So there I am wandering around twitter as I often do and I stumble across a story about spinach being able to send emails.* No it wasn't April 1st, this is a real thing apparently. Now I do not pretend to understand the ins and outs of it, but apparently if the spinach detects certain compounds in the ground then it is wireless transmitted to a computer and this information is of course very useful. The computer that of course I want to call 'Deep Thought', but most likely is not.
This set me to wondering as I stared idly out of the window, after many years of writing about the Irritating Plant of the Month, where generally the plants are screaming at me to treat them better; plus some years writing letters to the garden where we discuss many things gardening and otherwise: if the plants in the garden could email me what would they say?
Would it be something along the lines of:
Alison - I have noticed that the hedges have not been cut in a while, please see to it.
Alison - I think you prefer the hedges to us as you are always cutting them. Stop it.
To whom it might concern - who are you? Why do you keep wandering around here and sticking plants in randomly, we were happy as we were.
Dear Mandy - would you like the opportunity of a lifetime, we have a seed bank initiative we think you would not like to miss.
Or would they write and tell me what they needed. Would I get reminders to feed them, to mow the lawns or to leave the lawns alone. Would the trees reach out and say they needed a prune and would the roses send messages of love reminding me that their scent was at peak perfection?
Whilst this could be useful, I'd like to think that my plants are more profound, nay deeper, than this and would want to discuss more things with me than just their immediate needs. I would love them to write about the life they have that is unknown and unseen by me. The life that exists in the soil and the water and the air. The insects who visit and the birds and squirrels who chatter through the garden, forming an important part of the eco-system that keeps the garden's world in balance. Maybe it would write to me about its history, all that it has seen since before it was a garden. As a reader of Tolkien since I was very young I firmly believe in Ents and that the trees around my garden see all and store the collective memory of all that they have witnessed. The land around here was largely agricultural until the 1930s and there is evidence in the deeds to the house that the poplar trees that form part of the wider boundaries were planted at that time. This was the start of a large expansion of between the wars building that meant that what had been village was becoming a small town. I often think of what this garden will have seen, the hooves, paws and feet that have walked over it through the centuries. I would love the plants to email me to tell me stories of these histories absorbed through their roots with the mycorrhizal networks sending messages through to my network.
At the precise moment I write this I start to think of various dystopian sci-fi films and get a little nervous, why would I assume my garden loves me? They may regard me as a disruptive parasite, leaching off them. What if the plants disapprove of me, judge me and find me wanting? I think we have a great relationship where we both look after each other, maybe they barely tolerate me? There am I thinking that I am beneficent and they are shuddering and cowering as I walk past with my secateurs in hand. When I think they are relieved as I remove a dandelion fixed into the root system of the rose, do both plants shiver with fear thinking their time is up? Does the rose miss the dandelion and feel a wound that will not heal?
On rethinking this I think I might have to unplug the broadband....
Stay safe all and be kind.
*If you want to read the original article it can be found here: https://www.euronews.com/living/2021/02/01/scientists-have-taught-spinach-to-send-emails-and-it-could-warn-us-about-climate-change