How Does Your Garden Grow?

snailsWith 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?

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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.

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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.

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