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Monday, 21 July 2014

THE WILD PLANTS OF SOUTHAMPTON HIGH STREET

At the top of a pedestrian subway in Southampton (but not in the High Street).
This little garden has a lawn and leaves and flowers.

If I have a mission, it's to persuade people that every street is a garden. Not has a garden, note; but is one.

My theory is that in every street there are flowers and lawns and trees and . . . it's just a matter of adjusting your sense of scale and looking for them.






Those of you who have been reading Loose and Leafy over the years will be familiar with my posts about street plants. Until now I've gone to towns I already know so I've had good ideas about where to look.

For the free-range gardener,
trees put there by the council don't count.
On Wednesday I was in Southampton. I've been there in the past but not much. I once went to an art exhibition. I accompanied a friend to a shop where they sell exceptionally smelly soaps. I've visited a road which used to be a wharf but is now a long way from water. That's about it.

The main shopping street in Southampton is broad and for half its length traffic free. At one end there's a lumpy entrance you can walk through or round - The Bargate. (Built around 1180). At the other - where the traffic is - a park. In between are the usual City Centre shops, all built since the Second World War. (Southampton was bombed.) Some have doors opening directly onto the street. Others are in arcades. Some of the architecture is very grand and modern. Some is dated and beginning to decay. There were market stalls the day I was there. And a roundabout.

A little urban lawn.
There was a slightly larger patch of grass by a group of benches
but I would have felt awkward asking people to move their feet so I could take its picture.



Time to put my theory to the test. This is a very busy street. Is it also a garden? It didn't look promising. But there's no point in having a theory unless you put it to the test.









Shopping centres where rubbish is collected and pavements forever swept clean can be arid and dull. From that perspective, Southampton High Street definitely looked dull - dull and dry and lacking in green.

When you can;t see much by looking down - look up.
See the tree? One in an arboretum.
Although it looks alone there are bound to be others in streets nearby.
Birds would know.
Indeed I found a big, flowering buddleia down a left-hand turn. Ferns by a down-pipe too.

It was. I struggled to find anything. There is, I realise, little to show. Indeed, at one point I was wondering whether I should conceal the fact that I'd tried or accept I'd failed and admit it; that my theory had bitten the dust.

Smooth sow-thistle (?) by a bus-stop.
(Sonchus olderaceus)

But no! There was a small lawn, a flowerbed and a tree.

Hurray! Southampton High street is - as you see - a garden.

What's more, there were wild animals. Aphids. Ladybirds!

This Harlequin Ladybird  (Harmonia axiridis )
was on the Smooth Sow-Thistle
above.
See greenfly legs sticking out from its mouth?
To a flock of aphids a Harlequin Ladybird is more dangerous than a lion is to a herd of gazelle. It will chomp and keep chomping.

My theory holds. We're short of rain. It's rather hot. Once the pavement is watered and the gutters have been washed through with rain . . . maybe it'll become a 'Botanic' one. Perhaps it'll go in a yellow book!





* * *


The current population of Southampton is around 237,000.

Southampton is in Hampshire in the South of England.








If you live in the UK you can take part in the Ladybird Survey
which has a picture gallery of kinds of ladybirds to look out for on its site.

There's a downloadable Ladybird Identification Guide on their site too.
Here's a link to find out about The Ladybirds of Ireland.


Do You Post About Street Plants?
Here's a post on Hollis' blog - In the Company of Rocks and Plants - Urban Botany, Urban Art and the Instagram Effect

STOP PRESS
Irrelevant to post but have just come across this Facebook Page of Moths found by BSG Ecology in 2014. Click on the pictures to find their names.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A WILDLY STUPID IDEA

Bee with its head in a bramble flower

I'm walking along. It's thundering. There are drips of rain. The light is bad. And I have a good idea.

At a stretch, the idea might not be considered a bad one but only later did I reflect that it is not always necessary to put a good idea into practice the very moment you think of it.

But I did.

Why not follow a bramble flower from bud to blackberry?

There are challenges.

The first is that I need to be able to identify the flower - to go back to it and know which it is.

The next is that it needs to be high enough that it doesn't get eaten the moment it ripens.

So it has to be easily found yet not easily reached.

I'm wandering along peering at the bushes. Would I remember this . . . or . . . that . . . if I returned?

Then I saw a bee.

Follow the flower from pollination to fruit.

I photograph the bee.

How will I identify the flower?

I find a branch that leads to it.

How will I identify the branch?

Grass tied round a bramble branch so it can be found again

I tie a piece of grass round it.

I try to re-connect the branch to the flower the bee was on.

I fail.

I've spent ages brightening pictures I took in the gloom and peering into them. It hasn't worked. The flower I chose is not the same as the one the bee was on.

Never mind.

If the grass stays there I'll have roughly the right spot.

The bramble branch with flowers and small, unripe blackberries
See the bit of grass out of focus at the front?
I might never find the right flower but as long as the grass stays there
there's a bit of a chance I'll find the branch.

The pictures will be fuzzy and lacking in the best kind of detail - I've chosen flowers my camera has to zoom to.

This may be the last you even hear of the bramble. On the other hand . . . I may be asking you for recipes in the autumn.

All pictures taken on the afternoon of July 19th 2014

My other blog is Message in a Milk Bottle
Daily photos - plants and other ordinary things.
(You can have them emailed if you wish - as you can this blog.)