The old fast food-joint was a great place until it burned down. At first, the gossip in the Scottish town was about how it happened. Was it arson or just old electrical wiring? Then folks wondered if it would start up again. But as the carbon deposits on the cream walls faded with age and the window panes were broken, speculation turned to other matters, and the place ceased to attract interest.
One cold, sharp morning, machinery arrived and clawed the burnt remains to the ground. Perimeter wire fencing was installed. The rubble, cleansed by wind and rain, became pale and grey.
Nettles first caught my attention, as they mischievously caressed the noses of dogs that inspected the fencing. Then hints of buddleia and brambles appeared in the lunaresque landscape.
Bindweed made its sinuous way along the wires of one fence panel, while chickweed offered up its dainty ten-petal flowers. A small patch of forget-me-nots, the very plant which every year refused the welcome of my garden, became comfortable in the almost arid site. This no-gardening garden was interesting—you really didn’t know what would appear next.
I was gratified one warm Summer day to spot Silene dioica, red campion, named after a Greek god of the forest. The deity was now clearly willing to tackle less verdant spots. The empty land was becoming greener by the month. My fingers itched to scatter a few poppy seeds—it couldn’t do any harm— but every time I approached with the seeds wrapped in a twist of paper, there was always someone else around, so I would walk back home, potential poppies still in my pocket.
Protected from people and animals, the rubble was eventually almost covered in plants of all kinds. Honesty and ivy grew against the remaining wall. At its foot, complementary pinks of pale persicaria, erigeron, and clover attracted insects. A single poppy, not of my doing, flamed into bloom. Bees and butterflies hung from buddleia blossoms so heavy on their short stalks that their flowers brushed the ground. Once I saw three butterflies, a Peacock, a Tortoiseshell, and a Painted Lady, all supping from the same froth of purple. No one else paid any attention to the butterflies.
As the Summer waned, a plastic notice was fastened to the fence. It said that approval for redevelopment had been given. To my eye, the site had already been developed, but, alas, the weeds and wildflowers had not asked permission.
Only a week later, diggers lumbered onto the site. They scraped away all the plants in a day.
Now that formality was restored, passersby noticed the lot again and agreed that it was high time something was done about it.
Me, I missed the patient, invisible gardener. ❖
This article was published originally in 2020, in GreenPrints Issue #123.