Art and Spectacle

… is the subtitle of the current exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery on the art collections of George IV, of whom I wrote, some time ago and in another place: ‘But the mystery of the Prince’s character – childish, petulant, egocentric, dissolute spendthrift, versus generous, intellectual, aesthetically aware patron of the arts and frustrated king-in-waiting – remains.’ (I’ve just read a review of  Stella Tillyard‘s new(ish) book on the king, subtitled ‘King in Waiting’, which sounds good, assuming you can get past the startlingly hideous cover.) Continue reading

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Plant of the Month: January 2020

One of the most mournful utterances you will hear from a gardener is: ‘I had one, but it died.’ Next up is, ‘I had one, but it doesn’t flower any more.’ This is the case, alas, with me and Iris unguicularis. I still have them, in a well-drained, south-facing spot, but they don’t flower any more. I have never divided them, so that may be the problem, but I will have to wait until midsummer before trying it. On the plus side, in spite of their allegedly being susceptible to slugs and snails, they are one of the very few plants in my garden that don’t get chomped. Continue reading

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Tree of the Year

In 2017 I took monthly photos of a particular tree @CUBotanicGarden, and in 2018 I did the same for a hedge. Neither sequence when laid end to end was in fact particularly inspiring, so in 2019 I went for one of the most spectacular specimen trees in the garden, and it did not disappoint. Continue reading

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There are various reasons (excuses), some flimsier than others, for the long delay since I last put quill to vellum. First, there was the Mill Road Winter Fair, which took up all my spare time for several weeks; then there was 12 December, which left me stupefied for several days; then there was a technical problem (not of my making, and still not fixed!) with one of my main sources of information; then there was a physical problem with my right arm; and then of course there was Christmas, which produced the usual paradoxical First-World-Problem response – how is it possible to have a wonderful two weeks with all my family around me, and lots of practical help, and yet be completely exhausted by the end while swearing that I certainly won’t have the energy to do it all again next year? Continue reading

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Titian to Rubens

Unexpected (by me!) technical problems have necessitated putting a couple of blogs-in-preparation on the back burner, and output of verbiage in November has in any case taken second place to output of hedgehogs (105 and rising …) – do please come and buy one on 7 December! But I’m going back now to the superb exhibition ‘From Titian to Rubens: Masterpieces from Antwerp and other Flemish Collections’, which is still running at the Doge’s Palace in Venice (until 1 March 2020), and which we saw in September. Continue reading

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Christmas Is Coming …

Not the words you necessarily want to hear on Hallowe’en, but I must just put in a plug for my stall at the (Cambridge) Mill Road Winter Fair, on Saturday 7 December. This year I have a pitch on Petersfield, at the town-end extremity of Mill Road. (Last time I was down there, on my first venture in 2015, the wind was so strong that many gazebos were blown over – not an omen, I hope!) Continue reading

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Francesco Cupani

The Alpine House @CUBotanicgarden is pretty stunning at the moment, what with the cyclamen, autumn crocus and colchicums – do go and have a look! Among all the incredibly photogenic flowers, I came across Colchicum cupani, which compelled me finally to get around to looking up the Franciscan friar whose name is immortalised in the variety of sweet pea I attempt (with varying degrees of success) to grow every summer. Continue reading

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