “Yes it’s failure, but how good a failure?” - Cornell West.)

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Posted by Julie on 03/10 at 11:03 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, March 02, 2012

Critical Minds and ‘Vegetal Life’

A new book series will publish interdisciplinary studies of plant “being” in religion, food systems, philosophy, art and more. The call for proposals is here.

imageArborglyph in an aspen tree, carved by a Basque sheepherder, 1935 (a practice now outlawed), Tahoe National Forest

Photo: L. Hanson

If plants and flowers provoke you to philosophize, if you’d just as soon re-read Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra” as fertilize the peonies, please turn your inspired attention to a new book series from Rodopi (a scholarly publisher based in Amsterdam).

Michael Marder, in the Department of Philosophy of The University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, kindly asked us to spread the word. The project’s editor, he writes, “This is the first series on ‘critical plant studies’ in the world. We are very enthusiastic about it and are looking forward to receiving manuscripts and book proposals for evaluation.”

Michael thought that Human Flower Project readers and writers were likely to have such books germinating, and we believe he’s right. Georgia, Allen, Jill, Sandy, and EarthScholars Jim and Renee, we know you have a wealth of ideas. And we trust that many other readers do as well. Here you go!

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Posted by Julie on 03/02 at 03:36 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flowers of Resolution, Christchurch

How do secular societies face a common tragedy? Christchurch, New Zealand, devises a public ceremony, with flowers.


Gathering points along the Avon River in Christchurch,

New Zealand, where residents today made a memorial

“River of Flowers”

Map: Healthy Christchurch

Today Christchurch, New Zealand, marks one year since the deadly earthquake that killed 185 people. A community health group polled the residents to ask how the disaster should be commemorated.

Cantabrians expected another huge gathering a Hagley Park, where a memorial had taken place several weeks after the tragedy. Yet, many residents also wanted to gather in their respective neighborhoods, “to allow communities to be together to commemorate, and to look to the future.” Human lives had been lost, and so were many of the city’s buildings. 100,000 houses were damaged, and 10,000 were entirely demolished either by the quake itself or thereafter. This was a tragedy of place.

The ritual enacted today paid tribute both to individual loss and community despair. People gathered at 15 spots along the Avon River that winds through Christchurch and dropped flowers into the water. The river leads to Pegasus Bay and the South Pacific Ocean.

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Posted by Julie on 02/22 at 03:13 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Arts & Crafts Garden: It Did Fly

From the Edwardian garden, down a slippery slope to many purposes. Or was it up?


Essay and photos by John Levett

In her chapter on “The Arts and Crafts Garden” in her [still] wonderful book The English Garden in the 20th Century, Jane Brown refers, in turn, to Gertrude Jekyll’s Gardens for Small Country Houses. I had a copy of it many decades ago but gave it to a friend when a new move couldn’t house all my collection.

The ‘small country house’ designation is relative. What we think of as a small house in the country these days might easily have referred to the gamekeeper’s cottage in the long-weekend of Edwardian England. Nevertheless, Jekyll’s recommendations are still adapted and muddled through albeit with less of the hard graft that it took then. If I were to redesign my garden now, I’m sure I’d find a copy and hatch a scheme accordingly.

That thought came to me a week ago before the snow arrived. I’d just finished the tidying up of the climbers and ramblers, finished pruning the deadwood and started tying in. Standing back and taking note of what else I could be doing before February is out, it came to me that a redesign over the next couple of years might be prudent. I’ve taken a few falls off the ladder in the past couple of years and the tall growths are getting to be ‘Small Country House’ size. Making changes would be a wrench. There are moments in late May when I sit there and want to be nowhere else. There are a ridiculous number of roses for this patch but I know why I built it this way and the reasons haven’t changed.

I think that maybe the turn-and-turn-around of garden life may push me into change. I think that three or four of the species roses (the earlies) have taken a dive. There’s usually a bud or two showing by now and, with the mild winter we’ve had, I should be seeing some growth; but not so.


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Posted by Julie on 02/12 at 03:15 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink
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