The Alde Valley Spring Festival is held each year at White House Farm in the beautiful Upper Alde Valley of Suffolk. The farm sits within a landscape that has been planted and cultivated for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Small areas of farm parkland and pightles or pasture are enclosed by hedges of hawthorn, crab apple, blackthorn, field maple, hazel and elm. This grassy landscape is punctuated by free-standing trees : oak, ash and poplars tower above the hedgerows. In places the hedges adjoin patches of deciduous woodland : aldercarr in the valley bottom and larger mixed stands of oak, ash, sycamore, sweet chestnut, hornbeam, willow and hazel on the slopes and tops. And at the fringes of all these are arable fields, supporting crops of wheat, barley, sugar beet, beans, potatoes, vining peas and oil seed rape.
It is a productive landscape, full of plants both wild and deliberately sown or dug into the local soil, which ranges from heavy clay through loams to soft sand and deposits of alluvial peat – sometimes all within a few hundred metres. Among all of these cultivated or nurtured plants are wild survivors of more ancient woodland and forest clearings : shrubs / small woody plants, grasses and herbs, together with the occasional fern and seasonal eruptions of fungi. Many of the wild plants have come to be called weeds – especially when their presence is seen as undesirable in modern gardening and agriculture. But this labeling can often overlook their true character and half-remembered uses. And as arable farming has become more efficient and more exclusive, with a focus on fewer, more intensively selected crop plants [and a plethora of associated ‘crop protection’ chemicals], some of the once common wayside ‘weeds’ have become rare, even to the extent that they are now protected or locally extinct.
All of this farmed, wild and semi-wild botany grows alongside pockets of much more intimately managed land. Here, wild varieties or species co-habit with carefully selected relatives or descendants in the form of hybrids, cuttings, clones, cultivars or imported exotic specimens. These oases of botanical creativity are the gardens of the Alde Valley. They are productive and also decorative. The balance point varies endlessly in many fascinating ways as the mix of plants reflects personal tastes and local history – or in some cases, disinterest or ‘neglect’: a plant may be grown for its beauty, its scent; for culinary or medicinal use; it may have been a gift or part of an inherited flora; or it may be surviving amid a resurgent wave of local wild plants.
In all these cases or situations the presence of a plant in a garden or in the broader farmed or semi-wild landscape is part of a story, sometimes untold and poorly understood or completely forgotten. It is easy to believe that we, as humans, can control our environment - that we can dictate the terms on which we live on this planet. But that is probably a mistake. Plants give us oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink and the raw materials for shelter, food, medicines, comfort and rest. To borrow a phrase, ‘we live in their world’.
For 2019, The Spring Festival Exhibition adopts the theme of “Florabundance : A Celebration of Gardens, Plants and Produce”. The idea is for the Festival Programme as a whole [and the Festival Exhibition in particular] to look at the many ways in which we breed or cultivate plants; how we relate to them; how we select certain specimens to provide names and official descriptions; and how discovering and naming of plants becomes an adventure in itself. The Exhibition also seeks to honour their presence in our gardens and landscape and celebrate the importance of plants in our lives – alongside natural pollinators and seed carriers - through the work of selected guest artists.
Alice-Andrea Ewing, Perienne Christian, Marchela Dimitrova, Emma Green, Jelly Green, Lily Hunter Green, Maggi Hambling, Becky Munting, Tessa Newcomb, Ruth Stage, Emma Tennant.Note :
Additional artists will be announced in early 2019.
For more information about the Exhibition or artists’ work please contact : email@example.com