23 Sep 2015

Urban Belles

Urban belles are no urban legends. You may call them urban faeries for they are agents of beautification. They are right up my street - and yours - and commonly found, should we take the time to adjust our eyesight and look at the unseen! An act of nature catching the controlled human mind off guard, seeping into the nooks and crannies of brick and mortar, disused land and unloved spaces, spreading a little loveliness and love wherever they are 'allowed' to, which most often occurs in uncouth spaces. Those are places of unloveliness and lovelessness, with limited human interference or temporary respite therefrom: industrial compounds, wastelands, building sites, train tracks, dockyards, disused/ off-the-tourist-trail public areas, and 'neglected' planters and parterres.

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." - Camille Pissarro

Against herbicidal odds and other wildlife-unfriendly signs of human intervention, wild flowers manage to come into their own, aided by the pollinating magic of bees, butterflies and consorts. Their seeds are carried through by a whimsical breeze or a bird or rodent. Seeds ensconce into a crack, with a little soil underfoot to take root, and a little sprinkling of rain and smattering of sunshine for stimulation. Seeds will crack open and a stalk peep out of a crack or other repository. The plant will gather strength and grow, bud, blossom and propagate, offering its all to whoever pays attention to its splashes of natural beauty and sweeps of untamed mane.

How odd then - I might hear you say - that if lovelessness and unloveliness are associated with untidiness and uncaring, love and loveliness are associated with tidiness and care, and everything in its place, according to the reorganisation of nature under the urban model. There nature is harnessed, like it is on a leash. The only accepted representatives of greenery within the urban environment are domesticated and engineered elements of flora, generations away from their gene pool and those distant cousins brought to us by Mother Nature.

Nature on a leash: tamed and clipped and pruned and corsetted and restrained and contained, and aggregated, with colours and shapes tampered with, and temperaments subdued. Let us note in passing the pumped-up begonias, oversized marigolds, bicolor petunias, same-height tulips, redesigned jonquils and unscented carnations. And let's compare their visual appeal to that of the wild flowers, in all of their spontaneity of being: spirited, unstructured, convoluted, unexpected, unpredictable and other lovely inconsistencies. I'll have wild and unleashed every day!

The wildflower photography by Magali Roucaut takes us on a fresh-eyed photographic discovery of Paris, with a luscious journey to boot, where wildflowers take centrestage over buildings and monuments. Her website Paris Fleurs Sauvages is testimony to the surprising biodiversity found within the French capital and its immediate suburbs, and all those wild flowers will surely be the most valuable contributors to the renowned Parisian honey being produced from beehives placed in the most unusual places, like on the rooftops of the Opéra Garnier! The wild flowers were pictured by Magali between 2007 and 2013, and a selection of them are currently displayed as part of the Paris Fleurs Sauvages exhibition, Chai du Parc de Bercy, Paris, until 4th October 2015. (Original source: Paris ZigZag).

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