Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (or, Physalia – the Brilliant Bionic Boat)

Being a gardener I know a few things about building. I know a patio is built on hardcore and sharp sand. I know a pergola is built on 300mm concrete blocks. And I know that life is built on broken dreams. Dreams of plants unflowered, dreams of crops that never grew, and most hauntingly, dreams of the open sea.

The Plan of Broken Dreams

Like most young men I grew up longing to be a pirate. To race around The Spanish Main, cursing and drinking and loosing thunderous broadsides, is there any better way to live? I spent long hours at university practicing my swigging, my spitting and my swashbuckling, all in preparation for the day when I would take up my graduate position as a Scurvy Nave. But it was not to be, man chooses not his fate and I was powerless to resist the call of the garden. So it is that I have spent these past years leaning on my spade and watching as friend after friend pierces his ear, ties his bandanna and embarks for a life of rape and pillage under hot Caribbean sun.

So thank god that after over 6000 years of civilisation someone has finally designed a sea worthy garden. At last the average Joe Horticulture can chase death, doubloons and dusky maidens across the Seven Seas, and not loose his tender annuals to salt spray. I give you the work of Vincent Callebaut and his magnificent floating garden – Physalia.


A collision between a whale, a jellyfish and a fertile architectural imagination, ladies and gentlemen, this is the future.

Physalia commeth

Physalia will travel around the waterways of Europe with a cargo of scientists busily cleaning H20 and researching in a carbon neutral manner.

Physalia on Thames

An exceptionally interesting and eccentric thinker Callebaut has also designed floating cities for climate change refugees and a metabolic farm for urban agriculture in the shape of a butterfly. In his touring botanical garden there will be four main plating areas; Earth, Air, Water and Fire.

Air Garden

Let Callebaut be our catalyst and take to the oceans! Come ye, you alotmenteers and flower heads, you rakers and pruners! You are free gardeners, and you have as much authority to make war on the whole world, as he who has a hundred sail of ships at sea and an army of 100,000 men. We shall grow fat on the blood of the rich while our fruits grow plump in Physalia’s hold and the waterways of Europe become cleaner and cleaner. For me the world has won back a bit of its magic.


8 thoughts on “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (or, Physalia – the Brilliant Bionic Boat)

  1. Dear Ben, How very sad that at so young an age you already feel that life is built on broken dreams. I do not believe it. Gardeners have an undying optimism; they have to have in order to carry on.

    I have been highly entertained by your site although, perhaps, not entirely certain about the Cyber world you describe. Is it far from Maida Vale?

    My own first steps in blogging have happily led me to your postings via Blotanical. Lead on…….

  2. How very charming: it looks a bit like the set of a 1970s soft porn film but that should be counted in its favour.
    I am however confused by the elemental planting areas: earth(fine), water (no problem),air (love a Bromeliad) but fire?
    Going to go through a lot of petunias if they are planted in a bonfire.
    I also worry slightly that the Physalia is a bit short of cannon and will prove a bit of a pushover to the crew of the Jolly Roger

  3. It’s not sad at all Edith. Being young lends itself splendidly to melancholy and disaffection; after all someone has to mope about, and in the old these qualities look like despondence and cynicism. If everyone was forced to be grinning mannequins for joyous gaiety the world would be a tedious place and humanity would have lost what makes it interesting. Salute the pessimistic young! Say no to emotional whitewashing! Three cheers for the Life of Broken Dreams!!.

  4. James – Could it be that you have fallen from the vanguard of garden design? Elemental Fire Region is the hip new designer phrase for what used to be called ‘patio area with barbeque.

    As for canons they pose a bit of a problem. At the moment my plan is to get Physalia listed in the Spanish Main’s Yellow Book. Then when the bloodthirsty crew come inside to look around we can bop the over the head with a flowerpot.

  5. there is a very appealing and romantic notion to Callebaut’s floating garden…i would love to dream about the 21st century version of exploring areas around the world I haven’t been to and bringing along better provisions than the swashbucklers of the past 🙂

  6. Dear Ben, Whilst moping about and languishing in your drawing room on your chaise longue, perhaps you could aquaint yourself with Mark Amory’s ‘Lord Berners – The Last Eccentric’. You are a veritable model of Robert Heber-Percy, both handsome and dashing, and capable of I feel the craziness which earned him the title of ‘The Mad Boy’. I was so taken with this idea some time ago, that I considered advertising for one [ a mad boy, that is].

    Happily, I do have my young friend T who, with his boyfriend G, fulfils this role admirably.

    Do, when you have a moment, visit me on my blog site; I should welcome your original views. If you had ‘Followers’ , then I should become one instantly.

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