I have this bizarre idea that the harder anything is to find the more beautiful and interesting it will be. Naturally, this is not borne out by experience. I'm perfectly clear that if I want to see unusual plants I'd be better off in botanic gardens than in my local park where tennis courts take precedence over hot-houses.
There are some ideas which matter. If I decided to murder three people a day it would have an impact on society and it might be a good idea that I be stopped. But if I want to potter round in dull streets on dull days when it's so cold my hands are shaking with shivering and search for urban wild-plants where there seem to be none instead of heading off for places where I know there will be plenty . . . perhaps you will forgive this eccentricity. Or even recognise in it a spirit of adventure usually lacking in a road of unexceptional suburban housing, along with a spirit of genuine scientific enquiry.
My 'spirit of adventure and enquiry' seemed to have come a cropper when I went out on Wednesday lunchtime. (Sporting a woolly hat, not a topee and bare fingers because I'd left my gloves at home.) I seemed to be about to prove my theory that plants are everywhere . . . wrong.
It's happened before. I've chosen a street, marched along it brimming with confidence, found the confidence shattered by the lack of wild greenery and then . . . found it in abundance. Or if not in abundance (which it usually is) I've found some physically there.
|Here's a little grassy lawn. No upkeep needed!|
I was already composing my post to say 'Sorry, I was wrong, February is an exception,' when I realised I was thinking too large. This was an unsheltered spot; long and straight with the wind blowing in from the side as well as up the middle. Plants which might have weathered through winter in other places hadn't managed here. The shelter I should be seeking wouldn't be beside waist-high garden walls along the path, it would be right down low in the road. In the Lilliputian / Borrowers world of small plants a kerb is a tall wall. And where cars park, the gap between the wall and tyres becomes a chasm. New motto for the coldest month 'Think Grand. But Think Small'.
And another thing. The more time that passes, the more I couldn't care less what plants are called. Their 'thereness' is what enthrals me. Really. If I were to take a photograph of a crowded street, I would expect virtually every human caught in the frame to have an interesting face. But I wouldn't rush up and down asking them for their names.
|The green blob is not grass - it's a not-very-attractive patch of moss.|
A prettier specimen comes later in this post.
I know, I know, I KNOW . . . we've had this out before . . . that the names of plants matter. And I KNOW that Loose and Leafy is an odd kind of blog and I probably owe it to my readers to find out what things are called so useful information can be recorded and passed on. BUT . . . er . . . I doubt many of you care two hoots either. When it comes to garden plants - that's different. If you see a good one on somebody else's blog, of course you need to know what it is so you can buy one if you would like one in your garden too. But, seriously, no-one is going to read Loose and Leafy and say 'Oh boy! Wouldn't I just like one of those little weeds to plant by my car. I must, I must, know what it is.' Of course not.
Though some . . . some are romantic. The Latin name for Common Whitlow grass is Erophila verna - which, roughly translated, means 'This plant loves spring' which is much better than naming it after a sore finger! But as it isn't yet spring in a decidedly 'sprung' sort of way, we'll have to wait for March before I start crawling around looking for that.
|Not a wild plant but the head of a carnation lying in the middle of the path.|
Do you know the programme 'Top Gear'? It's a programme about cars and I love it. It is extraordinarily sexist and I am a feminist - but I enjoy it just the same. It shows cars in remote and exotic places - hills, heather, mountains . . . and says they are driving around in the home-counties. And viewers are forever writing in to complain about it and point out there are no mountains in Kent or things like that. It promotes dangerously fast driving and I can't bear to be in a vehicle travelling more than about twenty miles an hour. The BBC is forever threatening to take it off the air because the three regular presenters are forever offending people (and the people who take offence may have serious, not pernickety, reasons for being offended. . . . ). (All these 'forevers' are to emphasise how relentless the programme is in poking fun at people who might be offended. It's not an occasional slip. And it's relentless in it's never changing format too.)
I've recently come to realise how much my blog is like Top Gear. I know in advance that when I show pictures of litter here or my other blog (Message in a Milk Bottle) or fail to give proper recognition to the names of plants - I know someone will (quite rightly) complain about litter or protest the importance of Latin. So I'm feeling rather chuffed.
Top Gear is one of the BBC's top income producing programmes (along with Dr Who) and Jeremy Clarkson (the main presenter) was reported to have earned £14 million in 2013. How's that for an example? Would it be fair to conclude the more complaints you receive the more money you'll earn? A good theory. I'm wondering if I might suggest all botanists have sore fingers . . . . and wait for the millions to role in?
Bother. I was getting so carried away with insulting you I forgot the moss on a wall. It blasted my mind. I'm dumbfounded by its colours. I keep looking at it on screen. Most of it is out of focus because I don't have the right lens for such tiny, tiny plants and my hands were shaking with cold. But you'll still see how overwhelmingly beautiful it is. Close up it's a forest of wonderfulness. Just goes to show - February (in England) is a time for looking small. (I will probably need to work harder on insulting people. Erm . . . suppose I say (block your ears if you don't want to hear this) mosses are prettier than roses . . . will you send me a million pounds?)
Think February. Think mosses?
And if you would like to contribute a Street Plant Post to the next link box
Think 21st - 25th February
Sshhhh - some possibilities / suggestions
Top plant - Bittercress (probably Cardamine hirsuta)
The little green stars - possibly Pearlwort (Sagina . . . um maybe Sagina subulata (Irish moss which isn't a moss!) Or Sagina procumbens . . . ) (You see why it might be better not to bother!) )