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The Brave

Updated: May 19, 2021

I've been plant gazing over the last few weeks – a most enjoyable process of contemplating a plant being for ten minutes or so a day. Just observing it, seeing how it develops, noticing that its lifecycle unfolds over time and is a slow and graceful process. The thing is, I don't know who I'm looking at. I don't recognise this being, and I certainly didn't plant it in my pot of orange tulips. I think it must be a member of the allium family from its growth habit, but there again, those jointed notches on the stem are unusual and the bud is not typically alliumesque.

My pot of tulips has become all the more exceptional because a visitor is taking refuge amongst them. How did it get there, this refugee? I don't recall seeing it last year, and yet if it is an allium, it must have arrived by seed and taken several seasons to get this big. What a mystery. And then, just as I turn to do a little weeding in the vegetable bed, I notice another self-seeder. A nasturtium in the freshly potted-up aubretia. A treasure, a gift.

What I have realised is that these unexpected visitors, these self-seeders, these rebels are the beings I love most in the garden. I am full of admiration for my neat rows of broad beans and leeks; I sniff the leaves of the blackcurrant on a regular basis (I love the smell) and envisage a bowl of summer berries and ice cream with anticipation, but these interlopers, these newcomers give me a different kind of pleasure, because they have an air of mystery about them. They intercede in my orderliness and they make me think afresh about what it is to be a gardener, for I never weed them out. Instead they become cherished and coddled. I wait patiently (mostly) for their blossoming, so I can refer to my books and try and identify who they are.

For me self-seeders are a metaphor for life's entrepreneurs. Like humans who seek out new horizons and create their unique niche, whether in business or in art, self-seeding plants are Nature's own pioneers. They sally forth to plots unknown, seeing what it's like; testing the conditions, rooting themselves in new soil. To me this is a precious and important attribute. They are The Brave.

When I wrote the last line of this blog, I realised it was the same words as a song I've been listening to all week: 'The Brave', by my old man Rob Swan (of Loveswing, with drums by Justin Welch of Elastica/Lush/Piroshka fame). So, I've included it here for your enjoyment!

POST SCRIPT - 19th May 2021

I think the 'refugee' is serpent garlic (allium sativum ophioscorodon). It has been twisting and turning and looping the loop and is now 5ft high! Interestingly, my niece has a serpent garlic in a pot of tulips I planted up for her, so perhaps a few bulbs inadvertently rolled onto the production line when the bulb supplier was packing my order! I don't mind at all.

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