Nature on your doorstep
As we become increasingly urbanised, our day to day appreciation of nature and how it presents itself to us is evolving.
Over the past 20 years or so, a whole social movement of urban botanists and nature conservationists has been growing. And with it, it seems that there are new interactions between people and spontaneous vegetation in cities. Social media has made wild plants in the urban jungle fashionable. You can trawl Twitter and Facebook for people’s botanical discoveries #MoreThanWeed #PavementPlants, or go out and simply observe what's growing in your own neighbourhood, see https://morethanweeds.co.uk/ for inspiration.
Academic research is also producing evidence about our human need to be in contact with nature in our day to day urbanised environment. Recent work by Helen Hoyle shows that there is ‘an increasing preparedness to tolerate and appreciate a structurally messier urban aesthetic’. In other words, we are finally falling out of love with regimented and pristine parks and borders and enjoying more free flowing vegetation. In 2018, research by Sebastien Bonthoux and his colleagues (see full article here) with French town dwellers was also very heartening, as it showed that ‘pavements with spontaneous vegetation were perceived as less kept than pavements without vegetation, but more beautiful and less boring.’ Yes, indeed, nature is beautiful and interesting!
My own bit of unscientific surveying has been to spot nature on doorsteps, literally. It cheers me up immensely when coming up to a front door or stepping out the back door and my first encounter is with some tiny plant making its way through a crack or joint space where the step meets the footpath. It re-assures me that there are forces at play stronger than me or concrete. Here’s a few of my finds.
Top row (left to right): Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon), Myosotis sylvatica (Forget-me-not) mixed with some Viola and Geranium leaves, Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian).
Bottom row (left to right): Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh Poppy), Oxalis corniculata (Creeping Yellow Sorrel), Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle).
If you would like to conduct your own ‘uncontrolled’ experiment, I recommend spreading seeds. As well as the plants shown above, you could try Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican Fleabane) or Campanula poscharskyana (Trailing Bellflower). In shade conditions, ferns such as Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort) might do well and even appear of their own volition. Then, you can banish pressure washer and weed killer, and enjoy seeing some lovable rogues claiming their space.
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All photos and artwork are my own.