With Southwark bells and snail shells. The Poetry School (where I work) and the people behind London Open Garden Squares weekend collaborated on a scheme to put 16 poets-in-residence in London gardens over the summer. I was a guest of Nomura International plc, whose 6th floor roof garden overlooks the Thames in the centre of the city. I spent the weekend talking to hundreds of garden visitors, and will be combining their observations into a poem over the next month or so. A drizzly day on Sunday brought all the snails out – and a proper Oranges and Lemons-style ringing of Southwark Cathedral bells.
As well as formal planting, the garden has a veg patch, established and maintained by the three women who run the company switchboard. When I initially visited Nomura’s garden, the first thing I spotted was the corks on the end of the canes, protecting the eyes of unwary produce-pickers. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better metaphor for the garden’s transformative power – and I started to think about what would happen if this power started to spread. What if we could grow skyscraper gardens up and down the entire length of the Thames?
For the Rooftop Gardeners of Nomura plc
Each time champagne shakes on a deal, someone
saves the popped corks for blunting the ends
of the raspberry canes. Once, a banker’s jacket,
left for a lunchtime on a propped-up spade,
kept the fruit unpecked by birds for weeks.
Pea-shoots in polystyrene coffee cups
crowd a trading desk. Outside, the river –
that wild water feature – takes the seed-heads
blown from the roof, the leaf-mould and blossom,
the gold-dust pollen, and deposits them downstream.