Sandy’s Garden: Peace Be Upon You

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

“May to ‘handbag’ Brussels in final bid to save her deal,” shouts the principal headline on the front page of my Sunday newspaper of choice.

“Russia linked to two more killings,” claims another.

“Meghan loses second close aide as rumours grow of ‘Duchess difficult’,” is on page 3. One must turn to page 23 to find, “Police flood into Paris as rioters set streets ablaze,” a story which shares the page with, “Saudi royals live in terror of crown prince,” while on page 25 we learn that, “Isis massacre survivor guards victims’ bones.” And we haven’t even mentioned President Trump. Season of peace and goodwill? Not quite!

Yet my choice of plant of the week is one which might usefully be added to Santa’s list of desirable presents for an entire tranche of the world’s ‘leaders’, if dishonesty, fraud, moral turpitude and megalomania are characteristics which qualify a politician to be deemed a ‘leader.’ I noticed them in one of my local supermarkets when I was admiring the beautiful poinsettias which grace the shelves of most, if not all, local supermarkets, all that I have seen being properly displayed well clear of the doors in a warm, draught-free environment … and I hope, dear reader, that you refuse to buy any that are in the open air, right beside the main doors or close to the freezer aisles, where the plants have almost certainly developed a fatal dose of pneumonia. My eye lighted upon a small display of very attractive peace lilies, a plant which is described, on the website of the Flower Council of Holland, as having, “green, shiny leaves, creamy white spadix and pointed spathe, (which make) the peace lily a real beauty: but you are underestimating this flower if you judge it on its beauty alone. There is more to the peace lily. It is known for its air purifying characteristic, so in the purer air you will feel better and it will improve your daily performance.”

Well now, how much safer and better off we would all be were our leaders to place their gifts from Santa in a prominent position in their offices, allowing the plants to improve their performance and clear the atmosphere between them, their colleagues and persons holding views inimical to their own! Mark you, the Flower Council of Holland nominates the peace lily as, ‘Houseplant of the month of June’, which begs the question, “Why is it on the shelves in a Scottish supermarket in mid-December?

The peace lily comes originally from Mexico south of the Tropic of Cancer, where the plants enjoy a tropical rainforest environment with high humidity and yearly median temperature between 24°C and 28 °C … say between 75°F and 82°F in old money … so it’s not going to live long outdoors in Scotland in any month of the year and must be grown as a houseplant here – as indeed it must in Holland, although it will enjoy an away-day holiday outdoors in its pot on a sheltered, shady spot when the summer temperature permits. It was unknown in Europe before 1870 but has become a popular houseplant, partly because of its tall, graceful appearance and partly because it’s fairly undemanding of its carers. It wants to be in a shady but well-lit location, doesn’t demand really tropical temperatures and will thrive at between 15°C and 23°C and, while wanting lots of water on a weekly basis, wilting if its carer forgets this, it will revive after its thirst is satisfied. After flowering for something of the order of six to eight weeks, it will have a rest for a couple of weeks and will then begin the three-month process of developing new shoots to produce new flowers, which are actually tiny and found inside the spadix - that big, pointy bit which we admire. Given its popularity as a houseplant, it will be no surprise that nurseries grow them all year round, which is why we can buy them in December and can hope that Santa will put them into politicians’ offices!