Flowers make us happy - Christopher Woodward

Director of the Garden Museum in Lambeth, London, which explores and celebrates British gardens and gardening through its collection, temporary exhibitions, events & garden.

A city dweller, Christopher takes great pleasure in our capital’s green spaces, from the wide sweeps of London Fields and its flowering summer meadow, to the glimpses of overflowing urban gardens on his walks around his neighbourhood streets.

“In May and early June the flowers I like are the roses which spill over the walls of neighbours’ front gardens. In the old flat in Notting Hill and, now, in south London, I love walking through the neighbourhood and, however cracked the stucco front or dustbinned-up the yard, roses bloom regardless. Thorny, sexy, urban survivors, who have long forgotten whoever planted them. And the hideous red tea rose you’d cringe at in your garden looks all right when swooning over the railings. I can’t think of any other city in the world whose streets put on this floral passeggiata.

And I take secateurs in my pocket. My elder sister was (is) very pretty, and admirers would come to our suburban drive to pay court. One had a car, another got tickets for Duran Duran. But a third, whom my mother called ‘the rough boy’, turned up with a bunch of roses. Which won her over. She said: ‘It’s so romantic. He stole them from an old lady’s front garden’.

So ever since, stolen flowers have seemed the most romantic. Each night, I take a rose or two which lean into the street home. No one has ever shouted but if you get a dirty look I think of that scene in that sweet Italian movie Il Postino when the protégé steals the master poet’s lines to recite to a girl, claiming them as his own. ‘Poems belong to those who need them’, he says in his defence.

Flowers belong to those who need them’."



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