Summer in the city: the colours of London

From window boxes to back yards and green parks, this season fills the streets with flowers

Geraniums are red, lobelia are blue. My first job in London was at a posh plant nursery. I worked outside in the square selling plants for gardens and window boxes. I would take my lunch break in Holland Park. I was a teenager. I was squatting and super happy.

Window-box flowers were mostly geraniums, pelargoniums, lobelia, hanging petunia. Geraniums were red, sometimes ivy-leaf and hanging. Lobelia were dark blue and trailing, same as the petunias.

London plant habits were new to me. Kensington neighbours would buy bigger, better boxes than those I’d sold to the people next door. I’d never known gardening could be competitive. Or disposable. There was a skip out the back for invalided plants that looked sick or strange, or had fallen over in the sun.

I had a front and a back garden, and a bright room with a big bay window. My home became a hospital. Indoor and outdoor azaleas returned to life, revived in buckets of water. A bay tree with an unruly shape was planted out. Half-broken plants were healed. I gave my overspill to neighbours. My flat was full of life.

Every early summer I go to Camden Garden Centre. It is a charitable trust training unemployed young people. It is also sells good seed and plants. As always I want to overstock my pots and window boxes. As always my wife resists. As always she (mostly) wins.

This year our window boxes return to red geraniums, blue trailing lobelia and petunias. Henri pots them up. I do the heavy lifting. There is a new tall, white wavy daisy on the roof terrace to match the crimson-tinted Spanish, self-seeding between the tiles. There are six itinerant tomato pots, two each of three varieties. And there’ll soon be dahlias. My London summer blooms.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com

Contributor

Allan Jenkins

The GuardianTramp

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