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  • Writer's pictureEmily Haysom


I have a fondness for wild things and escapees.

In a landscape, my eye is drawn to the fuzzy edges for this is often where most life is happening. Plants are knitting together in a wild tapestry, negotiating for space, shading, sheltering each other, often competing for resources. It can be a tussle or a harmonious marriage....

Derelict building plots are the finest canvas for observing natural processes along with the memories of people’s gardens, churned up through clearance. The waiting time before the build, the land explodes with an abundance of plants.

I remember the old house at this site in Ely. Recently, I noticed with some sadness that it had been demolished, builders still in the process of tearing up the cottage garden. Now a few months later the lupins are defiant, free range in the spontaneous meadow... before the build.

A couple of years ago I was taken by this derelict station garden in Impington with its rampant sweetpeas. This is an area with links to the Unwin family of sweetpea fame. Who planted these sweetpeas, now released from tidy beds, forming their own jungle?

French landscape architect Gilles Clement talks in the ‘Third Landscape’ of the importance of unattended spaces - neglected land, railway embankments, places left behind, and how we need to allow for these spaces within our designed landscapes. He notes how they often are much richer in biodiversity than any land maintained by human use.

‘ From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…’ Gilles Clement

I went to a meeting recently about a sown meadow, successfully growing orchids, lovingly tended by nature volunteers. We discussed the difficulty of establishing meadows. Where the grass had been suppressed by weedkiller the stripes were still visible. I noted an area the other side of the path full of similar species (bar the orchids perhaps), rich in wildflowers. I asked the question, ‘was this part of the sown area?’ No, was the reply. It’s an area similarly full of cowslips that in the late summer I love for its Daucus carota, and magenta Knapweed... an area not sown by human hands, just doing its thing.

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