Cecily Mary Barker had a romantic image of the wild rose. The queen of wild flowers, floating elegantly in pink drapery. Delightful. It was an image I shared through most of my childhood. I loved the wild rose bush that was the centrepiece of our back garden in Luton. It wasn’t supposed to be there, an interloper from next door’s untended hedge, but my mother’s attempts to block it out with plantings of flax, marigolds and Virginia stock never had a chance of competing. I loved my dog rose then, so I was pleased to find it growing all along my lane in West Wales. Yes I still regard the flowers as very attractive, but I wouldn’t say my image of them is romantic any more. June, with its roses, is the month of insurgency, not of elegance, and we are the enemy.
Back in April and May, Mother Nature posed as a dainty nymph, clad in Laura Ashley prints, sprinkling the grass with bluebells, primroses and celandines, and conjuring buds of fresh green from the trees. In June, Mother Nature is a muscular goddess in combat gear, armed with an automatic rifle and a grenade launcher. We thought we were in charge? We thought we had it all tamed when the hedge-cutter came in October? Think again. The revolution starts now.
The grass with blades that can slice through fingers is suddenly five feet high. The nettles, full armed, are even higher. Goosegrass is raising scaling ladders on either side and hogweed is loading its flame-throwers (never strim hogweed in the sun, unless you want to be scarred for life). Meanwhile, those sweet little dog roses are joining forces with testosterone-fuelled brambles to throw barbed wire barricades across the lane. Honeysuckle and briony are preparing nooses to catch me from above. I feel seriously threatened.
Yes, the lane is still putting on a mocking front of prettiness. The honeysuckle is a jeering crowd gathering around the guillotine, and the foxgloves are standing tall and proud – except that they begin to look suspiciously like triffids. But it’s the outpouring of greenery that really gets me. It’s encroaching as I watch. When I make it to the top of lane, I wonder if I’ll be able to get home again without a machete.
How long have I got? I know, from bitter experience, with a garden far too large for me to manage, that a corner, left unsubdued for five minutes, will return to impenetrable wilderness the moment my back is turned. Put a rake or a trowel down and it won’t reappear until November. Leave the house for a fortnight’s holiday and I’d never find it again.
It’s all a wonderful disturbing reminder of how quickly our mighty works would be consumed if we faltered in our campaign for world domination. What has happened during lockdown? Is the Shard swamped in convolvulus and ivy yet? Has a sycamore grove taken root in front of No.10’s door? Blink, and it might. Mother Nature is advancing, all guns blazing, and she’s coming for YOU!