I think of spring as the most exciting time of year on account of the colour in the verges. Reinforcements are still arriving, witness the giant sow thistle, a truly villainous plant, from whose plump finials yellow brush-heads are squeezing like difficult births. Or the small, three-leafed newcomer with tiny yellow blooms which might be black medick. But as earlier risers fade away I am reminded that flowers are only a means to an end, namely the production of seeds with which the parents can repeat themselves and multiply. Who can fail to be in awe of such resourcefulness and ingenuity? But these qualities applied to nothing other than replication provoke sober thoughts on the nature of existence, even ours with its capacity for registering the paradox. The cosmic accident of life, the greening of a planet, the evolution of language with which to frame these reflections: that all this started, and mostly continues, with the simple, unexamined drive to make copies of genetic code strikes me as both wonderful and deficient in meaning.
To cheer myself up I think instead about the products of all this exhausting effort, which reveal themselves to be no less fascinating or, in their own way, beautiful as flowers. By virtue of its prominence numerically cow parsley is a good place to start. The white umbelifers have mostly given way to small, banana-like clusters of cylindrical pods which viewed en masse have a cross-hatching effect on the eye. No less profuse but camouflaged by the hedges, goosefoot has produced tiny balls covered in stiff hairs on stalks pointing in different directions, each assemblage calling to mind planets or the structure of an atom. Herb Robert’s seeds are contained in green hips from which extend single antennae narrowing towards the end and tipped with a slight thickness or serif. Yet another solution is come up with by Herb Bennet whose red-brown globes bristle with a thick coat of whiskers hard to associate with the yellow flowers that begat them. The satisfaction derived from examining these botanical gadgets lays to rest my earlier melancholy and raises a question. Could the pleasure or benefit inspired by something be its reason to exist?