Our neighbours gardens are bursting with bright flowers, sometimes forming unlikely harmonies: the purple smoke bush fronted by bright yellow evening primroses, or delicate crimson sweet peas next to blowsy orange dahlias. These glorious pallets of colour are a credit to the time and care that have gone into them.
In contrast, we’re still favouring the wild look. Thanks to a few strategic rainstorms between heatwaves, green is still our predominant colour. We are a garden of textures and tones, with only a few dots of colour from the hardiest types of independent blooms. The yellow-hot pokers have been stars, and so are those rampant volunteers, the orange marigolds.
Luckily, the results of this abandonment are not so obvious from a distance, so we’ve not had to deal with comments about harbouring an invasion force. This week though, my conscience was triggered when returning from a trip to collect our clicked groceries.
I didn’t notice them on the way out, because I was concentrating on reversing. We have a tricky gateway.
Driving in, I couldn’t avoid noticing the very tall and vigorous hog weed plant leaning, triffid-like, over the bonnet of the car, heavy with ripening seeds.
Tall as it is, luckily it’s not Giant Hogweed, which is a notifiable weed. Still, I was certain my neighbours wouldn’t be pleased to see it. Something would have to be done.
I’ve a fascination with the patterns of seed-heads. So, once I’d seen one seeding plant, my eye was in for spotting the others.
What is it I like? The symmetry.
Anyone who knows me well would be able to explain how paradoxical that answer is. I am hopeless at mathematics. Show me a number and my brain stalls. At school I failed to understand anything beyond the basic, practical levels.
I can still name a few geometric shapes: isosceles triangle, equilateral triangle, the parallelogram… Could I describe them? Please don’t test me.
Perhaps, if they’d been presented as nature notes I might have made an Archemedian exclamation. Give me maths with a story attached, and things like measuring volume make sense. Eurika!
Stories are patterns. The ones I love best are a puzzle to be unraveled. They can be seen quickly, and enjoyed in passing. Some can be studied, over and over again. Look closely and each time they will reveal a fresh pattern of meaning, of symbols, words or images. Perhaps this is the same principle as someone colouring mandalas in one of those mindfulness books.
To look at a dandelion seed-head before I use it to count time, is to lose time. So imagine my fascination with the salsify seed heads, three times the size of a dandelion. They’ve been popping up in this garden for years. These are the grandfather clocks of nature’s timekeepers. The stems can be up to five foot tall.
Then there are teasels, another of my unconventional garden residents. These have their seeding shape before the flowers are showing. They’re pretty spectacular from a distance, but look down at them and another pattern shows.
Patterns like these lead me to think I might manage to understand the equations behind polyhedrons, or maybe, even, The Golden Ratio. First, though, I’d better find my loppers, and cut down that hogweed, before it scatters its way into the gardens of all my neighbours.