WELCOME TO OUR 400th POST!
This is an artist’s painting of his own house and garden. Any idea of where it might be?
The artist was John Glover who was born near Leicester in 1767 but, despite the very English blue sky and cotton wool clouds, does it look like Leicestershire?
If it helps I think there are pink roses in the foreground, red hollyhocks in the centre and yellow mulleins on either side but you might stand a better chance of guessing if you look at the another detail of the same painting. Still not sure? Better read on to find out!
“There are a number of ways of laying out a garden. The best is by taking on a gardener.” So opens a delightful book on gardens by the Czech writer Karel Čapek. Published in Prague in 1929 with illustrations by his brother Josef, it was first translated into English in 1931.
Normally gardening books from that era are, let’s be honest, worthy but dull, good for a bit of period feel, quaint photos or funny adverts but otherwise not much use and cratinly not widely read any more. The Gardener’s Year is different. It is both timely and timeless and worth reading every word, and smiling at every drawing.
Did you know that the British Government spent the twenty years between the First and Second World Wars investigating the possibilities of electrifying plants? And did so in almost complete secrecy. It means that last week’s perpetually electrified garden wasn’t quite the complete dead-end I originally imagined and maybe not quite as hare-brained either. In fact it was just the first sign of a complete new science or, as many others would have it, pseudo-science – Electroculture.
Although Benjamin Martin’s perpetual electrification machine that I wrote about last week disappeared without trace it clearly didn’t not stop research and publication about the effects of electricity on plants continuing on both sides of the Channel…and less than a hundred years later The farmer’s guide to Scientific and Practical Agriculture announced that “Electricity maybe classed among special manures” and that was only just the start…
I’ve written about many weird and wonderful inventions on here but I think this apparently madcap contraption might take some beating! It all started when I stumbled across an unusual engraving in the Wellcome Collection. There was no background information, no context, and very little referencing other than the date of publication, 1755.
A bit of dogged hunting through the back streets and byways of the internet led me to an obscure publication and a short article that accompanied the print in its original incarnation there.
At first glance this detail showing a well-dressed couple looking at some plants might appear fairly ordinary but when you look more closely at the rest of the engraving things just get stranger…beginning with its title…
Serendipity strikes! Last Thursday just as I was finishing off last week’s post about trompe l’oeil paintings I saw a newsflash on a history website that it was the 400th birthday of Israel Silvestre that very day. That probably won’t mean much to most people but since I’d just included some of his engravings in that post, I thought I ought to know more. Unfortunately it takes longer than 36 hours to put one of these posts together from scratch, so with apologies that its 8 days late…
BON ANNIVERSAIRE ISRAEL!
But given that I’ve been giving over August’s posts to Silly Season stories how could I link this distinguished artist to something a bit unusual? The answer was his patron…