We won! Humanist garden triumphs at Shrewsbury Flower Show

Joe Swift presenting award certificates to Carol Seager

Joe Swift presenting award certificates to Carol Seager

Wonderful news! “Sundance”, the Humanist garden in the Shrewsbury Flower Show, received a Large Gold Medal (the highest award), and — even better — was awarded the Mike Hough Memorial Trophy for best outdoor show garden. The garden was sponsored by the Shropshire Humanist Group, with contributions from Birmingham Humanists and Humanists UK. As it was surrounded by gardens created at huge expense by teams of professionals, it was also a triumph for amateurs and volunteers.

Carol Seager — a member of Shropshire Humanist Group — conceived, designed and created this wonderful garden with a strong humanist theme which is explained below. The photographs don’t really do justice to the beautiful and complex design. Not only did Carol create a fascinating interesting horticultural exhibit, but she herself also made all the additional features, such as the wood fencing and shelter, canopy, batik hangings and painted ceramics – often subtly incorporating the Happy Humanist sign or the new Humanists UK logo.

We had a small humanism stand next to the garden.  Many visitors to the flower shop stopped to view the garden and to talk to Carol, Mal Brown, Sue Falder and Simon Nightingale about the ethos of the garden and also the nature of humanism. The garden certainly helped to raise the profile of humanism for the general public.

Carol has become quite a celebrity. She was interviewed for ITV Midland news on Friday and was also interviewed twice by Radio Shropshire; firstly on Sunday 6 August and again just after receiving the awards from celebrity gardener, Joe Swift. To hear the last interview, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059xc5r#play and listen on the time line from about 22.00 to 26.00. This is available on “listen-again” only for a limited time.

Well done Carol!


Please click on pictures to see a larger version.

The Mike Hough memorial trophy held by Carol and Chris

The Mike Hough memorial trophy held by Carol and Chris

Sundance Humanist Garden

Sundance Humanist Garden

Shelter in Sundance Humanist Garden

Shelter in Sundance Humanist Garden

Painting by Carol Seager

Painting by Carol Seager


During the 19th century, American Plains Indian tribes, gathered together annually for The Sundance. This was an opportunity to reinforce relationships with the land, animals and fellow tribesmen, through feasting, dancing and sharing. Inspired by The Sundance, the Humanist Garden promotes the values of living cooperatively, sharing abundance, celebrating creativity and reinforcing caring relationships.

With the rapid decline of the buffalo in the 19th century, many Native Americans succumbed to disease and starvation. Southern Plains Indian tribes fared better as they supplemented their diet with subsistence farming.

The planting reflects the “companion method” of planting as practiced by the Southern Plains Indian tribes. Compatible crops, such as maize, beans and squash, are mutually beneficial. Maize provides climbing support for the beans, which in turn fix nitrogen into the soil. Squash provide ground cover and suppress weeds. Tomatoes, chillies and onions are also grown together. Herbs are grown for their culinary, medicinal and soil enrichment qualities. For example, the inclusion of chamomile, marigold and comfrey, provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, silicon, nitrogen and magnesium. Flowers such as nasturtiums attract black fly away from beans, and sunflowers attract pollinators. Espalier fruit trees (dwarf stock) are ideal for a small space and add to the variety of produce.

The central sculptural structure in the garden is suggestive of a teepee that appears to be collapsing. This reflects the fate of the Native Americans as buffalo numbers fell from 60 million in 1800 to just 750 in 1890. A pebble fountain bubbles beneath the teepee and yellow stone pathways radiate outwards. Between the rays of the path grow the crops, herbs and flowers. A covered decking area provides shelter and a place for cooking, eating, relaxing and socialising. Artisan arts and crafts such as pottery, basketry, textiles and glass, celebrate creativity and diversity.

Sundance, the Humanist Garden, can be viewed as a metaphor for shared human values, despite differing ethnicity or faith, and for the benefits of both cultural diversity and cooperation. The garden illustrates the co-existence of disparate groups working together in peace and harmony, drawn together by their interdependence and their common humanity.

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The Final Countdown – 1 Week To Go!

One week to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

The birds and the bees.

Wildlife in a garden is as important as the plants. A garden without insects, snails, small mammals and birds would be a very sterile environment. Granted, there are many of these mini beasts I would rather not have in the garden such as, slugs, snails, caterpillars and aphids. But for every pest there is a predator, and so it makes sense to attract these helpful creatures into the garden. One way is to provide a habitat that will help them thrive. As the garden is quite small, piles of rotting logs and weedy patches of nettles and stones was not really an option, so I have opted for insect houses, nesting boxes and bird feeders.

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This is an insect house for solitary bees and insects such as lacewings.

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This one is specifically for butterflies. So as the butterflies are in no doubt, I have painted the Native American symbol for butterflies on the front! It may seem counterproductive to encourage butterflies when caterpillars can do so much damage. However, butterflies are on the decline,  so with the exception of the voracious cabbage white I am more than happy to provide shelter and food for them.

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The woven structure in the centre is a nesting box for birds – quite reminiscent of a weaver birds nest.

Well, construction starts in a weeks time. Everything is all set and ready to go. The plants are growing well and the hard landscaping is coming together. I have a man with a van booked for Monday to transport stuff to site.
Does anyone have an old kettle I can borrow – the type that could be used on an open fire?
Also, if anyone wants to come along on Tuesday to rake sand, I can promise they will be rewarded with tea and cake!

Enjoy the week ahead. If you are going to be at the show, come and say hello. 🌻

The Final Countdown – 2 Weeks To Go

Two weeks to go until construction starts on the Humanist Show Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Fence finally finished!!!

It’s been a tough week but I feel I’ve made good progress. The hard landscaping is the most difficult element of the garden for me. I love the research, designing, artwork, growing and nurturing plants and bringing everything together to create the final garden. However, I find the structural elements rather more challenging. And so, it is not without a little bit of smugness and self satisfaction, that I can say “I did it!”  I have constructed the fence/screening for the garden.

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This week I have also hired a Man with Van to transport everything to site and help set up on Monday 7th August.

Tuesday 8th August is sandpit day. If anyone would like to turn up with a rake for some gentle exercise they would receive a very warm welcome – and be rewarded with tea and cake!

This weeks activities include, finishing the decking, creating fabric panels for the screening, writing a brief for the judges and trying to keep the plants alive and healthy looking!

Whether you’re at work or play, enjoy the week ahead.

Carol

The Final Countdown – 3 Weeks To Go

Three weeks to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Fun with fabrics v frustration with fencing!

Firstly, my apologies for being a bit late with this blog. Whilst all is going well with the plants ( this warm weather has sent them into overdrive, producing an abundance of fruit ), the same cannot be said of the hard landscaping. During the past week, 250 metres of 2” x 1” timber has been crisscrossing the county with me in hot pursuit. The timber has finally come to rest in a temporary location where I can transform it into fencing and screening for the garden. However, before construction begins I have had to paint it! If you find it hard to imagine 250 metres of wood, believe me, it is a lot! Two days of painting, and I’m nearly finished.

Construction, I am reliably informed, should only take half a day!

On a brighter note, do you remember printing with potatoes at primary school?

Well 50 years on, I decided to revive this noble craft and try some fabric printing.week3-3

As a first attempt, I was quite pleased with the result.
Celebrating creativity is an important part of the garden. Textiles, displaying different colours, textures, patterns and techniques, draw inspiration from cultures around the world.
Below is a sample of a variety of textiles that will be used in the garden.

Have a good week (end)!

Carol

The Final Countdown – 4 Weeks To Go

4 weeks to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Fun with pallets!

Furniture making with pallets is rather on trend at the moment. Sofas, beds, tables, fences, decking, planters and much more can be created easily and for minimal expense from a few salvaged pallets – or so we are led to believe. The reality is somewhat different. This week I have learned more than I ever really wanted to about the humble pallet. So if you are contemplating a project of your own I will share a few pearls of wisdom which may save you a bit of angst and wasted time. 

Unless you are very lucky, finding pallets for free, of the right size, weight and uniformity for your projectis not a walk in the park. Another option is to buy secondhand/reconditioned ones, but you need to know your pallets. Let me explain… Pallets come in different sizes, different weights, different depths. The planks on each pallet also differ in depth, number and spacing. Of the eight second hand pallets I acquired, no two were alike. From these I needed to create five close boarded platforms of equal dimensions, capable of being transported and assembled on site to form the decking. 

reciprocating saw is recommended as the best tool for taking apart pallets. Not having one, I borrowed a claw hammer, jemmy and a blue wedge shaped thingy. Eventually I triumphedThe pallets were reduced to a pile of wood and nails, it was time to put them together again!

Following are some images of work in progress – there is still some way to go – and a lot more painting to be done.

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I am now the proud owner of a pair of ox blood red cowboy boots. These will definitely be a feature in the garden, but not as you might expect!

Have a great week.

Carol

The Final Countdown – 5 Weeks To Go

5 weeks to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden.

“He aha te mea hui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata”.
“What is importaWhat do l need the pallets for? I’ll show you next week!nt? It’s people, it’s people, it’s people”. Maori proverb.

A few months ago, whilst living in New Zealand I had the opportunity to visit two community gardens in the Tauranga region of the Bay of Plenty. These gardens had been created by a local charity, the Good Neighbour Trust, to help bring communities together. Sharing knowledge and produce, socialising and supporting – neighbours building neighbourhoods – places where people have a sense of belonging. The Trust’s aim was simply to transform communities through simple acts of generosity and kindness.

Community gardens have been shown to have a very positive effect on physical and mental health. A report by Essex University proposed five evidenced based ‘Ways to Wellbeing’ – connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, give. Community gardens provide an ideal environment for people to connect, socialise and make friends, be active, observe the natural world, share knowledge and experience, give time, share abundance and help others.

Going back to ‘simple acts of generosity and kindness’. Last week I purchased six pallets from Shropshire Pallets and explained that I needed them the show garden. The following day I returned as I needed two more and was given them free of charge. It really made my day. So a big thank you to Shropshire Pallets.

What do I need the pallets for? I’ll show you next week!

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Enjoy the week ahead.

Carol

The Final Countdown – 6 Weeks To Go

6 weeks to go until construction starts on the Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Celebrating creativity
As part of the ethos of the garden is the celebration of creativity, there will be many elements of artisan art and crafts included in the garden. For example, pottery, basketry, weaving, textiles, art glass and sculpture.

One aspect of textile will be batik. This is the technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to cloth. Hot liquid wax is applied to the cloth using a tjanting tool, a small copper reservoir with a spout and a wooden handle. The areas of applied wax then resist the dye. Repeated layers can be built up to create colourful patterns.

Batik is an ancient art form dating back to the 4th century BC, where the fabric was used to wrap Egyptian mummies. The technique is widely practised in China, India, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and sub Saharan Africa. However, Indonesian Batik is probably the best know.

The following images show the build up of wax layers and colour. The final image shows the completed fabric, but before the wax has been removed by ironing between sheets of paper – it’s just been too hot to iron!

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The different areas practising batik developed their own recognisable styles and patterns – many with symbolic meanings. For this reason I have incorporated the Happy Human motif into my designs.

The fabric will be made into cushions for the seating area of the garden and should provide a vibrant splash of colour against all the green of the vegetables.

Enjoy the week ahead.
Carol

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