Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gardening on air

Another little occasional strand for the New Year here: as well as being an avid book-reader, I'm an obsessive Radio 4 listener, though without the tendency (or time) to write cross letters to Feedback every five minutes (I just shout at the radio in the privacy of my own kitchen instead).
The radio accompanies me out into the garden when I'm up for a long session, and I therefore get to listen to alot of those funny, quirky little daytime programmes which pop up more or less at random when relatively few people are able to listen to them. This means I often hear horticultural snippets buried in programmes masquerading as something else entirely unrelated to gardening: and it seems a bit of a shame to let them drift off unremarked into the ether so I thought I'd give them a little mention here instead.

Open Country last week, for example, went to visit Elspeth Owen, who is frankly bonkers though rather endearing in an English eccentric sort of way (do visit her website - it's quite extraordinary). She's an artist and grandmother, and at the age of 71 chose to celebrate last month's blue moon by living outside in the Cambridgeshire Fens with nothing to separate her from the sub-zero December temperatures but a three-sided open shelter. Which makes her more of an endurance competitor than a seeker of profound truths, but anyway....

Elspeth is not only a keen composter (though she says she's now iffy about adding her number twos after someone told her you should only do that if you're vegetarian) but also the daughter of a keen gardener. This meant she was particularly appreciative of the wild pear tree growing nearby, and I loved the image she used:

"It has these rather unappealing-looking really hard, hard fruit but it has the most incredible blossom... When we very first came to live here and I was looking at it from a distance, I thought the blossom was a sail, because it was down by the river. Of course, you couldn't have a sail on this river really: but I can remember that moment and it made it something magical."

Thanks to the wonder that is Listen Again, you can enjoy the programme in its entirety here: as well as composting and wild pears it encompasses the training of husky dogs, a singing post (aka a farmer's metal gatepost) and midnight bead-burying rituals. Only in England, eh?


Plant Mad Nige said...

Thanks for reminding us about this. The PG and I listened, but while snuggled up in our warm bed under a heap of duvets. (It was on horribly early, one Saturday morning.) Made me really appreciate the warmth.

The sail story reminds me about the first house we bought, when newly married. A flock of curlews was wandering about the ploughed field behind the building and, since original name - 'black and white cottage' or 'black and cream cottage' depending on which postman you spoke to - was such a mouthful, we renamed it 'Curlew Cottage.' Ha ha! Never saw another curlew anywhere near the place.

Anna said...

Will have a listen later - thanks CG:)

The Constant Gardener said...

Ah Nigel - that was always going to be a hostage to fortune. I was going to call this place Cherry Tree Cottage since it has a spectacularly lovely autumn-flowering cherry in the front garden, but a) it's a 1940s council house so not much very cottagey about it and b) I was terrified the cherry tree would fall down the moment I did so.

Anna - glad to help :D

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