I have spent a lot of time in the garden this week. On Wednesday morning I woke with a plan. This entailed visiting several garden centres because, naturally, one place had the right pots, another had the right potting mix, and yet another had the right plants. On Thursday pots were positioned, plants were planted. On Friday, after months of dry weather, and with perfect timing, it rained. My new hibiscus already has new flowers, and wouldn’t you know it, I have a typeface called Hibiscus!
In Hawaii there are plenty of warning signs nailed to coconut trees, but this one is stuck in the ground at the Lyon Arboretum, in the upper Manoa Valley. Harold Lyon, who gives the arboretum its name, was a botanist from Minnesota, and during his tenure as director almost a century ago planted around 2000 species of trees. My walk through the tropical rainforest, in the rain, was most enjoyable, and made even more so by coming across this home-made laser-printed sign, laminated for weatherproofing. I hardly noticed the actual fruit, just that it was falling fruits in Frutiger.
There’s a great view of Moloka’i and Lana’i from the highway above Honolua Bay, and there is also this—a quirky handpainted sign, hanging from a rusty pole with twisted rusty wire. I’d love to know its provenance. I also wonder who maintains it. I remember it from a couple of years ago, and when I looked back at an earlier photograph, I discovered that this year it is hanging differently, and, while the writing style is similar and could have been done by the same hand, it has most definitely been repainted. Unless, of course, there is more than one. Now I’m going to have to get myself back there …
Lava flow from Kilauea volcano, on Hawaii’s Big Island, has been advancing towards the town of Pahoa slowly but steadily since the end of June. This week the lava encroached the backyards of the houses closest to the volcano, and there have been road closures and resident evacuations. The heat from the 2000-degree lava must be incredible. When I was there a couple of years ago, things were pretty quiet, but even walking around this older lava flow, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, it was uncomfortably hot. I am amazed at how, despite the blistering temperature of the flow that swallowed this pole, the sign itself remains undamaged.
The alphabet is everywhere, including in the garden, although not mine. My garden doesn’t look anything like this! My garden is neglected and untidy—although far from unloved—and struggling to recover from the crazy strong winds earlier this week that have turned everything so dry, making a mockery of the torrential rain we had only a couple of weeks ago. Now, things are brittle to the touch and everything in my world is a potential source of static electricity. Alphabet topiary is always Helvetica-like: who would be obsessive enough to tame a hedge into a serif letterform!
The numbers on telegraph poles mean something. It’s like a secret coded language, a shorthand of information for those in the know. Some markers are fairly obvious: a red-on-white HP indicates the location of a hydrant, a vertical black-on-yellow bus stop speaks for itself. Some numbers indicate the pole number and the distance from the source—which might be what these are—but it doesn’t really matter because I am biased more towards the aesthetic appeal of wonky silver numbers hammered into dry, splitting, splintery timber, and the rich array of textures and tonality. The much newer smart poles, with their banners, cctv and feature lighting, are not nearly so abundantly accessorised.