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
(I) Laurus nobilis noble laurel I REST ON THE BROW
two bay laurels, planted by the Roman Wall
Prunus (domestica) institia
the graft of a homely plum
two damsons planted on the avenue
anthered one of the woods
the existing cow-parsley, at the point of the spit
Mulberry of Alba
two mulberry trees planted near the pond
a sweet chestnut planted in the arboretum
medicinal dew of the sea
two planters, with a mix of rosemary & thyme, on the terrace
or, alternatively, two planters containing
two box, in planters, on the terrace
(VII) Narcissus poeticus the poet’s daffodil I SING
DE MEO IPSO
a spray of white daffodils, planted along the bank
(VIII) Juglans regia Jupiter’s regal acorn A FOREIGN
a walnut tree, planted close to Callendar house
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:
I REST ON THE BROW
QUIESCO IN FRONTE
Head downhill, to the avenue; there, in the gap between the limes, imagine two damsons, Prunus (domestica) institia, graft of a homely plum:
PURPLE CLOAK, STONE HEART
CAPA PURPUREA, CORS LAPIDEUM
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.
WE GUIDE THE
WAY IN VIA DUCIMUS
On the opposite bank there is, or would have been, a pair of mulberry, Morus alba, Mulberry of Alba:
MY SKIN FLUSHES
CUTIS MEA EFFUNDIT
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.
THESSALY REMAINS SHROUDED
THESSALIA VELATA MANET
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:
I SING OF MYSELF
CANTO DE ME IPSO
Heading from the house over towards the golf course there is a welcome incomer, Juglans regia, a walnut tree:
A FOREIGN GOD
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.
M A N
W A N
T H Y
S T A
B O R E T U M
C H I V E
Wallflower | Flores Muri: artist project conceived by Alec Finlay
for The Park Gallery, Falkirk, 2013-15
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.