Flower Power
Tall trmpet beige ones

Sat. 13th April, 2002

Gateshead's annual Spring Flower Show was held this weekend in a series of marquees in the fields near the Council nursery and hothouses. This is situated atop Lobley Hill with commanding views of Team Valley and Bensham

My interest in flowers is as a viewer. I enjoy their beauty and scent, but have never taken the trouble to learn their names or discover the finer points.

My gardening attempts concern stopping the green slimy stuff from coming onto the house by the judicious use of flame throwers, rocket launchers and aerial attacks. One blink of the eye, one weekend away and the accumulated biomass takes on the proportions of mount Etna with threatening Triffid tentacles.

After a short queue for entrance tickets, the first sight is of the owls. This display allowed everyone to meet these proud birds. This beauty was very keen on the attention and was only too pleased to be prodded and squeezed. The look of sheer wonderment on the children's faces was delightful.

The man from the Owl Protection League told us stories of these elegant birds, and that their domestication included conversion from their usual nocturnal to a diurnal lifestyle.

The League runs a refuge for owls displaced by building or other destruction of habitat as well as encouraging breeding colonies in the wild.

The wise one
Gardens ahoy!

Inside the main tent, local firms had constructed themed gardens. This rustic river tableau was erected by Dobies garden store.

The seafaring theme was present in many artefacts, and I pictured retired old blind Captain Cat reliving his seafaring days in "Under Milk Wood" by
Dylan Thomas. The poet wrote many of his works in a converted boat house in Laugharne (pronounced Larne) in Wales, although perhaps not quite so twee as this display.

I suspect that the plants had something to do with this sort of environment, those tall; straggling grass fronds look like they should be on sand dunes, and the other ground cover was the kind of stuff found swilling around riverbanks.

Use it again

Another theme, close to my heart, was the recycled garden. The paths were formed from used building bricks, the small fence from rail truck wheels, and other features reused cast off roof tiles and drainage pipes.

Another section of the garden showed the most effective way of composting with a perfect pong free pile to sample.

This idea of reusing cast off stuff and making really useful things from little to zero expense materials appeals to my Hippy nature.

Someone once said that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. This display appealed to my rather vague grasp on the right plants and right places. Most of the plants looked like the classic definition of weeds.

Other exhibitors chose to display vast walls of flowers, like these trumpet shaped spiky ones.

The forest of tall fronds waved enticingly and the cheeky red and white blooms overwhelmed the attention like the sirens of Lorelei. I was overcome with foreboding; surely these beautiful flowers harboured something sinister.

Perhaps they are poisonous or maybe their fast growing waving palm tree foliage strangles every other plant nearby. Those unopened buds are suggestive of the alien pods waiting to hatch vigorously destructive visions from the surrealist mind of
H.R. Giger.

Six petals, six stamens, and six sepals, the flower of the beast?
Johnathan Ross has a shirt in this riot of colours
Good enough to eat? Mr. Rabbit thinks so!

The professional growers put on massive shows like these globular clumps. They are bright and cheerful, if a little lacking in colour co-ordination. The daisy things and spiky things formed an intriguing contrast yet arranged in hemispheres. Maybe the point was to draw attention to the differing halves of our brain; one for technical stuff and the other for abstract and spatial thought.

The amateur arrangers rose to the challenges of the evocative themes. Here is the winner of "Salad Days". Most of the items look edible, but I can't see inexperienced youth anywhere.

This splendid arrangement was an attempt to suggest ragged, syncopated rhythms and unexpected tune changes. It created the impression of Bertie Wooster, a 1920s well off humorous twit created by P.G. Wodehouse.

The Tiger Rag was playing on the wind up gramophone, and the flappers whirled their beads to the Charleston beat. Bertie, however was ensconced in his safe, if amusing adventures with Gussie Fink-Nottle and Catsmeat Potter-Purbright.

This arrangement suggested that safety and none of the edge that jazz was then and can still be today.

All that jazz
Patchwork holes

The Durham area of the National Association of Flower Arranging Societies, inspired by Charles Rennie Macintosh, put on this tour de force. Flowers and frames unite to create Impact, the name of the exhibition.

Chairwoman Pauline Lund marshalled the forces under the overall design of Vivian Bolton. This exciting display, combining abstract and traditional design filled a large space at one end of the Amateur tent.

Visitors dodged about the hanging frames and floor displays, and glimpsed ever changing views of other exhibits.

This display was an amalgam of disparate pieces, although the framework theme pervaded all.

Gravity defying feat

The designs featured here will appear in the forthcoming 7th World Show in Glasgow in June. The grand exhibition of over 700 competitors and 200 trade stalls is held every three years in different locations.

I was impressed by the space, and the bold decision not to clutter or be fussy. Those cubic bushes in the background of this picture seemed not to be part of the overal disaplay. It was as if they had just arrived and nobody knew quite what to do with them.

Find out more about the National Assosiation of Flower Arranging Societies

Cage and a dangle
Fruit and flowers from above

During the early 1980s Gateshead hosted the National Garden Festival, a celebration of derelict land reuse. Since then the yearly flower show has been a dim reflection of that glorious summer.

This was the 12th such show and was the biggest yet. As well as the flower exhibits that attracted me, there were craft displays, entertainment and activities for the kids, restaurants, and always an expert at hand to tell you how deep to dig or how friable should be your compost.

Well done Gateshead, the dark cold damp of winter has been swept away and spring is really here.

Little red oned peep out from the bark

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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