Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Urban Jungle

I love coming across surprising little plants in unexpected places in the city. It reminds me of the incredible resilience of green things, as well as just how quickly they will take over once humans move out.

It seems that plants can make do with almost any growing condition. Here is Buddleia (Butterfly bush), looking perfectly happy on the narrow ledge of an old building in the center of Leuven. We coddle and fuss over these plants like new grandmas in Toronto, but here in Belgium they can break through concrete.

In a mild and wet climate such as Belgium's, any level or slightly angled surface can quickly be overtaken by vegetation. Moss is ubiquitous on almost any textured surface, while wider ledges can support a veritable garden. The side entrance of this local stone church was in full bloom this spring.

Old stone walls are also plant favourites, as well as tourist favourites. To me, there's nothing more romantic than an old stone wall, partially draped in wild vegetation. To most Belgians, they're really just old stone walls of doubtful structural stability. A friend has one in the backyard of her old farmhouse that I would kill for, and she can't wait to tear it down and repair it. Luckily the one around the old abbey in Leuven is still standing.

Flat ground is of course also a pretty good place for plants. This was an empty lot I spotted while riding my bike a few days ago. It looked absolutely brilliant, a perfect little jewel among cookie cutter houses and uniformly mowed lawns. Isn't it amazing that we spend so much time and effort to prevent this from happening?

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