Assorted garden forks, stainless steel pipe, incumbent rambling rose.
A work developed at the cottage to address the lack of a support framework for an otherwise vigorous but prostrate rambling rose in the garden.
In the first summer after securing the cottage, as I got to know the garden and its plants, I started to collate any old tools either still in the shed or the skeletal rusty remains of found unearthed as landscaping progressed. The tools connected to the human hands that worked at the cottage before me, the rusting mild steel to the rusting ironstone placed as contrasting ‘jewels’ in the cottage’s walls upon its construction.
To me the rusting process has since become a key element to work with at the cottage, conveying a depth of time that has past, together with a sense of a future demise.
Using garden forks, normally stored away in a shed and even oiled to prolong their lives, they are instead held aloft to all the elements and will gradually be whittled away as their surfaces reduce over the years.
The making process began with one existing fork in the shed and then another was kindly donated by Betty Trickett at Woodpeckers (the Cottage’s close neighbour and former family owner). A call for forks locally on social media provided a several more and the final few were sourced from a local garden antiques seller tucked away in Blackwater nearby. The forks include heavy 4 tine forks, a large slender pitch fork and a couple of smaller ‘ladies’ garden forks.
Stainless steel pipe was chosen as the supporting shaft. Unlike highly finished polished stainless steel tube, pipe is manufactured for its internal integrity and dimensions, rather than external, and is used to carry liquids, gases etc. Its outer surface retains a factory milled surface. As such it relates to a more utilitarian steel of the forks, to mild steel washing line poles more commonly found in the average garden. Being marine grade stainless steel they will not deteriorate, but are likely to carry any downward rust staining from the forks above in time.
The forks’ handles were cut off (and kept for something further down the line), a central hole then drilled into each stem. A joining method to the supporting pipe devised; the collar of the pipe had a cap made by welding three thick washers together and threaded bar welded to it on top. It was decided that the discolouration from the welding would be kept to indicate some of this process, but with a grind just to the top rim to smooth off and indicate the underlying material at the very tip.
An interesting feature of the collected forks were the embedded marks and wording in the metal that clamps to the wooden handles. Some the manufacturer’s names, other post-war ones carry dates or names that sound like battleships. By contrast, the stainless steel pipe carries more practical text, inked on by computer during factory handling indicating length, industrial rating and so on, until that too wears away.
Since installing in February 2019, last season’s new 4m long shoots were led over the forks’ tines and left to adapt. In the summer a surprising profusion of blooms not seen in the previous year came out – hopefully to be repeated each year.