The Jubilee celebrations in our capital city will be remembered as a watery pageant: mist, mizzle and rain accentuated by a big, big river and, taking that as the cue, the sodden clouds have dumped water bombs ever since. But how tempted we are by water! Boys on speeding bikes crash the pavement puddles – the annoyance of getting wet far outweighed by the rascal pleasure of drenching pedestrians and it’s wonderful to watch the kids playing in the eruptions of water in Liverpool One.
It’s likely that the hose-pipe ban will be lifted, especially since so many hose-pipes are drowned in several feet of flood water. Even gardens not affected by this overdose of H2O have irregular patches of watery brightness mirroring the silvery sky and providing a muddy bath for birds.
The lushness of our countryside and our gardens is down to our wet summers which we have never quite accepted as the norm. You know this because, in a triumph of hope over experience, we’re being persuaded to buy drought-tolerant plants, garden furniture that would be ruined by the slightest moisture and outdoor cushions offering maximum comfort on those long hot days - not to mention their super-absorbency of the entire contents of rain clouds.
Seriously, we should conserve our water, if only to respect those who spend all day fetching theirs; shortages do occur even in temperate climates, especially if people are feckless and inefficient. Anyone who has watered their houseplants with rain water knows that it is much better for vegetation than tap water. I’ve always been fascinated by the survival of plant life in straitened circumstances. The tunnels between Lime Street and Edgehill hold pockets of plant life at the limit of available resources such as water and soil and light. Some are small ferns; some are buddleias - though I doubt whether they will tempt any butterflies in such a dank environment - and then there is a livid green slime which seems to slide down the dripping walls of the tunnels: those canvases of epic geological painting.
Oh - it’s starting to rain again. Time to review my umbrella collection and join Gene Kelly.
*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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