Sorry, I just couldn’t choose between fellow bloggers. However, I can really let my imagination go quite easily. I’ve been seriously creative with time for my guest list. I have fully embraced VP’s suggestion that “It doesn't matter if you've never met any of them before - let your imagination and the power of the internet rule!” Oh yes… and I have!
At a guess, the reason behind the choices will be as interesting as the guest list itself. Okay, that being the case I thought I’d give my original reaction. Five guests… my first thoughts were two from the gardening side, two from the birds/wildlife side and a wild card that would be a fun party guest. Yep… that definitely helped shape my list. Mm… but then I considered what makes a good Dinner Party. It’s not just the food at the table… it’s the conversation! Okay then… it’s my party so whose stories would I love to hear?
Hands down, no hesitation whatsoever, I would love to hear tales from a plant hunter. Someone who has travelled regions in any part of the world looking to discover a new plant species… I’d love to hear their thoughts and experiences. Wow… to discover some new, or even better endangered, species would be just amazing especially now. I had difficulty deciding between the present and past. My first guest has come from the past and would be Sir Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820).
Banks was a British explorer and naturalist. On a joint scientific expedition between the Royal Navy and the Royal Society he joined Captain James Cook on one of his first voyages to the South Pacific on HM Bark Endeavour. Now… he must have some fascinating stories to share! As director of The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew he then sent many botanists abroad to find new plants to extend the collection of the garden. Yes… a very interesting dinner guest he would make!
It’s my party… so I’m jumping completely into present day with my next guest. I really enjoy filming the birds and wildlife in my garden (and outside it) so I am inviting a wildlife cameraman. Gosh… and there are so many to choose from. In this case I am going for fellow Scot Gordon Buchanan .
Gordon is probably most known here in the UK for his wildlife diaries for BBC Two's Spring/Autumnwatch. However, he has filmed in other parts of the world too including Africa and not always using conventional modes of transport either. Imagine riding on the back of an elephant, in a basket with a 15ft tripod using the edge of said elephant’s back, to film tigers! I am guessing Gordon will have some excellent dinner chat.
Joseph worked with Artists to record images on his plant hunting expeditions so seeing the camera equipment (especially discovering you can film with sound and in complete darkness now) would be a discovery he could never have imagined. Oh yes… I’d also ask Gordon to take his camera with him just in case an unexpected visitor passed through my garden tonight! I have wondered about foxes and he’s the man to ask about that. Joseph must have come across amazing wildlife sights on his trips. Now, I wonder what Gordon would ask Joseph?
So that’s one to the garden and one to wildlife. Okay… seeing as I’ve already visited the past I can easily go back a little further. I’m thinking of large Country Houses and Mansions with expanses of grounds that really do reach for our imagination. Yep… single track (bumpy) roads with a horse and trap. Let me introduce my next guest… Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716–1783). Ah... I see that Brown and Banks were living at the same time. I wonder if they ever met?
I have great difficulty in understanding the vision Brown had at that time both with the scale and resources he worked with across England. I know as gardeners we like to make our own mark on an existing garden, and yes, we will often start by altering a border or two. However, Brown wiped out large established formal gardens rearranging completely the landscape around Country houses and Parks.
It is estimated that he is responsible for as many as 170 gardens/parks. Smooth undulating grass would be seen running right up to the houses and scatterings of trees were dotted around them. Quite a risky move for the owners I’d have thought.
Just how did Brown convince the owners to make these changes and spend considerable money in doing so? Well, the answer lies in his name. Brown would characteristically tell his clients that their estates had great "capability" for landscape improvement. Many clearly believed ‘Capability’ Brown and a fashion evolved but after his death his work lost its popularity for a while as it was seen as a feeble imitation of wild nature. Perhaps it was, but there are many ways to see this. This style did return again in the Twentieth Century.
Now… back to the dinner chat! I do wonder about the conversation between my next guest and Brown. Ah… but they do have one thing in common – trees.
Jumping to the future again I’d like to introduce my next guest. However, I don’t really know which period I really see him in. Yes… he is definitely living in the present but he is so in touch with the space he works with that I suspect he could be dropped into any period of time. I’d like to invite to my table… Dan Pearson.
Dan is a landscape and garden designer and believes it is better to work with nature than to dominate it. So that would make him on opposite side to Brown you would think. Heated discussions at the dinner table perhaps? Well, Dan is so laid back but at the same time so passionate about what he does it could go either way.
Mood, atmosphere and 'sense of place' are so important to Dan but could Brown really make the huge changes he made to landscapes without not feeling the same? Okay… I’ll let the dinner conversation sort that one out. It’s going to be very interesting. Oh yes... and I should add that Dan lectures all over the world. He also writes a blog. I wonder what Brown would make of blogs!
Mm… I see I’m lacking female company at my dinner table. I’ll re-address this now. My first thoughts went to Beth Chatto and to Sarah Raven as I could listen to both of them chat all night long. However, I have a very simple reason for choosing my last guest. I would like to know more about… Alys Fowler .
Alys appeared on our television screens as head gardener with BBC Two’s Gardeners' World programme. She worked previously worked as a researcher to the show. I will be honest and say I really wasn’t sure about her at the start. However, she has now ‘grown’ on me!
Recently, I have popped over to her blog and will say it makes a good read. It is her character and enthusiasm that I am now seeing. Looking up info on her I see like Dan and Joesph she has also worked at Kew Gardens. Searching on the internet for more info on her, one story caught my eye:
“Whilst living in New York she also began volunteering in a community garden on the Lower East side in Manhattan. With only a fire escape to grow plants on, she quickly found a community that were making beautiful gardens literally from the street. This was an influential period in her training and much of the ethic, thrift and spirit that thrives in such settings is found in her work today.” Alys now runs her own garden design business. Yes, I would like to hear some chat from Alys Fowler. I am also guessing she would enjoy the chat with my other guests too.
All my dinner guests come from completely different places both in time and in their lives but hey that will make for some excellent conversation at the dinner table! Interestingly enough I asked my 15yr old daughter who she thought I’d have to dinner. She said “that Piet guy, Monty Don and her!” She is claiming some ownership of my blogging beginning after we observed birds for her school project. Very good my dear… yes if I ever have Piet Oudolf and Monty Don to dinner you will definitely get an invite. In fact, I might ask you to make the desert!
I do apologise, I’ve perhaps been giving a little too much chat here. It wasn’t too tricky picking my guests. However, as you can probably see, I did find it tricky trying to write brief bit on each guest. Gosh… I shouldn’t be sitting here at the PC now. I’ve a dinner to organise. Now… is that the caterers at the door or an early guest?
Oh… one last thing. I’m not the only one having a dinner party tonight. Perhaps you might enjoy being a fly on the wall at a few parties – I know I would. You’ll find them in the Mister Linky list on VP’s posting. Oh my... just look at the time. Is that the doorbell again? I really must dash…
The images of Banks and Brown were taken from Wikipedia commons. The images of my other guests were taken from the links given.