Curious is the only word to describe the Wonderland that Alice experiences after falling into drowsy dream. However, the game of croquet she witnesses is perhaps even curiouser than most events in that world. The Queen of Hearts uses live flamingos as mallets to bat hedgehogs, who also happen to be live. The animals are aimed at the arches formed when the playing cards bend over on all fours. During the action the queen constantly bellows that most souls within range should be decapitated. No wonder the poor girl was confused.
As far as can be ascertained, the game of croquet has never been played with flamingos and hedgehogs but it certainly has been enjoyed for a while. Croquet, as we know it, became a game of the leisured class around the mid 1800s. Given the social morés of those Victorian times, it’s no small surprise that young people indulged the past time with enthusiasm. Here was a rare opportunity for men and women to play together and out of earshot of chaperones!
At that time the language around the game became codified: croqueterie refers to the implements, balls, stakes, mallets of the game. It does not take much imagination to know what a fluke means, though. (A point scored despite the incompetence of the player.)
In numerical terms croquet enthusiasts are relatively small, but in enthusiasm they are mighty. Led by Gary Anderson of the Puget Sound Croquet Club, members have come every year to assist the Dunn Gardens in making our Mallets in Wonderland event—well, wonderful. They set out the greens, lead the cautious and the competent in rounds and provide some happy instruction on the way. Flukes are especially celebrated. Simply, the event would not work without them, and the Dunn Gardens is more than grateful for their services.
We’d love to have you come and meet Gary and his friends at the 2017 Mallets in Wonderland in August. If you wanted to brush up on your croquet skills before you come, the Puget Sound Croquet Club, based in Redmond, would welcome you. They offer 3 croquet lawns—which are 35 yards long and 28 yards wide. You won’t find those dimensions in play at the Dunn Gardens but at least you will find the grass of the Great Lawn smooth. The Queen of Hearts had a ridged surface for her game. Not much sympathy for her on that score. Promise we will have her head before you come to our Garden wonderland!