3.12.2010

The British Lawnmower Museum

The Brits. You gotta love 'em-what other nation encompasses at once so much pomp and so much silliness? Over the years our love affair with this island of paradoxes has been spurred on by such things as a propensity for silly town names, a yard-long list of contributors to the halls of great literature & the ability to churn out both great cheese & great chocolate. Not to mention the roaring trade in ancient monuments and chlorophyll.

I was listening to Gardeners Question Time tonight, washing dishes and spacing out. Everyone was where they should be. The Littles in bed, B doing homework; I was looking forward to nothing more than a night of tea & books followed by as much sleep as I could stuff into me before H's nightly game of Wake the Mommy began. (He's best in his division.)
Anyway, on GQT Eric Robson was interviewing Brian Radam, mower enthusiast & curator of the British Lawnmower Museum, in Southport, Lancashire.  Check out the website for some serious trainspotting for gardeners. Favorite bits include the section for Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous; especially an impassioned appeal to celebrities to donate their Qualcast Panthers and Green Zephyr Specials.
Princess Di's lawnmower is on view, apparently. So.

My favorite lawnmower is hands down the Greens 6" Multum in Parvo (1860). Not only does it have a snazzy Latin name ('with little, much'), it's cog-driven, made to mow between gravestones & cute to boot. I'll tell you another thing, I never thought I'd ever start a sentence with 'my favorite lawnmower is......'
When you Mow, Flymo!
I was gardening at the Seamill Centre on the south west coast of Scotland when I first came into contact with the Flymo. I have no idea why this hasn't taken off in the States. Its many admirable qualities certainly outweigh the glaring design deficiences (top of the list being, of course, that there is no way to carry them without bashing your ankles on the plastic apron. That they are eye-watering orange is also a strike against them.) But the hover mower is really a great invention. Seamill boasts almost 45 degree hills of grass and the only way to cut the grass (barring sheep) is to
tie a rope to the handle of a Flymo, and let it down over the edge of the hillside. The hovering blade keeps the mower moving, and all we had to do was stand with braced legs and guide it in large arcs over the grass. Each time it felt like a bad, bad idea, but at the end of the day the grass was cut and we all went home, digits intact. And really, in the world of lawn mowing, what more do you need?

6 comments:

Lucy Corrander said...

Flymos don't bring much joy to my heart. They may be useful on banks but they are horribly noisy and drive one to distraction when neighbours use them in their gardens. (I have a feeling they can cut your feet off too - which might be a disadvantage.)

Browsing the internet, I came across a blog devoted to vacuum cleaners. How's that for an obscure interest? But although I wouldn't want to collect vacuum cleaners, or look at photos of them every day, once I thought about it, I realised they have had quite a profound impact on our lives, both social and political. (Especially the lives of women.)

Having, none the less, chortled over the idea of a vacuum cleaner blog, I found that the man who runs it goes round giving talks about the history of vacuum cleaners too!

Is that your mower in the picture? It's beautiful.

Do you have Strimmers in the U.S.A.? Hayters and Suffolk Punches? (The latter being mowers as well as horses!)

Lucy

P.S. Not sure I've spelled 'Hayter' correctly but I'm too lazy to look it up. Only just about awake!

rosa said...

Hi Luce!
Yes, I can see what you mean. The noise is quite obnoxious. Here it is the leaf blower that is the worst offender. Our landlords have one in the back shed, but I won't touch it, having spent a sufficient number of Saturday mornings with a pillow stuffed over my head, trying to drown out the horrid drone.
We call the strimmer a 'weed whacker'. I had to look up this reference before we moved over. I felt a little bit like I should make myself a little crib sheet to use in the British garden: "strimmer=weed whacker, flymo=hover mower,secateurs=clippers,aubergines=eggplant,corgettes=zucchini, compost sometimes means potting soil, 1 km=3 ft, and whatever you do, don't call them waterproof pants!

Jonathan Assink said...

Have you seen video of the guys who make flying lawnmowers? Really they are just heavily modified RC planes, but it's still funny to see a lawnmower doing loops and turns high in the air.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNWfqVWC2KI

rosa said...

That was beautiful, thank you Jon! Bit I guess I don't really understand why this works. A jet engine? But doesn't it need...wings? Um, and.....stuff? You can tell I flunked out of Aeronautics Academy.
Oh, and Lucy, that photo is of the much lauded Greens 6" Multum in Parvo. She is cute, isn't she? (I wonder if lawnmowers, like ships, countries and church bells are always 'she'?)

A recovering perfectionist said...

The British Lawnmower museum. Classic! Kind of encompasses the nation doesn't it. Down the road from where I live we have the "Theatre Organ Heritage Centre" and up on Orkney there's the "Wireless Radio Museum". You have got to love quirky British museums!

rosa said...

Wow, so THAT'S where old organs go to die! Outside....Manchester? Is that where you are living?

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.