Not many southern gardeners are keen to be featured in winter, so ROSEMARIE SMITH has been garden touring on the internet.
The internet, as many readers know only too well, is an extraordinary labyrinth. To those who have resisted, and not unwisely, its charms, it can be likened to falling down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole.
There are some amazing destinations, but it can be fiendishly difficult to find them, particularly a second time.
Thus, I have no idea how I came upon the Hanging Gardens of Paddington, although it was definitely in the course of some quite legitimate research – no idle rambling involved.
As the photo shows, they were an amazing effort, in a gigantic half-sphere planter basket, made to look just like the real thing, about six metres wide by three metres deep, and weighing a quarter of a tonne. The project was created by the aptly named public relations firm Mischief for the opening of the boutique Hotel Indigo in Paddington in 2009.
A hotel spokesman explained at the time that the Indigo brand was all about unique design, bold colours and seasonal changes.
So the basket was an admirably clever fit.
According to the publicity, it took designers, engineers and gardeners three weeks to assemble, then eight hours to put together on site, and hoist nearly eight metres up to its perch.
The basket contained more than 100 different varieties of plants and flowers, including orchids, roses, ivy, daisies, gerberas, ferns, conifers and moss.
A video posted on YouTube condenses the effort and allows a glimpse of the large scaffolding frame built inside the hotel to support the basket's huge weight.
This is completely undetectable in the final exterior shots – so no wonder the engineering firm involved features the project on its website. No-one repeating the story seems to have asked whether the plants were all real. The sheer creative brashness of the project, enhanced by cheerful gardeners wielding watering cans that look ridiculously out of proportion to the task, diverts suspicions, especially given reports the plants would be changed with the seasons.
But that YouTube video gives the game away. Maybe some of those plants were real, but an awful lot of them arrived on site piled loose in fadges, and workers can be seen handing up those long garlands like Christmas-tree decorations.
Nor has anyone asked how long the basket was there, despite the report appearing as news right up until recently.
Popping around to look via Google Maps Street View certainly found no sign of it.
Finding the right contact by email to elicit information after two years can be a challenge, especially given the standard rule of one email, one question, one answer.
So while not all is revealed, Indigo spokesman Malcolm Linforth-Jones did confirm that alas it was both short-lived and a one-off. "Unfortunately, we were only allowed to have it installed for just under a week before having to have it taken down," he replied.
The public-relations company was apparently too busy making further mischief to add to the picture.
Now we know a thing or two about hanging baskets here in the south, and the idle thought occurred that creating a very large one is worth a considerable amount in publicity and good will.
So what would be the standard to beat? The helpful Guinness World Records press officer confirmed there is a category for the Largest Hanging Flower Basket and the current record holder is Jos de Troyer from Ghent, Belgium.
He created a hanging basket measuring 10.5 metres in diameter and weighing 45 tonnes that went on display in 2000 in the Emile Braunplein square in Ghent's historic centre.
The internet sightseer can soon discover that Belgians seem to specialise in window boxes and hanging baskets of great beauty and perfection.
In fact, Jos de Troyer's everyday business offers magnificent examples of what can be achieved in a climate without either wind or vandals.
But sadly, although his giant effort does feature genuine plants, this basket seems to owe more to Disneyland than heritage Ghent, as it is completely divorced from any architectural structure, except its own circus tent-like housing.
Unlike the Paddington basket, it was not constructed to beautify an existing facade or even a public space, but hung within a specially built structure, with visitors paying to view it from various levels within.
A reaction to this freak of gardening, posted by tourist Bob Lucky on his travel blog, sums it up: "There was a large cathedral, but the square was dominated by an incredibly ugly construction of aluminium tubing perhaps seven storeys high. The signs advertised [it] as containing the largest hanging basket, certified by the Guinness Book of Records.
"Within this scaffolding, I could just make out the edge of this famous hanging basket.
"I thought this was really stupid, to take a beautiful medieval city like Ghent and junk it up with such a monstrosity."
And that from an engineer.
So let's just be happy with the wonderful hanging baskets that do grace so many of our communities, and the sheer horticultural skill that has them blooming beautiful despite the challenges of our extremely variable climate.
- © Fairfax NZ News