Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Tom Hart Dyke's Garden re-opens to the public on April Fools' Day

Tom’s garden opened yesterday with an unusual ‘happening’. – the unveiling of ‘The Upside Down Tree’ on April Fools Day. The tree, known as ‘The Baobab’ was made by Sevenoaks artist Will Jordan from 51 kilometres of hand twisted steel wire.

The story of the tree and how it came to be placed in the Central African region of The World Garden, is a fitting April Fool.

It all began last summer when Tom was left an answer phone message offering, what sounded, to him, like ‘a sculpture made out of chicken mess’ Never one to refuse an unusual offer, Tom decided to go and investigate the potential ‘bird poo’ sculpture. After speaking to the man behind the message - local artist Will Jordan - it soon became clear that Tom’s answer phone was anything but (!), and in actual fact he was being offered an art piece made out of chicken ‘mesh’, not ‘mess’!

With the small matter of the chicken mess cleared up, a deal was struck—Will would create an ‘upside down tree’ or ‘Baobab’ to go in the centre of Africa in the World Garden (WG).

Tom and Will set about making plans for a sculpture in the shape of a Baobab tree – a tree that Tom had previously tried to grow without success. Tom says ; ‘– I tried to grow some from seed, but they barely germinated. And if we had one here in the WG then frost would kill it. It’s a brilliant tree - so symbolic of the African continent – and the sculpture seemed the perfect solution’.

Tom and Will’s plans raised a few eyebrows last summer when Will visited the garden and demonstrated ‘the prototype tree’. Will says; ‘I took with me a couple of bits of wire and a pole which we strapped together with tape and held aloft. We needed to get a rough idea of what would be a good size for the garden. We got some funny looks from people visiting the garden. Tom and I told them; ‘it’s going to be a tree!’.

The amazing tree, made entirely from stainless steel, has been created with 51 kilometres of wire. Will used a large stainless steel tube to mount the 8 foot tree, setting it in place in Central Africa in the World-map shaped garden.

Will has utilized wires of differing thickness (up to 5mm), running the wires vertically, up and down the tree structure , mimicking the vertical fibres which run up and down in a ‘real’ tree. Will says; ‘I liked the idea of running wire vertically, it creates tension, and mechanical strength – just like in a real tree. If you wrapped the tree ‘just round and round’ it would flop to one side and have no strength. Once I’d completed the initial vertical fibres stage I started attaching branches and roots from very thick structural wire for support and strength. ‘

Will says; ‘I’m hoping that the visitors from last summer will return and be impressed with the structure which now looks just like a Baobab tree’.
Tom is chuffed to bits with the new African addition. He says; ‘ ‘it’s a brilliant addition to the garden, people are mistaking it for the real thing from long range – people asking whether I’ve spray painted a tree – it’s great that Will’s done such a realistic job. It stands out and when the sun’s on it glistens tremendously .’