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Building the Extremes Garden

Wes, our  Head of Horticulture, lets us know what went in to creating our new outdoor showcasing exploring plants with some amazing adaptations to extremely arid environments.

The big challenge to build our Extremes Garden was to find suitable plants to display, as they are not the type that can be picked up in your local garden centre, and we needed something especially striking as a centre piece.

Fortunately my old mate David Cooke, manager of Kew Gardens' Temperate House helped us out, and loaned a Giant African Cycad, Encephalartos altenstenii.

Cycads are amazing plants that survived when the dinosaurs inhabited the planet; they actually predate the evolution of flowering plants and produce cones rather than flowers as reproductive structures.

Glasshouse manager Kate Pritchard from Oxford Botanic Gardens also kindly loaned us two lovely Organ Pipe Cactus that have also made a big visual impact on the garden.

Other plants came from Southfields specialist cacti nursery; gold medal winners at Chelsea this year. The amazing Architectural Plants Nursery in Horsham also provided us with a nice selection.

We paid a visit to a private nursery/collection owned by Cacti expert John Pilbeam (Connoisseurs' Cacti) to source the remaining smaller specimens.

After a lot of deliberation we positioned the plants. They were planted in their pots because they are only going to be on display until September (when they will need to be moved inside for the Winter) so it saved disturbing their root balls which cacti in particular don’t appreciate.

We then laid a weed-suppressing membrane around the plants and over the surface of the bed, creating a patchwork between the plants.

We then mulched with 5 bulk bags of decorative stone, to give the display its arid/desert look.

The display only really took the highly skilled Gardens team 2 days to install, and we are very pleased with the results.

A Few Favourites from the Walrus Wall

While the Horniman Walrus is holidaying in marvellous Margate, we've been inviting visitors to leave him messages on the Walrus Wall in the Natural History Gallery.

Of course, we already knew how important our over-stuffed star is, but the heart felt messages really drive home just how much he is loved by all our visitors. We thought we'd share just a tiny selection of our favourites here.

We've seen some truly excellent artwork.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Even poetry.

Dear Horniman Walrus

And puns abound.

Dear Horniman Walrus

The Wall definitely proved that the Walrus is popular with all ages.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Dear Horniman Walrus

He even had his first (we think) marriage proposal.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Some people were understandably disappointed with his absence.

Dear Horniman Walrus

And it all got a bit surreal for a while.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Dear Horniman Walrus

But most simply wish him well on his first trip outside the Natural History Gallery since 1901.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Dear Horniman Walrus

The best part of the Walrus Wall has been the brilliant stories people have shared with us.

Dear Horniman Walrus

Don't forget to make your own visit to the Museum and get your message out to the Walrus before he returns in mid-September. If you're lucky, you may get an answer to any questions from the Walrus himself.

You can see plenty more from the Walrus Wall in our Flickr set.

Horniman Walrus in Miniature

If you're looking to enter the #wanderingwalrus competition, there's no better place to pick up your own cuddly travelling companion than the Horniman Museum shop.

The Walrus toys sold in our shop aren't modelled after just any Walrus. They've been specially created to celebrate the wonderfully unique shape of the Horniman Walrus himself.

Notice the resemblence?

When our Walrus was brought to England in the 19th Century, Victorian taxidermists had never seen a live Walrus before. They had no idea about the skin folds which should appear around the chest and neck, which resulted in our Walrus getting a little 'overstuffed' and standing rather tall.

Our Walrus cuddly toys have been deisgned to have that same upright, wrinkle-free look.

They come in two different sizes, so you have a choice between a Walrus mini-me and a mini-mini-me.

Grab yours now before they all go wandering!


#wanderingwalrus inspiration

Last week, we announced a photo competition to find the best snap of our cuddly toy walrus out and about and on holiday.

Who knows where the walruses will wander to? Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Walrus in Paris, Thanks for Henry from London for this photo of a walrus enjoying the Eiffel Tower
    Thanks for Henry from London for this photo of a walrus enjoying the Eiffel Tower

This walrus has travelled beyond Margate and Britain's shores, all the way to Paris to gaze upon the Eiffel Tower.

  • Underwater Walrus, Walrus deep in the Pacific Ocean, Photo by Jamie Craggs
    Walrus deep in the Pacific Ocean, Photo by Jamie Craggs

This walrus has plunged into the depths of the tropical Pacific Ocean, a very long way from a walrus's usual habitat.

  • Walrus at Attersee, Austria, Enjoying the clear waters of a beautiful Austrian lake, Photo by Christian Huez
    Enjoying the clear waters of a beautiful Austrian lake, Photo by Christian Huez

And this walrus is enjoying the crystal clear, beautiful blue Alpine waters at Attersee Lake in Austria.

So the only question is: where will you take your #wanderingwalrus?

To enter the competition, you can tweet, instagram or upload your photos to flickr using the hashtag #wanderingwalrus. You can also email them to web@horniman.ac.uk. We're looking forward to seeing your photos!

The Horniman Walrus moves to Margate

The Horniman Walrus has made his way to Margate to feature in the Hayward Touring exhibition Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing at Turner Contemporary.

While many of you have been following his progress with our liveblog and on Twitter, Acapmedia have been filming the whole event. They've produced this fantastic timelapse film documenting the Walrus leaving the Natural History Gallery for the first time since 1901. 

The Walrus will be away until September, but until then you can visit the Natural History Gallery and leave a message for him on the Walrus Wall.

Walrus move to Margate: liveblog

8:00am, 13 May 2013

Good morning everyone, and welcome to our live blog about our walrus move. We'll be updating this throughout the day to let you know how the move is going.

While the move is happening, our Natural History Gallery will be closed to visitors, so we hope that this blog will take you behind the scenes and give you a sense of what's happening.

So far, the Walrus has been cleaned in advance of his visit to Margate. Also the iceberg which surrounds the Walrus has been removed.



Moving the Walrus is giving us a chance to learn more about him, including what's inside.



The scaffolding is going up around the Natural History Gallery in preparation for the lift. It's...purple?



We've now moved on to x-raying the Walrus' head.



Currently preparing the crate in which the Walrus will be transported. Click for a picture.



Scaffolding: rising.



The gantry which will hold the walrus as he is lifted is now complete.



Walrus wheeled into position before his upward move.



He's in the air!



Being lowered on to a new platform to take his weight for the big lift.







We're very happy, relieved and glad to report that our wonderful walrus has been moved successfully. He's currently being packed up in a crate in advance of his trip to Margate. Here's a short video of him in the air - we'll have a longer video about the whole procedure later in the week.


9.15am, 14 May 2013

The Walrus has spent the night on his new platform at the front of the gallery. Today he will be carefully packed by the Conservation team and safely crated up ready for his journey to Margate.



The first task for today is for our conservation department to check the Walrus's condition, and make sure he's ship-shape for his trip to Margate.



We're packing the Walrus to make sure he will be safe when he's in transit.



Packing the Walrus is continuing, including a 'blindfold' to protect his eyes.



Having placed protective covers around the Walrus, we're now beginning to build the remainder of his crate around him.



Just putting the finishing touches to the crate packing to make sure he can't shift about while on the road.



The last job for today is to put the last pieces of the crate together, so it is ready to leave the museum tomorrow morning.



That's it for the Walrus updates today. Tomorrow, he finally leaves the Natural History Gallery and makes his way to Margate.


8.39am, 15 May 2013

This morning the Walrus in his crate was maneuvered out of the museum and into the fresh air. This is the first time he has left the Natural History Gallery for well over 100 years.



The Horniman Walrus is loaded up and on his way to Margate!



A team from the Horniman are accompanying him on his journey.



Everyone in Margate is eagerly awaiting his arrival, and everything's prepared...



He's arrived safely! And with a big audience, naturally.



The Walrus' air travel isn't quite over. He still has to make his way up onto his new plinth.


Check out our Instagram account for more pictures of the Walrus being lifted, given his new plinth, settling in and getting checked over by the Conservation team.



He's up and making himself at home. The Horniman conservators have done their final checks before leaving him in capable hands @TCMargate.



Tune into BBC South East this evening to catch an interview with @HornimanWalrus and guest curator Brian Dillon.
See a picture of the interview.

Ever wondered how to lift a one-ton Walrus?

Next week the Horniman Walrus will be making his way to Margate to feature in the Hayward Touring exhibition Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing at Turner Contemporary.

Our famously over-stuffed walrus, weighing in at just under one ton, has been in our Natural History Gallery since 1901. Since then, he hasn’t moved more than 25 feet, so getting him out and on his way to the coast is a huge task for museum staff to organise.

Our conservation department has been working with specialist art handlers to ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible. Preparations are under way: the Walrus has already received his annual clean, and the larger pieces of his iceberg are being moved away.

  • Walrus Clean, Photo by acapmedia
    , Photo by acapmedia
  • Iceberg Removal, The Walrus' iceberg needs to be removed to allow access for the all-important lift.
    The Walrus' iceberg needs to be removed to allow access for the all-important lift.

The biggest challenge is the need to lift the Walrus out of the gallery over the other cases. The Natural History Gallery will be closed to the public next week while this is happening, but we've put together some simple sketches to help you picture what will happen.

Ever wondered how to lift a one-ton Walrus?

The Walrus will be lifted on Monday 13 and will leave the Museum on Wednesday 15 May. The Natural History Gallery will be closed throughout, so this week is your last chance to wave goodbye and wish him well on his holiday. He'll return to the Museum in September.

Be sure to follow the Walrus' journey on Twitter, and keep an eye on our blog, as we'll be live-blogging throughout. You can even catch up with the Walrus' own comments @HornimanWalrus.

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