|Festival goer Kenny and his superior hat|
It turns out, contrary to popular belief, that Chelsea Flower Show does not have the corner on cutting edge fashion. Sure, the stylish gentleman cutting a dash in white suit, white patent leather shoes, red snake-style belt and a flower-studded Astroturf titfer at Chelsea '11 made front cover of The Guardian's G2 section (as I recollect) but his horti-sartorial antics are just the tip of the iceberg*.
Last weekend’s trip to the western fringes of the empire, aka Green Man Festival, was delightful. I was charmed by the bicycle-powered Venus fly trap chasing a six-foot fly around site. And hats as sported by Mr Bloom of Mr Bloom’s Nursery** fame, are the pinnacle of popularity. But it was the rather awesome creation above that got my Best in Show award. Mohican daffodils and ivy with an integral head-torch prove that horti-couture can combine style and function with insouciant effectiveness. (Thanks for the pic, Kenny!).
Like Glastonbury green fields writ large and set in spectacular Welsh mountain scenery, the festival site on the Glanusk estate also has the bonus of some really interesting trees. According to a source there are gazillions of rare oaks. I have been unable to verify this, but my friend Lumberjack spent the weekend happily collecting foliage specimens for later identification, like some sort of green man in training.
The mansion was demolished in the 1950s and the central Ty Mawr is, in fact, decidedly Bach, but the music rolls out into a landscaped garden littered with viburnums, acers, magnolias and Davidia. There is also a lengthy rill which doubles as a superior linear paddling pool, plus there are plenty of opportunities for amateur garden archaeology (“So, if the mansion was here, this is where the formal garden would have been and this has to have originally been the walled kitchen garden, maybe a herb garden here – Heligan has something similar...”etc). Hours of fun, even if the original garden is now sadly neglected.
The green man himself, hugely tall, with flowers springing from his very footsteps, epitomises earthy awesomeness. In the hollow interior, paper leaves are filled with wishes; anonymous expressions of hope for friends, for the future, for babies lost or yet to arrive. I wrote my message and fled the pathos.
On stage, welsh language acts rubbed shoulders with Noah and the Whale (who I didn’t rate), Treefight for Sunlight who were a dreamy, lying on the grass sort of act with hints of Kula Shaker and Boo Radleys (which tells you how long it is since I paid attention) and Bellowhead’s exhilarating electro-folk shenanigans. They had 25 instruments including a chap playing what looked a lot like wakka-chakka bouzouki. Marvellous.
Festival shopping has evolved from mostly head-gear (no, not hats) and tie-dye to include Victorian bathing suits, frilly knickers and fairy wings as day-wear. But in my opinion you can't go wrong with the classics - candyfloss, glitter, loo-roll and sun cream never go out of style.
*And no, no lettuce jokes. That would be painful.
**Still waiting for the ‘Meet the Veggies’ festival set