There is so much going on this month including the RHS’s Chelsea Flower Show and Malvern Spring Festival, plus Kew embraces non-conventional plant wisdom while partnering with GSK for its Plantasia event. While these will no doubt do plants justice, we instead choose to focus on a few of our own May highlights. Our aim is always the same – to celebrate artists, plants and plant related activities that we can take inspiration from in our own creative and professional botanical pursuits. Events this month come from neighbouring countries UK, Ireland and France. So spontaneous travel arrangements might be the order of the day.
1. Orchid Hunting in Kent
If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to hunt a rare orchid, you just need to watch the brilliant Adaptation. Yet, you do not need to go all the way to the humid swamps of Florida to find a member of this populous but highly revered plant family, because we have around fifty species in the UK and some are very hard to find. For the unabashed wild orchid lovers amongst us, May is an optimal time to scour the countryside looking for as many species as possible to photograph. Remember your tripod because the excitement can often lead to camera shake and for such small delicate flowers this can be lethal. A good place to start is Kent, for this county boasts many different species and some rather rare ones at that. If you can make it on the 24th, it is worth visiting the Ranscombe Wildflower Mini Festival, as they will have people on hand to give you some directional pointers on a number of species found there. Another great place to go is Marden Meadow where you will be able to savour a field-full of Green-winged Orchids (which are really quite purple) and Buttercups. It’s a sonic yet warm colour combination (see image below). There are many resources online that can help with the hunt. 50 species feels like a manageable list to cross off in one lifetime. Plant Curator would love to see a travel blog / photography portfolio / distribution map of one intrepid botanical artist’s quest to see and render the lot.
2. Matisse Cut-Outs – Tate Modern
It is on for a while yet but why wait? It’s an exhibition bursting with dynamism and colour, AND you will find fronds and flowers in amongst all the other magic. Laura Cummings sums it up well for The Guardian: “Nothing can prepare you for the joyous brilliance – and scale – of Matisse’s late, great work, ‘proliferating from one gallery to the next like some super-abundant garden’ in Tate Modern’s beautifully orchestrated show”. Go now, go now and if not now, then tomorrow.
3. Floralies Internationales – Nantes 2014
This flower show (8th – 18th May) extravaganza comes around once every five years in this French location, although it is also staged in Belgium, Italy and Hungary in intervening years. It is open to the general public with visitors given the opportunity to enjoy some ‘magnificent flowers and plants, creative ornamental gardens, flower arranging, and landscape gardening’. Sounds great, but Plant Curator is taking a slight punt on this, having never actually been to the event (please let us know if you have). But although we were left perplexed by the functionality of the event website, we loved the design. And in particular, the posters going back to 1954 are wonderful. Other images that we have seen indicate it is likely to be a spectacular affair, full of relentless floral delights, over nine whole days, costing less than twenty euros per ticket! Move over Chelsea. Below is the promotional video which is rather mesmerising, even if it is set to Pachelbel’s wedding music.
4. The Irish Alphabet in Botanical Art
The Irish Society of Botanical Artists have a lot of things going on this month including this event that has already started at the Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and runs until the 25th. The exhibition takes each letter of the Irish alphabet and marries that with a native plant that starts with the same letter of its Irish Name. Over sixty artists have contributed to three complete 18 letter Irish alphabets, so expect to see many distinctive plant fonts on show. Well worth a visit and to support this fairly new yet active Botanical Society that is working hard in the plant arts field. Free demonstrations in Botanical Art will take place during the exhibition and educational worksheets for schools are available from the Irish Society of Botanical Artists’ website.
5. Coupon Garden
We like to include one commercial activity in our monthly plant happenings because people that love and want to protect plants need to make a living too and that’s not always easy. This new site is a friend of ours, and it’s like a mini- Groupon, but just for the garden. There is no need to register, its free to use, just click on the link for money off savings. If your thinking of buying something online in the plants, garden or outdoorsy departments, check Coupon Garden first for a chance to ‘prune your costs’. It also collects together in one place many of the major online garden and plant retailers for your perusal.
Enjoy the great month of May.