The Orchard, Jupiter Artland

I conceived A Variety of Cultures in May 2010, during a week-long residency in the stable cottage at Jupiter Artland, just before we set off on the road north. The orchard contains apples and a few plums: an essay in eco-poetics, it will grow season by season, gradually transforming ladders with fruit trees into fruit trees with apples. The ladders, made by Alistair Letch, are oak and, placed alongside the trees, which are still young, their measure anticipates the pruned canopies of ten, fifteen, twenty years hence.

A book, with an essay by Kathleen Jamie, photography by Hannah Devereux and Robin Gillanders, and drawings by Hanna Tuulikki, will follow in August 2016. There is a film documenting the work here.

            A VARIETY
         OF CULTURES


A Variety of Cultures refers back to ‘rosary’, a garden sculpture and planting that I created in a park in Frodsham, England (since decommissioned), with ladder trellis and rose varieties, drawing upon Nietzsche’s notion that, within each of us, there is a ladder which we climb.

The orchard at Jupiter Artland is a continuation of the place-aware artworks and growing or living sculptures, on the themes of pollination, biodiversity, and the relationship between cultural and biotic forms, which I have installed at Brogdale (National Fruit Collection), University of Warwick and University of Stirling.

After John Butterworth we used to say…

culture is a matter of taste and variety

taste is subjective and varies
according to soil and climate

orchards are a product of classical humanism
and vernacular tradition

the apple is the greatest product
of English culture

fruit offers a rounded history

an orchard is a wood
infused with blossom

an orchard is an archive
of locality

the only sure security
lies in diversity

be gentle to the root
for the best fruit

we prune for form :
content follows

pruning is training – with a knife

fertility cannot be forced
at the point of a blade

for John Butterworth, author of Apples in Scotland.

from ‘Alec Finlay's Variety Of Cultures’

‘Alec's new work is an orchard of apples and plums. Just outside the ha-ha, fifty-five trees have been planted, each a different UK variety. Rather, it is not yet an orchard, but it will be given time, maybe 15 years. That's part of the point: the work makes a claim on the future. It will require care and attention, and will change over the years, literally growing.

'That's part of it', Alec said, 'the work extends in time. Also, it's about the coming together of all varieties, in these days when we're anxious about such matters. These apples are all cultures, coming together.

- And they have wonderfully evocative names. Surprisingly perhaps, given our climate, Scotland alone boasts 16 apple varieties, among them the Lass O' Gowrie, the White Paradise and the Bloody Ploughman. There is a poetry here, etched on the little metal labels tied to the trees.’

Kathleen Jamie

apple growing is a matter of…

the right soil
the right site
the right pruning
the right weeding
the right manuring
the right picking
and the right storing

AF, after Raymond Bush (1943)

photography and illustrations

Book cover and interiors: Robin Gillanders, Autumn 2015
The Orchard: Hannah Devereux, Spring 2016
Apple: Hanna Tuulikki, 2015


Jupiter Artland
the road north - Falkland
the bee bole
glass apples
Hannah Devereux
Robin Gillanders
Hanna Tuulikki 

Alec Finlay is represented by Ingleby Gallery

LAGI: Glasgow

The Watergaw, 2016

In 2015 I was invited to be lead artist in one of three teams competing for the LAGI Glasgow commission – LAGI stands for Land Art Generator Initiative, and you can see more of their work here. The brief was to create a scheme that combines public art and renewable energy technology for a site on Dundas Hill, by the canal. 

In their working lives artists’ happen on such unexpected opportunities. In recent years I have been asked to create a memorial to organ donation, worked with people who have brain tumours, studied marine renewable energy, and worked with Gaelic place-names. There is no formal or skill-based professional training for such varied subjects; there is only being an artist. Each situation requires one to think through problems, around constraints, into issues and, above all, listen imaginatively, to what’s being said and what’s being concealed.

Early word-drawing sketch for LAGI Glasgow, AF, 2015
Imagining Dundas Hill from a name and aerial photograph doesn’t prepare one for the patchwork of abandoned industrial buildings, new build grey hangars, railings, and brambles. Dreaming is brought to an abrupt halt by problems, and much of the work is solving and salvaging the damage of the past. The hillside was leeched with a mixter-maxter of toxic matter, the leavings of two centuries of industry. The first issue we saw was how to guide rainfall off the hill. Now, this could have been left as a problem for the site developer to solve, but in my experience the attuned artist tried to solve each problem, even if it seems to have no bearing on aesthetics. This skelf in the fabric of the site came to define the essence of our concept: flow of water, flow of energy. 



Early system diagram for LAGI Glasgow, AF, 2015

The organisers defined the aims of the project as the application of ‘interdisciplinary creative processes into the conception of site-specific, solution-based public art interventions,’ proposing ‘a creative inquiry into the aesthetics of renewable energy, which would balance art and energy production’. The three proposals are being exhibited at the Lighthouse this June.

My collaborators were Rolf, Felicity and other members of erz, Glasgow, who I knew from the hidden gardens, and a new friend, the architect Riccardo Mariano, who is based in Berlin. Riccardo devised the fragment of rainbow which would have been projected in the sky every few days, its beam triggered by energy output, and I suggested the title, the watergaw, after MacDairmaid’s poem. From the off the discussions flowed in a way that was a pleasure to share, without any of us being restricted to our professional roles or training. The initial concept came together within the space of a weekend, with the help of Ben Spencer, as an interlocutor and encourager. We all remain proud of the proposal in terms of its ambition, scope, and the integration of energy production, technology, and community.

We were of one mind in our determination to avoid the BIGness that dominates such competitions – some previous LAGI schemes include architectural geegaws, in which the technology is simply an add-on, as with the solar armour plate on this floating duck. 

 ‘Energy Duck’, Pochee, Khan, Leger, Fryer, 2014 LAGI Copenhagen

Taking the risk of interpreting the brief in a generous way, and choosing to believe the expressions of concern that the community – a new housing estate is planned for the hillside – should be a priority, we considered other energies, such as wellbeing, and the slower effect of the sun on flora and foodstuffs, as well as kwh output.

The result was a combined energy system which utilized every resource on the hill: wind turbines (wind-callers) – a given in a site such as this – a water source heat pump (the give-and-take), a micro-hydro installation (water-caller) in the Monkland canal pipe, and, while the hillside was still bare, the potential of planting willow as biomass (the willow field). The other teams proposed schemes with one energy output. Our technologies were integrated with newly conceived artworks, iterations rather than decorations, the most pleasing, to me, being Riccardo’s wind-callers, adapting the highly efficient QR-wind turbines into Ossianic harps.

In our view a scheme such as this had to feature a district heating system – common on the continent but regrettably rare here – if it was going to be serious about energy conservation. Following the flow, and utilising every possibility the technology offered, we also incorporated an innovative growing space for the community, using the warm water produced by the heat pump. A thicket of issues around diet, wellbeing, mental health and poverty has reached such a crisis point in Glasgow that, again, we felt the scheme had to address this directly.

Wind-caller, 2016

Of course, we spent far too long developing the project given the small amount of funding available, but, as with any truly integrative scheme, we learnt much from one another, and that knowledge will be carried forward. The three teams proposals take their place in a much larger discussion about how art should function in the civic realm, how energy technologies relate to communities, and what the future of social relations and health are in a contemporary city.



I was struck by one of the judges’ comments in the feedback that the watergaw, the most visible of our artworks – visible in the LAGI-sense – would have less impact because it would only appear intermittently. Experience tells me that the fate of all static sculptures is to fade into the background of time, simply by dint of their immovability, whereas a fragment of rainbow appearing periodically on the skyline of the city would be a wee delight, giving folk a surprise, and no doubt garnering a Glasgow nick-name. If anything, the project confirmed my resistance to large-scale objects.

It was odd, in a project that stresses engagement, that three of the judges, including the chair, didn’t attend the interviews, but perhaps that’s the nature of working in the public realm today?

There is a description of our project below, and after that I have included a few of the draft poems that I composed on the burns and rivers of the watershed of the canal. The winning project can be viewed online. It features a new kind of bladeless wind generator that has been coloured shades of green.

the watergaw

The watergaw is a luminous ephemeral artwork that matches LAGI’s ambition: its breathtaking generosity will delight visitors and, coming and going as lightly as the weather, the excitement of seeing it light up the sky will become an ever-present possibility for the people of Glasgow. It represents energy usage in an iconic manner; symbolises the potential of the water cycle, which mediates all living things, and translates the passage of time and the elements into an inspiring measure of renewable energy generation. The watergaw is the centerpiece for a system-based scheme of landscape design, energy production, and public artworks that support regeneration at a city and neighbourhood scale.

Watergaw is a beautiful neglected Scots word meaning a patch of rainbow in the sky. The plan and diagram show Dundas Hill transformed. The water cycle and energy circle form an integrated system combining to release the generative potential of the site. LAGI projects strike a balance between striking visual impact and successful energy generation: blending ingenuity and generosity – ours combines gallus wit with a hint of sober Scots common-sense. The system diagram maps our Land Art Generators – wind turbines (wind-callers), water source heat pump (the give-and-take), micro-hydro installation (water-caller), and potential biomass planting (the willow field)– all integrated with newly conceived artworks. 

The proposal meets the challenge of producing energy within an existing network, designing a utility scale renewable system that is also an iconic destination. The practical issues pertaining to water-flow guided us. The canal yields energy via the water-caller, a micro-turbine installed in the Monkland pipe, at Pinkston Basin, and heat, produced by the give-and-take, a water source heat pump. The water cycle ingeniously combines cold water, piped up the watershed, a new public walkway, to the pools that feed the watergaw, and warm water, piped to the growing glass, which produces fresh produce year round, and provides a ‘village hall’ for the community and welcome for visitors. The hot pipe emerges en route to warm two espalier shelters offering protection from the wind for fruit trees, and warming heated benches. There is scope to support the creation of a district heating system. 

the water-callers

The water-callers were listening devices that would have been installed by the Monkland canal inflow pipe. The pipes would have resembled a waterside organ, and broadcast audio recordings of the watershed burns blended with voices performing the poems. Inscribed river names give the meaning and linguistic origins of the names.

(I) Kelvin

“Thir dyvers springs joyned beneth the kirk of Monyabrigh, begins to be cald Kelvyn and fals in a litle loch”
(Geog. Coll. 1644)

my course is habitual
though I remain prone

to erasing my line
on the floodplain

if you forget to plan
for a long day’s rainfall

reedy river, bawling water

Kelvin: possibly a Brittonic name, ‘to rise, stand up’, or Old Irish ‘sprout, shoot’, like the Welsh calaf, ‘stalk stem’. For much of its upper course the river is slow-flowing through a marshy reed-infested floodplain. The name could also derive from Kalona, Old Irish for ‘to shout, cry’, giving ‘shouting river’. Two men died in the great spate of December 1994 when their car fell from the shattered bridge at Gavell. 


Geographical collections relating to Scotland made by Walter Macfarlane,
ed. A.Mitchell (3 vols. SHS, Edinburgh 1906-1908)
Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin.

(2) Finglen Burn

where the bank is steepest
pale grass strips

   show where the snow
   was moored the longest

take yourself a seat soft
as those that furnished

   Caronia, Scarey Mary,
   The Empress, and The Queen

shining glen water

Finglen: from Gaelic fionn ghleann, ‘white valley’; probably referring to the banks and grass colour, rather than the water. The burn rises in the Campsie Hills and joins the Glazert Water. Harris Morris established a furniture company near Lennoxtown in 1884: well respected, the Morris company made chairs and cabinets for liners, including the Clyde-built Cunard line with their famous red-striped funnels – The Caronia (nicknamed ‘The Green Goddess’), Queen Mary 2 (‘Scarey Mary’), The Empress of Scotland, and The QE2 (‘The Queen’). The factory ceased production in September 2015.


Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin

(3) Aldessan Burn

all water being water

I find myself a riddle

for I will lose all trace

of identity when

I force the whin-

stone linn and fall

through my name

while I will remain

all the same stream

the force

Aldessan: from Gaelic Allt Easain, the waterfalls torrent. The burn descends from the Campsie Fells and, shortly after the Spout o' Craiglee waterfall, it becomes the Kirk Burn.

Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin

(4) Doups Burn

from Cauldstane Slap
to The Cloven Stone
the path is a loan

from Stone Close
to Doups Burn
the drove is a debt

from Siteasy
to Berry Muir
the tryst is in sight

backside burn

Doups Burn, from Sc doup, ‘fundament’, the polite term for the buttocks. The Doups Burn flows into the Castlerankine Burn.

A drove road leading to the famous tryst – sheep and cattle fair – at Falkirk passes Doups farm, visible in the remains of a double-line of stone dyke, typical of Lowland drove loans – a loan is Scots for a driving path for cattle. From here the drover would have seen his destination, Falkirk, for the first time. The names are taken from a local Banton estate map (1805), except Cauldstane Slap, which marks the old Borders drove road at the north edge of the Pentland Hills. The Cloven Stone resembles a hoof, being split in two – it is now concealed by thick forestry. The innovation of banking loans, introduced by the old Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland in 1728, was a great help to drovers; many bills would circulate through different hands over long periods before being cashed at the tryst at Falkirk.


Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin
Heritage Paths: The Cauldstane Slap and Cross Borders Drove Road
ARB Haldane: New Ways Through the Glens

(5) Craigdouffie Burn

take me down
over and over

so that I can feed
over and over

this body of water
over and over

which will sustain
over and over

the narrow channel
over and over

between sea and ocean
over and over

dark-crag water

Craigdouffie: from the Gaelic creag dubh, anglicized to ‘duff’, refers to a small cliff above the ruined farm, the dark crag. The burn has two sources: the western rises in boggy ground near the Tak-Ma-Doun Road; the eastern rises from a spring near the ruins of Craigdouffie farm. It then runs through the Boiling Glen to join the Banton Burn. The Tak-ma-doun road is steep in places, so the sense may be a humorous “take me down safely”. It is popular with cyclists and motorcyclists.

The Craigdouffie Burn feeds Banton Loch, a reservoir constructed in 1778 as the main water source for the Forth and Clyde Canal. The canal still depends on the daily flow of millions of gallons of water from the reservoir, which is also fed by Banton Burn and a lade running from the Garrel Burn.


Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin

(6) Bonny Water

“Great economy in point of fuel
great economy in point of cleanliness”

(Esse stoves motto)

the best range in The Wild West, made in Bonnybridge
when the furnaces belched smoke on the water



the hollow spring

Bonny Water: interpretations of this name vary: Bony, derived from a Celtic root, possibly connected with Gaelic bonnag, ‘a jump, a spring’, (Johnston); Bonnyrigg, from the Scots Bannockrig, a bannock (Dixon); Bonnyfield, Bonnyrig: place in a hollow, and slope at a hollow; or the Gaelic bonnan, little hollow, and ruigh, slope, (Milne).

James Smith emigrated to Jackson, Mississippi, where he established a metal works producing stoves. He later returned to Bonnybridge, where, together with Stephen Wellstood and George Ure, he founded the Smith and Wellstood Columbian Foundry by the Bonny Water. The firm produced the Esse stove, featuring a variety of designs, including Moariess, Sultana and Kitchener. The recent Ironheart model combines cooking and heating, while “going back to Esse’s earliest, mid-19th century design principles.” Smith and Wellstood closed in 1994.


Peter Drummond: An analysis of toponyms and toponymic patterns in eight parishes of the upper Kelvin basin
Norman Dixon: The Placenames of Midlothian, Phd thesis University of Edinburgh, 1947
James B. Johnston: Place-names of Scotland
John Milne: Gaelic Place-names of the Midlothians


The Lighthouse
9 June - 29 July 2016


breathe in

remember the value
   of rhythm

   breathe out again

when you confront
   your mountain

breathe in

after Balfour-Browne

paths are maintained by use

paths are never straight, no matter how flat the country

trust a deer path over a human path

paths decide between us

a song for a path, a pibroch for a great wood

plan a path with broad feet and narrow eyes

a path moves the edges of the mountains

paths are interludes in-between episodes

a path should merge into the wild on either side

a path translates muddled ground into arranged land

a path holds the foreground and assembles vision, just as far as the horizon

a path is not static

after Frank Fraser Darling and GF Dutton

Adam’s credo

not ‘character building’ walks
   but free will

not Duke of Edinburgh Awards
   but joy

not interpretative boards
   but abiding mystery

not ‘challenge walks’
   but awe

not avalanche alerts
   but humility

after Adam Watson



selections from gathering: an ongoing poetic mapping of the Cairngorms inspired by local place-names and their meanings sourced from Adam Watson’s detailed survey, The Place Names of Upper Deeside.

Gathering was commissioned by Hauser & Wirth, for the Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar; the project was launched in 2015 and will conclude in 2018.

The artist residency at University of Aberdeen is funded by The Leverhulme Trust; the project was launched in July 2016 and will conclude May 2017.

For this project collaborators include:

Hannah Devereux: photography
Gill Russell: maps and walks
James Dyas Davidson: photography
Rhynie Woman: foraging
Studio LR: design
John Murray, Ian Murray, Peter Drummond, Adam Watson: place-names


Glen Feardar: Hannah Devereux, 2015
Glen Gairn: Hannah Devereux, 2015
Glen Derry: Hannah Devereux, 2015
Glen Ey: Hannah Devereux, 2015
Glen Muick: Hannah Devereux, 2015

for more poems from gathering see: Reliquae, Volume 3


Billia Croo

This long poem features in Ebban an Flowan, the world's first poetic primer on marine renewable energy, by myself and Laura Watts, with photographs by Alistair Peebles, two of which feature here. The book focusses on the Orkney Islands. Billia Croo is a bay on the west coast; it hosts the main EMEC test site of for wave energy devices. 

Billia Croo test site; Alistair Peebles, 2009


after Barry Cunliffe

culture is richest where there’s
the greatest ratio
     land : coast


this patch of the western
ocean’s coruscating garden

recalls my favourite song
(mishearing) the sea’s very hum-

drum … – but no, there’s not
one ocean, not when such an

infinite mix of blues can
outshine the maps cerulean


the sea is there for a solan
to push his wings against

or plunge in, reinventing
the medium – when the light

comes right through them
the waves lets slip wrack

and tangle, pitching round
until they go breaking on

the boulder beach, crashing
under Row Head, hassling

brittlestars and urchins, or splash
near the shelduck’s dozing

on their green sun shelf –
there’s no need to worry

that any wave is wasted
when there’s all this motion


along the bay there’s
the promise of a new world

from each new device connect-
ed to the cable that runs

out under the wild rocks,
into the diamond space

inside those three buoys –
this is where the metal

gets salt-wet : and that’s
the only true test – the problem

is elastic : what kind of roots
will grip fast with moorings

subject to ebb, flood, flux,
in a surge of such force?


what’s solid was once liquid
as with rock and sand

which nature divided –
like us – these waves were

tugged and formed, in
slowness, slowness that

we’ve lost, for there’s no
way to relearn the tide’s

happy knack of infinitesimal
growth, except by sloshing

around, or waiting, stranded,
on the heave of the moon

Oyster wave energy device, EMEC test centre; Alistair Peebles, 2009
ebban an' flowan
a primer for marine renewable energy
Alec Finlay and Laura Watts, with Alistair Peebles
pb, 56 pages, morning star, 2015; edition of 500 copies

10.00 GBP
13.00 EUR

ebban an' flowan can be purchased from our online bookshop
or from Amazon
Listen to the interview featured on Radio Orkney here, starting at 16:05 minutes.


a better tale to tell

A poem is ‘a form to hold the language of another’ (Brian Teare). In this new work the poem itself contains nothing but the language of others.

A better tale to tale is composed entirely from submissions to the Smith Commission. All but two of the sources are letters from individuals – I tacked around political and civic organizations, and lobby groups. It is a found poem and an attempt to shape a historical record from material that is unique. I cannot think of another consultative process – ‘vox pop’, mass observation, letter campaign – of a similar scale since 1945. By the time that submissions closed over 11,000 people had taken the time to contribute.

A better tale to tell will feature in an exhibition, symposium and digital publication, 'The Shock of Victory', at CCA (Glasgow). This curated programme is an active response to the first anniversary of the Independence Referendum of 18 September 2014, and it seeks to speculate on possible artistic approaches and motivations in what the curator defines as a "post-referendum reality in Scotland and beyond”. There is an open call for the project. Extracts from my – or better, your – poem will be read at the opening and on each day.

All of the conversations, in shop doorways, on buses, in cafes – all of the argumentative threads on social media – all of them still buzzing away, resolving into new policies, changed parties, altered mindsets: what makes Smith different is that these were letters, and they were not written by politicians or paid campaigners. I ignored anything that read like standard political organisational or institutional discourse: let the people's voice be heard.

The letter may be an out-moded form of address, but it does require a different experience of writing – a particular mode of attention. The authors had to negotiate an attitude of relation, illustrated in the different ways in which they addressed ‘Lord Smith’ – liveried in totemic red, white and blue in the photograph above – is a figure of power and high repute (Commonwealth Games), or dispute (fracking) – ‘To’, ‘Dear’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ – and how they signed off – ‘yours’, ‘thank you very much’, ‘le deagh dhurachd’, ‘TTFN’.

That wee bit of cheek underlines what has changed in Scotland. TTFN is arguably more important as a marker of change than SNP, or any other acronym: it reflects the way people are no longer cowed; and how they refuse to offer a blank cheque of respect towards authority.

The Empire’s Death March down Sauchiehall Street was a big moon directed at entitlement. It will become a mythic event, as surely as Bruce’s duel with de Bohun at Bannockburn. It was a recognisably Burnisian moment of wit and panache. As a historical occasion Smith is more complex, as writing a letter to a Lord requires the negotiation of power and language, producing the different registers of voice and tone that I’ve alluded to. Burns struggled with the same issues in his songs and poems.

Why these letters matter is that they catch the language of a diverse range of people – let's ditch the word ‘ordinary’ – who are attempting to describe – passionately, amusingly, desperately, recalcitrantly, hopefully – the future of their home, land, community or nation. All are anonymous, though one can pick out traces of articulacy, hesitancy, gender, and attitude. Some of the phrases may be seen as dull, not material for poetry, but I believe they deserve the respect that this work intends.

Of course, I have included all shades of opinion: consciously interweaving the argufying and disputatious, so that the reader has to consider the entanglement of certainties and doubts we all have our part in. Whatever you believe, whichever way you voted, what is undeniable is that the use of language is changing and, it seems to me, this change is being accelerated, on the politico-cultural level, in Scotland.

Working on the project I was partly guided by Charles Reznikoff’s two long poems based on found material, Testimony and Holocaust, composed from found material. I was also, naturally, thankful for Tom Leonard’s example of the ethical commitment of the listening ear.

Other work that I have produced in this manner includes the book and blog, today today today, on the theme of illness, wellbeing and death.

Selections from a better tale to tell


             we must have
     our own powers

             there are no advantages
                for us here


however tiny
   my contribution
      I feel more

         of my place

in this democratic   society
   than ever before


nobody in power
   wants to give it up

politicians must become
   better messengers

with a better tale
   to tell


   who voted Yes
   did so

              not through
   some fantastical

   Scottish nirvana
      of Brigadoon

   tartan and

nor through
   any anti-English


No must mean No


I wonder
   what happens
      to those
         with no-one

         to help them?

   are to do with
      the moral life

   in companionship
      with other people

they are not derived
   from a nationalist
      or unionist


change is risk

we could
get it

we have
to fear

we are better
than to be seduced

by heroic problem

a better tale to tell can be purchased from our bookshop

blog: To Live in an Independent Scotland



Some flowers among the ruins

This is a recently completed project for which plants and locations for 9 species of flora associated with the Roman era were planted by the Antonine Wall, at Callendar Park. The plants were marked with archaeological survey poles, with rectangular red flags printed with the Latin plant names, in imitation of the golf-flags on the nearby course, which was in former times the parkland belong to the house.

The project was entirely destroyed in the first weekend of its installation – not only the flags but also the plants – and in this way, unintentionally, it became a modest companion to the ruins of the Roman Wall. In response to this local intervention a guide was produced, describing the original work in detail, allowing the visitor to re-imagine the de-materialized art object. A few copies of this guide remain and can be purchased upon enquiry. The essay is included below.

What follows is the original proposal

Wallflower | Flores Muri


Laurus nobilis
noble laurel


two bay laurels, planted by the Roman Wall


Prunus (domestica) institia
the graft of a homely plum



two damsons planted on the avenue

Anthriscus sylvestris
anthered one of the woods



the existing cow-parsley, at the point of the spit


Morus alba
Mulberry of Alba



two mulberry trees planted near the pond


Castanea sativa
cultivated chestnut



a sweet chestnut planted in the arboretum


Thymus vulgaris
common thyme



Rosmarinus officinalis
medicinal dew of the sea



two planters, with a mix of rosemary & thyme, on the terrace

or, alternatively, two planters containing

Buxus sempervirens
evergreen box



two box, in planters, on the terrace


Narcissus poeticus
the poet’s daffodil



a spray of white daffodils, planted along the bank


Juglans regia
Jupiter’s regal acorn



a walnut tree, planted close to Callendar house


Rosa spinosissima
Prickliest rose



a rambling burnet rose, planted on the verge of the golf course

what follows is the guide to the artwork as it briefly existed 

Some Flowers Among The Ruins

This is the history of a ruin and its twin.

In summer 2013 a team consisting of poets, artists, archaeologists, a gardener, and students, mapped Callendar Park, composing a memorial planting of trees and flora to frame selected views.

Their method of working could be characterised as amateur botanical archaeology, inspired by the Antonine Wall, which runs along the northern edge of the grounds. Constructed from turf, the Wall is hardly a ruin at all; the sods were re-embraced by the earth long ago.

The world has been full of ruins since the Romans.What we have of Rome isn’t only carved marble, straight roads, and the lexicon of learning, law and botany.Take a walk through the park, past cow-parsley, sweet chestnut, foxgloves, and the roses locked away in the walled garden; or look from the hill, over fields of rape, turnips, or cabbage; or sup your soup when you get home, of garlic, lentils, leeks, and parsley. All came to these isles with the multinational Roman legions.

We planned a planting – a living memory – composed poems, photographed locations, and titled the new artwork:



The park itself lies in a tradition that stretches back to the villas of Rome and Herculaneum; a green measure of leisure and status, assembled by one family’s wealth and now held in common. Where parks were originally compositions, with framing trees and wandering burns, intended for viewing, nowadays we have golf as the signature of our leisure hours.

To reconnect the course, which occupies the park, with the gardens around the house, we adopted the familiar red flag, fixed to an archaeologist’s striped survey pole, as a marker by each planting.

The artwork was installed on a Friday and in ruins by Monday. Not only were the flags taken, all the plants were destroyed. How to explain such thoroughness? An addition as modest as ours is still a lightning rod for the kind of hostility that anything unfamiliar can attract.The Romans would call itVandalism.This is why our culture fills up with BIG public artworks, made in indestructible steel or stone.

Every artist has a vision that no artwork can realise. Still, there is the hope that a project will remain in place for a few years, before the inevitable – and even welcome – process of ruin that time ushers in.The lostWall is there still because the archaeology tells us it was; in which case, can’t the more recent ruin be repaired, imaginatively?

So, take a walk with us, up the ridge, where you can find two bay trees, Laurus nobilis, noble laurel, near the old Wall:



Head downhill, to the avenue; there, in the gap between the limes, imagine two damsons, Prunus (domestica) institia, graft of a homely plum:



Come summer, at the end of the spit that reaches into the pond, you can see the one plant that remains, the humble cow-parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, anthered one of the woods.



On the opposite bank there is, or would have been, a pair of mulberry, Morus alba, Mulberry of Alba:



Climb uphill into the shade of the arboretum where, among Douglas fir, different kinds of pine, and other noble specimens, there is – or was – a sapling of a sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, a cultivated visitor whose homeland remains obscure, among this immigrant community.



Next, go over at the steps that lead from the wood down to the house, by the tarmac area where the firestarters gather, where there are, or were, two herbs, thyme and rosemary, Thymus vulgaris, common but curative, and Rosmarinus officinalis, dew of the sea:





Behind us, the ocean of the woods; before us, the rolling hills, a natural caesura; beyond us, the memory of the Great Wood of Caledon, renewed in the ‘trunks’ of windmill turbines.

Take the path down to the old ditch where, scattered over the banks, there are sprays of Narcissus poeticus, the poet’s daffodil:



Heading from the house over towards the golf course there is a welcome incomer, Juglans regia, a walnut tree:



Finally, on the verge of the golf-course, clambering up an imaginary flag pole, is an imaginary thorny red rose, Rosa spinosissima



Amongst the poetic forms that I conceived for the project was a new one, which I have named 'the declension'.

This form was inspired by a Japanese maple, growing near to the pond; its dividing branches suggested processes of natural growth, by division, and, in cultural terms, the process by which language evolves, by grafting, refinement, and translation.


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Wallflower | Flores Muri: artist project conceived by Alec Finlay
for The Park Gallery, Falkirk, 2013-15

Robin Gillanders

project credits
Workshop leader, Ken Cockburn
Workshop co-ordinator, Amy Porteous
Park Gallery co-ordinators: Kathryn Boyle, Karina Robertson
Botanical walk & advice on planting, Gerry Loose
Survey walk, Amy Todman
Photography, Robin Gillanders
Latin translations, Daniel Höhr
Archaeologist, Geoff Bailey
Archives Assistant, Jean Jamieson

Flora, locations, and poems: Alec Finlay, in collaboration with Ken Cockburn, Gerry Loose, Amy Porteous, Amy Todman, Colin Will, Lauren Bishop, Rachel Gilmour, Fiona Howland, Amy McEwan, and Jonathan Wilson.

Lauren, Rachel, Fiona, Amy, and Jonathan are members of the Youth Ambassadors project, run by The Park Gallery, based in Callendar House, Falkirk, Scotland.

The project was a collaboration, working with local Youth Ambassadors, poet-gardener Gerry Loose, poet-translator Ken Cockburn, artist-surveyor Amy Todman, photographer Robin Gillanders, and with additional input from poet-botanist Colin Will, and project co-ordinator Amy Porteous. Together we worked by a process of mapping and surveying, employing botany as means to practice archaeology.

Our tools included a variety of poetic forms, constructed viewfinders, Claude glass, cameraless cameras, maps, prints, and, finally, these photographs, by Robin Gillanders.