Music to watch gardens by

We have been pondering entertainment and music in open gardens. This came about because our local Waitara garden trail was held last weekend. A true community venture, run on the goodwill and hard work of the organisers and the garden openers, this not-for-profit event brings out several hundred people to enjoy themselves over the two day period and entertainment is sometimes part of the package.

I must admit we only got to visit one garden ourselves but music played a large part. Being somewhat purist in our approach, we have steered well clear of the entertainment factor in our own garden. Mark is of the view that he would much rather visitors came to enjoy the garden than to treat it more as a venue for entertainment. But we were really interested in the impact of music in the garden we visited. The owners were playing carefully chosen, contemporary instrumental music which was loud enough to create an ambience on arrival but not so intrusive as to dominate. In the spirit of a fun afternoon, it certainly added to the atmosphere and gave a sense of being where something was happening.

The music also had the advantage of drowning out the neighbour’s loud radio but as one progressed through this large garden, the neighbour’s radio started to dominate. Tuned, I think, to Classic Hits, the songs were interspersed with loud advertisements which did rather detract from the contemplative enjoyment of the garden. But even this intrusive radio had the effect of drawing people through to the far ends of the garden, following the call of the sound. Indeed we observed some who were drawn right through to the neighbour’s shed to have a look at the source of the sound. The impact of the music was to make people feel they were participating in some sort of larger event.

Naturally our thoughts turned to the possible extensions of this phenomenon. We have started to watch a little more TV cricket again since the Black Caps appear to be rising out of their earlier humiliations. Mark felt we could take a leaf out of cricket matches’ book and consider having appropriate music to send off people as they start the long walk across our front lawn to the garden. There would need to be a limited range of options to keep it manageable. So, for example, women between the ages of around 40 and 55 and gay men could be sent off to the strains of “I Will Survive” (alternative tracks for gay visitors might be Abba’s “Dancing Queen” or, I am told, anything sung by Kylie.) Visitors over the age of about 70 could wander off to the strains of any track from the Sound of Music, preferably sung by Julie Andrews. “Moon River” might set the tone for age bracket from 55 to 70. Those who turn up driving BMWs or Saabs would be matched, perhaps, to Ravel’s “Bolero”. Mark, who is currently coming to terms with muscular decay in one foot which has forced him to wear supportive shoes and give up on his beloved gumboots and Roman sandals, wryly suggested that the anthem for him and for anyone in zimmer frames or on crutches might be Rolf Harris singing “Jake the Peg”.

Visitors whom we suspect of being gnome aficionados would be treated to either “The Laughing Policeman” or “I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I Am”. Those to whom we fear giving offence might be matched to something neutral but charming such as “Greensleeves”, or maybe anything sung by Barbra Streisand.

Over a glass or two of wine (perhaps it was three given the amnesia that has set in since), Mark developed this theme to come up with motion activated rap numbers as people walked past certain key plants. Readers may recall the motion activated croaking frogs and gnomes which made offensive noises, sold at one time in the big red barns. Off the top of his head, Mark composed a quick rap number relevant to the state and growing habits of the Ficus antiarus but alas we both laughed so much that we failed to write it down. Readers may have to wait until the poetic muse strikes again.

Last summer, I wrote about Mark’s delight in his brunsvigia flowering well for the first time and issued a gardening challenge to any reader who could top the number of flowers with one in their own garden. I should have known better. A gardening colleague did indeed have a brunsvigia flowering with thirteen separate flower heads which certainly eclipsed our modest effort. For those of you not in the know, the brunsvigia is a large and impressive South African bulb related to nerines and amaryllis.

This year it is the worsleya which is Mark’s pride and joy. This is a rare bulb from Brazil (also a member of the amaryllis family) and it is the first time that it has flowered for us. The big blue flowers resemble a hippeastrum and at least once a day, Mark comments with pride on his worsleya. Not a competitive man by nature, he has pondered how many others out there are currently flowering a worsleya in the garden (containers don’t count). Some may hope that he will keep to growing these interesting treats rather than inflicting his rap numbers on unwary garden visitors.