In the wilds…

I popped up to the roof garden for the first time in a while at the end of last week to take a quick look at how it lay.  The Shaw Library itself has been packed to the rafters with revising students all spring and the garden – if it can still be called a garden? – has been abandoned and left to take care of itself, because we’ve been waiting for planters to arrive before starting any new growth!  It’s surprises me just how hardy a small collection of plants, hastily potted in recycled office bins on a sixth floor balcony, can be?  Over the long dry winter months and topsy-turvy spring, in spite of all the wet dawns and autumn melancholies, some broccoli and cabbage has survived (although I don’t think they would pass a supermarket quality test!).   I’d gamble they tasted great back in early spring when they were ready?  If only we’d got to them sooner we wouldn’t be commiserating lost savoury delights?  Looking at them now, though, one would have to say they look more like they’ve reverted back to more natural contours: straggly, sprawling, untidy…but, hey, still green and still rising!

The recent mild weather has caused the broccoli to flower.  I’ve always considered flowering vegetables to be as handsome as any biennial, they’re greatly underappreciated plants!  A humble cabbage left to splay its leaves, or an uneaten broccoli plant left to flower are very impressive greens!  This said, much of what we planted last year,  the team having long since consumed the harvest, had drooped and wilted and given up the fight to survive when the coming of the birds and the springs must’ve seemed a long way off.  I pulled out all the long dead tomatoes and pepper plants, wrenched up emaciated marigolds and other once magical florae and starting sowing in the new before it’s too late.  I tilled some soil with an old fork when, without warning, creatures, inconspicuously minding their business until I turned up to disturb them, started crawling out of the loam…!

What in nature’s endless inventory of strange organisms is this?  What curious thing of fabulous elegance…?  This oddity, this glassy auburn jewel in the fat soil is, I’ve discovered, is a Cabbage Moth which apparently over winter as pupa before emerging fresh into a spring evening.  I’m no lepidopterist, but I think such things are very wonderful things and, as always with a new find, I become a slave to my senses, to my curiosity, and I pick things up and place them in my flat palm.  As it warmed up, it began to fidget and wriggle and I could see that what was being prepared inside was not yet finished, so I put it back not sure if I should re-secrete it in an underground parlour, among the seeds and dead leaves, or, wondering if it had fallen from a leaf, try to place it higher up?  I decided to put it in my empty lunch box and take it home, where it now sleeps on my balcony, under leaves of cauliflower and cabbage, in a used mushroom carton, where I eagerly await it’s breaking forth, fully formed, into the neon nights of South London.  At the moment though, it’s still pupating, still wriggling …

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