Three days short of British Summertime; the turn of the year’s tide; and today it is raining and invasively cold. As good a day as any to reminisce about Lisbon – glorious, tumbling, effervescent Lisbon – and her shimmering botanic gardens on a hilltop.
I think perhaps I was a botanist in a past life. Nothing calms me as much as a walk through a garden in the sun and in my dreams I often find myself sleep walking through forests and open meadows, carrying armfuls of zinnias and geraniums, cataloguing flowers until sleep takes me under.
In reality, in this life I am blessed enough to live, my forays into botany rarely last long. I once killed a bonsai tree in its youth (neglect) and I always leave my plants in bad company when I travel (I never learn). At university, the second year, a clumsy-thumbed housemate murdered my red geraniums by taking them on a road trip to London (at the time I was so upset, it did not occur to me to ask – who takes red geraniums on road trips to London?)
I got over the geraniums and moved to Regensburg, finding profound delight in furnishing my postage stamp-sized terrace with a delicious array of potted plants: burgeoning feverfew in their egg yolk glory, an ersatz round of red geraniums and a single magenta rose. A boy I then adored came to stay in the spring and trod on my feverfew, taking out a large portion of my red geraniums with them. We argued and he left in a hurry for reasons both unrelated and entirely linked to the flower debacle.
So perhaps it’s easy to see why I like botanic gardens. All the work done for me, but I still get to smell the air aromatic with camellias and magnolia, to soak in the green and fulfill most of my I-should-have-been-a-florist pipe dreams. Lisbon and its gardens had me hook, line and sinker; a microcosm of the town itself, they were disheveled and consequently lovely. All climbing orange trees, tangled lianas and towering palm trees. An accompaniment of stray tortoiseshell cats, glimpses of the city from on high and paper white sheets blowing in the wind – and, well, I had to be dragged from the place.
Floral antidepressants, always.