Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2019 Review: Wild Longings at Plantation Garden

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The Norfolk & Norwich Festival opens in a beautiful form. This collection of horticultural musings and quiet cabaret is a delight.

Have you ever wondered what note bees sing to gentian flowers when they want to pollinate them? How do you finally beat the invasive Japanese knot grass? Well, this garden tour offers some surprising answers.

As we meander from the bridge to the lawn and climb the fragrant hills, there are mysteries to be solved and stories to be unearthed.

Some relate to the place itself. This garden was once a chalk and flint quarry. It was salvaged by businessman Henry Trevor in the mid-1800s. Its design, a blend of Italian splendor and Gothic madness, created the plot as we see it now.

The tranquil setting has a power all of its own. With the suave tones of Helen Paris dragging the audience into a state of trance, childhood memories resurface. It is only a matter of time before the garden inspires artists to reveal their own wild experiences.


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Small-scale anecdotes give way to epic stories. Stories of midwives swapping cuttings lead to Leslie Hill’s tales of the vast expanses of America and the catastrophic years of the Dust Bowl. We learn of how her family endured the deadly whirlpools that threw the ground two miles high, and we mourn her ancestors who succumbed to “dirt pneumonia.”

Ecological disasters, tipping points and transitions hover around this entertaining interlude, but never become its focus.

Instead, as the afternoon ends in a cabaret, we are asked to sing a hymn of hope. It’s a commitment to bring this country back to life with every plant we choose and to “grow plants on buses, in shopping bags and shoes!”

A tasty finishing touch is the freshly picked food, elegantly served on wooden platters.

We ate the pernicious Japanese knotweed and finished the tea time treat with guitarist Olly Cherer and singer Claudia Barton. They helped us charm the gentian, bee-like with a buzzing medium do.


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