SVI members experienced something completely different this summer. We learned that plants can ‘talk’…and sing!
We were keen to take part in the ‘Soundscapes from Internal Garden’ (or, as we called it, ‘the singing flowers’) project being run by Sense together with the National Trust. How would plants sound when we connected with them? Intriguing. So on a sunny morning in August, two minibuses full of enthusiastic people from SVI arrived at Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton.
Lisa and Louise were first to volunteer to have an electrode (a bit like the ones used for ECGs) attached to their hands. They were wired up to a pad on a geranium. Suddenly the air was full of oddly undulating notes as Lisa affected the electrical activity of the plant by touching it. A cushion pad behind Lisa and Louise’s backs transferred the activity into vibrations they could feel. Lisa said: ‘It felt very strange being connected to a geranium and hearing the sounds, and feeling the vibrations it made.’
How does it work? Scientists have found that if you attach electrodes to a plant you can turn the electrical impulses they produce into musical notes. It was not something the Beach Boys would have recognised but they were certainly good vibrations!
Exploring the Manor and gardens
As part of the day, we were invited to visit the gardens and the house too. The National Trust Head Gardener took some members on a tour of the formal gardens, where touching and questions were encouraged. Some SVI members also inspected the produce growing in the vegetable gardens. There were exclamations of surprise at the feel of the frondy seed heads emerging from the tops of the corn on the cob. And the tiny bubbles of the grapes were declared definitely far from ready.
When it was time to relax, the cafe was very popular with its sunny courtyard and bowls of water for the dogs.
Wightwick Manor is well worth a visit. Some of us explored inside the house, whilst others tagged onto a fascinating guided tour of the exterior. The house contains many beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The art gallery contains paintings with a similar depth of colour by Evelyn and William De Morgan, which are easier to see as you can stand very close to them.
Geoffrey Mander, the local paint manufacturer, donated the Victorian-era Manor to the National Trust in 1937 when it was only 50 years old. It looks much older than it is. It reflects the ‘Old English’ style favoured by the Arts and Crafts movement, with interiors by William Morris.
There was so much to fit in the day and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Thank you to Sense and the National Trust for such an interesting and informative day. And to SVI staff and volunteers for their support.
Many thanks also to our fabulous SVI Member Lisa and volunteer Carol for writing most of this article.