23rd April 2012
I bought a pot of basil as I often do and I carried it especially carefully round town this uneasy day of threat and squall. I kept smelling the spicy citrus scent, and imagined it growing in pots outside Greek houses in limitless sunshine. People looked at the plant I was protecting from the bad boy weather and I realised it was continuing to use the sun’s light - even though the sun was in hiding - and growing in its tiny plot of land. I had a miniature garden; I had an itinerant garden.
And everywhere you go in towns and cities this gardening instinct blooms in hanging baskets and tubs of colourful civic pride, on flower stalls and supermarket shelves, where we scoop up warm-scented marjoram, fresh mint, oniony chives, fragile-stemmed coriander and best-seller basil for our window-sill allotment.
See the airborne baskets of optimism hanging beneath the lamps in Bold Street! Pansies: scarlet, cornflower blue and purple with mustard yellow raise their faces in the bracketed basket outside Rennies Gallery. Then see its reflection in the shop façade. Two for one.
As long as human beings tend window boxes and sign up for allotments and balance a pot of geraniums on their canal boat there is hope for the survival of our planet. But it’s touch and go. I’ve bought five packets of nasturtiums and they’re going to stuff every nook and cranny, every chipped terra cotta container, every old rusting frost-cracked utensil in my back yard with orange and yellow cheerfulness.
*Also known as Rose Bay Willow Herb, the prolific wild flower called Fireweed, five feet tall with spikes of magenta flowers, cheers the hearts of those whose cityscape has become a bomb site or whose buildings have been cleared by machine. The dormant seeds spring to life after destructive events such as forest or man-made fires, hence the name, Fireweed. This occasional column will celebrate the persistence of wildlife in urban conditions.
Fireweed 1 - St John’s
Gardens & Springing to Life
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