Tie It All Together

I am a fan of string, twine, thread and rope.  This is a material that helps with no end of chores in the garden.  The English adore twine; Nutscene is a company in England that makes string.  This jute string comes in a can-just like the label says, it is pliable-meaning it will not damage tender stems.  It does eventually deteriorate, but that process is slow.  Pulled from the center of the spool which is contained in a can, there is no tangled mess.  How you can use this jute twine with both hands free baffles me-but I am happy to let that claim pass.  This jute twine is ideal for tying wayward perennial stems to a stout stake, without injuring the plant. 

Should you have a need for thousands of yards of jute twine, Nutscene manufactures wheels of string.  Pray I never have a need for this much string.  But I love the look of this spool.  India is the primary source for jute worldwide-the fiber comes from corchorus capsularis, or corchorus olitorius.  They both are tropical annuals, from the linden family.  Burlap, a staple fabric of the landscaping industry, is woven from jute. Used to bind up rootballs, jute burlap eventually rots away, permitting the roots to work their weay into the surrounding soil, and the plant to take hold. It may not be the strongest string on the planet, but it is a natural, readily available, and traditional material appreciated just as much as a strong and well made terra cotta flower pot.

Bark wire is a staple in my tool kit.  I know that wire is the inner layer-I have no idea what fiber is wrapped around that wire.  I am sure it is not bark-it is a rough twine  of some sort.  I do know that when I need some strong restraint, bark wire does the trick.  Should I have a centerpiece wired in a visible way, this is my wired string of choice. 

Jute dyed green is a color friendly to the garden.  These spools of widely twisted jute fibers are satisfying to look at.  How would I use them?  You might use this twine to make a fence for peas, or wrap a package.  On a twine binge, I might wrap a pot with it.    

This pair of jute spheres are of vastly different sizes. The large rope wrapped sphere is a celebration of the strength that comes from many strands.  It is also a testament to the maker-it is incredibly difficult to make rope conform to a small or precise shape.  The technical issues aside, these are beautiful objects made from plants.

I wrapped this topiary form with its sphere finial in rope made from jute.  I like the look of the horizontal bands of rope in relationship to this french beehive pot fashioned from the natural color of a local clay. This I would call the next best thing to a living plant.  A sculpture from rope in a terra cotta pot brings the garden to mind.  

I collect string.  On the left, a spool of wire covered in paper.  In the center, linen thread. On the right, string made from twisted paper.This giant wood spool is covered with a flexible jute rope comprised of many individual strands.  We make bows from this rope.  We hang birdhouses, and light spheres from it.  We use it whole-we divide it up.  We wrap tree trunks for the winter,  and packages with it.  The smell of natural jute is as pleasing as the smell of phlox, roses, or petunias.      

Rob bought at least a hundred balls of natural jute Nutscene twine this past spring.  Most of those balls are gone.  I have no idea how they got used.  I do know they are beautidful objects in their own right.  I had occasion to  use 6 of those spools this past weekend.  

A client having her family for dinner over a holiday needed some centerpieces.  I could not take my eyes off those jute spools.  I worried plenty that she would not appreciate my idea about string spool vases and fall.  I need not have worried. 

She loved the string vases, the yellow celosia, the bleached leaves, and the green broomcorn bits.

These twine ball vases and their dry materials can stay on the table the entire fall.  Natural materials have a way of fitting-even on the most formally set table. 

It is amazing what a little twine can tie together.

The Last Container From England

What a relief that this last container load of garden ornament from England is finally in my possession.  Though importing garden ornament from Europe really belongs on that “do not try this at home” list, it is incredibly exciting to cut off that lock, and unload the truck.  It has been seven months since Rob shopped in England-for him, the unloading is old home week.  I am always surprised by what I see, in spite of the fact that he sends me lots of pictures.  There is no substitute for the real thing.  

Some purchases might make you wonder.  Who imports fence poles from England?  Someone whose romance with the garden is long standing and on going-that would be Rob.  These are no ordinary fence poles.  They are whittled from sweet chestnut with a draw knife, and designed to anchor rolls of sweet chestnut pale fencing. Castanea sativa was introduced to Britain by the Romans; it is a very important tree in the English landscape.  An introduction to a segment of British gardening life is what came off the container-not a pallet of poles.

An exposure to the tools and ornament of a garden culture other than my own is a gift from an unlikely source-modern technology.  I am sure there was a time when garden ornament never travelled far from where it was made.  The ocean between my garden, and a British garden, does not seem as large as it once was, given shipping containers, giant boats, and trucks-not to mention the communications systems that keep them all functioning towards a specific end.  My local decomposed granite is so different than that granite available in California, but should you want our granite, it is possible for you to have it.    

These large simple wood panels are known as sheep’s hurdles. They are traditionally used to make a temporary pen for sheep taken to market.  What would I do with them?  One panel would make a suberb support for a lax growing rose; a pair might beautifully signal the entrance to a vegetable or cutting garden.  They would make a great companion to any number of vining plants.   

A pair of Victoian era cast iron horse troughs took my breath away.  OK, how does a horse trough get this level of respect?  They are visually very strong, and have great scale.

Six inch diameter chestnut poles are processed for fencing on a woodland site by a pale-maker.  The poles are stripped of their bark, and then they are riven by hand on the radial axis, to produce those fairly regular triangular shaped slats know as pales.  Once bound together with galvanized wire, the result is a rustic but entirely serviceable fencing.  The Chestnut Fencing Manufacturer’s Society puts the lifespan of this fencing at 20 years or better.  All of the above is courtesy of Chris Howkins’ book “Sweet Chestnut: History, Landscape, People”.   

These poles will do an admirable job of holding up the paling fencing.  Their history will add a good deal of flavor to a garden.

This weathered English bench is of classical design and workmanship.  Made from both teak and iroko, it has many years of service ahead of it. 

And for the first time, Burgon and Ball garden tools.  Based in Sheffield, England, they make sheep shears-perfect for pruning the soft growth on boxwood. 

    And lest I forget-this container had boxes and boxes of Nutscene jute garden twine.  Just to open the boxes is an experience; that organic and pungent smell of jute filled the garage.   We have just about all the fixings for a great spring now.  Like every other gardener we are impatiently waiting on some spring weather to go with.