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Monday, March 28, 2011


So here we are again, on the threshold of another gardening year - and surely there is nothing that epitomises the gardener's feelings of hope and expectation more than a flower bud at the point of opening.

It's worth leaning on your garden spade, taking a breather from digging and contemplating the mind-boggling processes that have taken place inside a flower bud in the months, days and weeks that have led up to this moment. Somewhere in the apex of the plant tissues a group of cells has become committed to becoming a flower rather than developing into leaves. They've undergone a precise series of divisions and choreographed cell expansions that has produced an embryonic flower, tightly packaged in a bud that only requires a little warmth and a surge of water coursing through its tissues to expand into its full glory.

It's been weeks in the making - months in the case of bulbous species like bluebell whose flower initials were formed in the bulb last year - and as soon as the flower has done its job and attracted a pollinator it will collapse and die. I can think of nothing in nature where the combination of structure and function have evolved to an extent that is so aesthetically satisfying - or so fleeting; the product of hundreds of millions of years of evolution, the individual life of flower is measured in days.