My blogpost from a little over a year ago shared our adventures and successes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. That week of thrill and excitement seems like another world now. Upon rereading it, I was reminded that many of the 2019 show gardens focused on the environment and the re-greening of our beleaguered planet. I mentioned that designers had ‘embraced natural and restorative green planting; perhaps casting a wistful glance back to our lush and wildflower-rich hedgerows of old…’. Who could possibly have foreseen that a year later we would all be in lockdown, confined to our homes, our freedoms removed?
To focus on the positive, however, if any good can come from this discombobulating, for some a heart-breaking, time then it must surely be the resurgence of the natural world, offering us that venerated glimpse of times past when the skies were unpolluted and there was very little traffic on the roads. The silence that fell across the world was profound and unnerving – something that few of us have experienced - but it was also a joy, with the trilling, buzzing, clicking, whooshing voice of nature coming to the fore and a startling array of wild animals venturing into our cities to stand, baffled, in the middle of deserted highways. The arrival of dolphins in the infamously polluted waters of Venice was a phenomenon I could never have believed, and a positive affirmation that nature will bounce back, given the opportunity. Many people have found comfort in the great outdoors and have embraced the beauty surrounding them – the gift of time has enabled us to notice - to really ‘see’ - the intricacies of the natural world. Sadly, there has been a shocking increase in rubbish that has been left in the wake of some visitors to our open spaces. I find this attitude incomprehensible - why visit somewhere beautiful, enjoy it and then defile it?
In this digital age we have found new ways to communicate; chatting to friends and family over the internet is not a replacement for physical contact, but it has been a lifeline to many of us in isolation. What has been heart-warming, is the huge number of people and organisations that have given their time and skills for free to help those in need and to keep us occupied and entertained. It is evident that in times of hardship, we can, and do, pull together. Crucially, with flights grounded, we discovered that it is possible to have highly successful meetings virtually. This is a real positive and gives me hope – if we can adapt our ways and cease to jet around the world for one short meeting, perhaps nature and, ultimately the life of our planet, will have a fighting chance.
Whether it’s due to the lack of human activity or not, the clear, unpolluted skies and warm weather has resulted in a bumper year for butterflies. Even those that are on the endangered list have bounced back, with nearly all of the UK’s resident and migrant species spotted, some of which haven’t been seen in decades. My veggie patch, which is full of companion planting and sits alongside an area of meadow grass, is awash with butterflies and bees. The garden has been my solace during this bruising and stressful period, and it is here that I come, with my cup of tea, to lose myself amongst the hubbub of the natural world. If I sit still for long enough, a dragonfly may alight on my knee to sun itself, bees will stumble drunkenly against me as they attempt lift-off, hindlegs heavy with pollen and hoverflies investigate me, levitating eye to eye, as if to say ‘come on, shouldn’t you be doing something?’