Towns and villages in Europe attract admiration not just because they’re historic, charming and old. Wherever we went in Ireland, England and France, old buildings, bridges, lamp-posts, doorways and shopfronts were vibrant with the colour and fragrance of flowers. It was an exemplary demonstration of the art of public space.
We were introduced to the practice on our arrival in Dublin where almost every pub (and there are lots of them) boasts a display of hanging baskets and pots spilling over with brightly coloured blooms. A profusion of colour, the hanging baskets are remarkable. These are not your garden variety trailing annuals. The flowers are super-vigorous, super-sized and super-abundant, thanks clearly to lots of care, plenty of water and mild summers.
Apart from being inspired to try something similar in my own backyard (yet to come to fruition) it made me compare the scene there with our mostly mundane streetscapes back home.
I’m not suggesting we should slavishly emulate other cultures, and our hot, dry Australian climate is not exactly amenable to prolific displays of petunias, begonias and the like in the streets. It takes lots of loving care, not to mention water, to achieve the exuberance of the displays we saw in Europe. Even so, there are flowering plant varieties and Australian natives that can withstand harsher conditions and surely there are some town-proud residents around who’d be willing to devote a little time to making their streets more beautiful. Arguably the tourist traffic in Europe is such that they’ve got a vested interest in beautifying their spaces but I don’t know that their outlay of time and effort is more warranted than it would be here if we adopted a bit of creative flair.
Most suburban residents take pride in presenting an attractive front garden to the world and are prepared to expend some funds and energy in doing so. It’s not a giant step from that to working together to present an attractive street, shopping strip, town or city. The “wow factor” is considered the holy grail in fashion, food, the arts and many other aspects of our lives. Can’t we put some of that into what surrounds us every day? It can be as simple as some of the ideas we saw in Europe – a bicycle propped against a shopfront, wicker baskets bursting with brilliant blooms. The message is that the shop-owner cares and shopping there is likely to be a pleasant experience.
Enough preaching. Enjoy the pictures, but think about the fact that it doesn’t have to be spring to smell the roses.
by Anne Green