Sad to say goodbye to everyone and just as things seem to be coming together. I have to be back in the UK to look at the pile of stones that was Lawson Park and to fight about access to the Love Shack, a build about to go on site that suddenly has ‘access issues’. But most importantly I have to plant, the spring was delayed in Britain so we did ‘nt get so much in before leaving for China, seeing all the planting and growth in Nanling made me eager to get going with the new paddy fields – all ready and waiting for planting.

As I drive out of Nanling I am struck by all the things I didn’t notice on the way in – mostly to do with the farms and villages. Through the village all the front gardens have been given over to vegetable gardens, I love that about the village, that all the plants are productive, so the elegant avenue of trees leading up to No 37 the Hutong (our house) is in fact lined with fruitful figs and persimmons (dried these taste amazing, like sweet and sour chocolate). I think I understood that a previous art project and had rather unfortunately galvanized the children of the village to plant the most revolting red lilies throughout the village, they are quite interesting as they show you which people are popular with the children – our landlady’s house is surrounded by them. They are the same lilys which are formally planted in the hotel (not so bad when formal). These are almost the only purely decorative plants in the village, not sure what the artist idea was. It does make you think a bit about meddling, upsetting the balance and irresponsible intervention, a warning to us - the Cane Toad syndrome. I recall a similar intervention on the remote Western Isles of Scotland where a doctor mobilsed the unemployed to plant daffodils - some government employment scheme rather than art – it may not have caused any damage but it sure puts anyone off visiting the island in the spring unless you require the weird site of avenues of multi form daffodils cutting through the utterly flat and arguably dismal landscape of North Uist. Bar the houses they are the tallest things on the island and that includes the people.

The further down the Nanling valley you get the more developed the farming becomes, tabbaco becomes a significant crop, taking over from the rather more useful peanuts and soya beans. Plastic membrane/mulch starts to dominate and the crops are clearly benefiting from chemical fertilisers, as evidenced by the uniformity and density of planting and that they are way ahead of the plants further up the valley.

On the drive to Guangzhou I again marvel at the motorways lined with hand clipped single trees, this really is a rod to beat yourself with. The labour expended must be astronomical, and not a productive tree in there, although not sure who would want to buy motorway fruit. I suspect in a few years all this topiary will be removed, maybe it's market gardening and they will sell the individual plants to ornamental gardens, boy would that make some money.


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