Back in the early two thousands there was a TV series called Lost, many of you may remember it. A number of people survived a plane crash and found themselves on a curious island full of mystery and unusual happenings where everything is not quite as it seems. This is how the UK feels at the moment, an episode of Lost; perpetual idyllic sunshine day after day that doesn’t seem real with the veil of ever present menace that no-one quite understands, all the while information is being discovered that raises more questions than it answers, certainty becomes skewed and things boil over.
I’ve discovered more than ever during this period just how important the consistency of nature is. At the moment in the Botanic Garden, my allotment and just out and about the ground is dry but the usual seasonal occurrences are occurring; wild garlic followed by cow parsley, birds foot trefoil with bees in high attendance. The Mediterranean Display is going through its regular outfit changes like an artist at a high end stadium gig performing the hits; currently Scilla peruviana is in full flower with bees dancing from one to another like well practiced choreography. This plant always makes me chuckle, I always thought it was Peruvian (it’s name means ‘from Peru’) but it is native to Iberia and Italy; it was reportedly named because it had arrived on a ship called Peru and so will forever be known as the name of that ship rather than its place of origin. I think of that 19th century ship every time I look at this plant, a ship that would have been forgotten in time but for a mistake.
Every year we wait for the emergence of the dragonflies; they spend a large amount of their lives under the water as nymphs terrorising and eating anything that moves. The pond population bubbles a sigh of relief when they all climb out after an unseen signal from head dragonfly nymph; that signal happened last week and overnight watery stems of bogbean were covered in the shells of these predators. In their place, above the water was the aeronautical gymnastics of confident dragonflies, who look like they’ve been flying forever not just a few hours; they look like all of their underwater ferociousness has been replaced with joy at a newfound aerial artistry. This year I saw a new one for us, a four spotted chaser; such wonderful names. Hawkers, darters, emperors and emeralds elicit visions of fantasy worlds where they’re better suited; it’s almost like they ended up here by accident and stayed.
In the glasshouses the Nelumbo nucifer, sacred lotus, is in full flower; another natural wonder that seems too good to be true; every part of this plant is useful in traditional medicine, food and even water treatment. The flower is unusual but unquestionably beautiful. It’s charm is revered wherever it grows wild, the mucky silt of the river banks is so far removed from the elegance emerging that it is known as a symbol of purity, something wholesome and good flourishing from an implausible place. The folklore surrounding this plant stretches back thousands of years, and it’s always been there, to remind everyone of its message; there can be good things emerging from bad situations.
I try and remind myself of this and think that this time in the UK, like Lost, will eventually reach a conclusion, one that is difficult to understand and not satisfactory for everyone, but we’ll get there. Until then nature keeps delivering in its own consistent way.
By Andy Winfield