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August 2012

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Summer driving

Shirley Lanigan wonders why does summer seldom live up to spring?

Driving about the country in spring, the distractions are everywhere. Years of sitting upstairs on the number 10 bus developed for me a habit for nosing into, or rather inspecting, the gardens of well-heeled neighbourhoods. Today, on an spring day, given a traffic jam on a leafy road in south Dublin, I am happy-as-Larry. Admiring mature camellias and magnolias, unfurling spring-bursting acers and dangling witch hazel flowers, placed beautifully in smartly designed gardens, it is hard not to be a danger to pedestrians and other road users.

In the countryside there are long stretches of road-verge vivid with yellow daffodils in such profusion that the temptation is to stop the car, find the person responsible, shake their hand and thank them. It is impossible not to get excited about the world in spring. The promise it dangles in front of us is alluring. But that excitement is often followed by developments that rarely live up to what spring led us to expect. Shocking as it sounds, even the roads of Dublin 4 and 6 combined fall a bit flat in the middle of the year.

To be fair, in the countryside, roadside daffodil displays are replaced by mounds of purple aubrietia and, late, long stretches of crocosmia and fuchsia that flank and beautify the roads of the south west. There are stone walls bursting with magnificent sea thrift on the coastal roads in west Waterford.

So why do gardens in town fail to impress the passer-by in summer? Summer is by far the best time to visit gardens properly - it is when the greatest number of plants is on display. But the fact remains that, from the point of view of pedestrian, passer-by, jogger or traffic-locked nosy person, summer gardens lack the power.

The reason is simple. It is the embarrassment of riches. Right now gardens are at their fullest and busiest. But the sheer amount of growth serves to hide and camouflage single, stand-out stars. Walking around a garden you see the handsome individual rose or stand of lilies, but from the point of view of the passer-by looking over the fence, the scrum is impenetrable.



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