11 MAY 1929, Page 8

The Presence of Flowers W ITH every spring that comes to

London, bringing its flowers in the places where we have always been accustomed to see them—in the parks, in the formal gardens—but passing practically flowerless, as though it had never been, in vast areas on both banks of the Thames, the good Londoner Must, We imagine, feel a little asfianied of his city: " We talk of England," he might reflect, " as being the garden of the world : London, then is . our garden capital. It certainly "pdssesses some -Open: spaces giVen over to the cultivation of flower's. But Londdn changes and just now is Changing rapidly. Old buildings are being pulled down and replaced by great new blocks of hotels and offices : but never by new garden's. Are we content that this should be so ? Have we, then, so many flowers already that we need not trouble about providing for more, no matter how much further the country may be- removed froni the city's centre ? "

However little value the average Londoner may attach to the presence of flowers in- the town, such questionS are obviously not to be answered by a direct negative ; and those who have the common interests of humanity at heait are naturally led on to speculate as to the posSi-- bilities which London—as also the great manufacturing' cities Of the north—does still possess, for development,. if not into a real garden-city, at least into a city of gardens' in the fullest sense of the phrase. Even yet it is not, we think, too late for that ; and surely it is worth while !

Merely to imagine a city of flowers is somehow refresh- ing : as a poet of our own times hai said :- I know not Seville,

Yet I seem to see The April roses Climb from tree to tree.

But imagination and poetry apart, there is, in the actual neighbourhood of flowers, an enlivening influence of which no one can be wholly unaware ; and least of all, perhaps, those whose working lives are ordinarily gloomy and hued.

A few industrial employers do indeed seem to have realized this—that the presence of flowers may mean an increase of. efficiency—and there is in England to-day at least one factory built in a garden. It would be an admirable thing if every new industrial enterprise :were to be launching along similar lines ; and if slogans are necessary for success in commerce, as they seem to be, we can think of none pleasanter and more refreshing, for employers, than one that would suitably link the wordS factory and garden. There again, however; as with the undirected growth of London, things have been allowed to go rather far for planning on a large scale ; and the problems now are not so much the laying out of " flowery pleasaunces," as of seizing opportunities to introduce flowers into odd corn-ers of the city, into derelict spaces and dark, murky ways as yet unfreshened by any breath of the green country.

The London Gardens Guild, it is true—to name one of the few semi-official bodies that has recognized and fully understands the want—set itself to bring this about a good many years ago ; and it has dOne much exeellent work since, in eo-operation with the local authorities, not only in taking over small waste spaces and converting them into islands of blossom, but in helping practically and encouraging poor people to begin with at least those cheapest and tiniest of gardens, window boxes : and the happy results achieved may be seen by anyone who cares to spend an afternoon wandering in one of the districts chiefly concentrated upon, say-Southwark or Bermondsey. Here are tulips, hyacinths, carnations, standing up like pillars of sunlight in the sooty air, where some years ago no flowers were to be seen, and not a soul but is happier for their presence. But the London Gardens Guild is not a body with unlimited means at its disposal ; nor is it always allowed to do as much as it would doubtless like to do ; and the truth is, a much more general organization in what may be called the policy of flower-insinuation is needed. We 'would suggest, in fact, that the London County Council itself should—to use a vigorous collo- quialism—get busy on the problem. What is there to prevent the official confiscation of such considerable waste sites as in these days of change are so frequently to be seen for let or sale in the central London areas, to be laid out as gardens at the public expense ? We hardly think that Londoners would object to paying for such a development.

It is now—we say it with sorrow—well over thirty years since a plea was first put forward in these columns that brighter-flowering trees, the pink cherry, the double- blossomed plum, should be planted in groves in urban places. Not much notice, if any, was taken of the sug- gestion—the writer was something over a third of a century ahead of his time—and it is to be regretted that we have still no groves of pink-flowering cherry trees in the heart of the town. But in proportion as the woods and fields retreat, swallowed up in acre on acre of desirable suburban residences, the need for keeping the spirit of the country in our midst becomes greater, and every tree and flower shining against the smoke-blackened stone increases in value, for social as well as health reasons, almost month by month. This may or may not be apparent to those who should, we think, know it and act upon it. If it should become apparent, then when next a suitable piece of ground becomes available for re- planning in the midst of the grey, let them at least con- sider the possibility of laying out there a new garden of fountains and purple wistaria trees, instead of erecting the usual uninspired statue of some pompous old gentle- man, or of allowing the ground to be snapped up by the first sharp-eyed Mr. Sartorius who may come along.