After she came to visit the lab where I was working, Rosie was very pleased to note the proximity to the Botanical Gardens in Leipzig. In fact the Physics dept. (where I was based) and the Chemistry depertment are back to back– and directly beside the gardens. The only department with a better position (from the perspective of seed harvesting) is the small building of the Biology dept. within the gardens themselves.
PHOTO OUT OF MY LAB WINDOW GOES HERE IF I CAN EVER FIND IT
Figure 1: The view from my office window.
In fact I went to the gardens frequently, for study breaks and to meet with friends for a walk and talk. Sometimes the small gate in the fence by Physics was open and I could just wander in directly, sometimes I had to make the one-minute walk down the pavement to the public entrance (and sometimes I just hopped over the wall). The gardens are quite small but there are a few nice nooks and crannies to hang out in.
It must have been larch-seed season, becuase Rosie sent me a couple of polite reminders that I had promised her that I would send her over a box of seeds from the garden, so I took Ursula Ludwig with me (who has a keen eye for colour and a green finger for her houseplants) and went a-hunting. We were armed with a canvas tote-bag or two and the small box (I forget the provenance of the box, but have a distinct feeling it is relevant) that was to be sent.
Cunningly, we disguised ourselves as normal park-goers, choosing not to don the khaki coveralls or carry the extendible branch-lopper of the inveterate forester. Let me imagine I was wearing my oldest, dustiest tweed jacket and my favourite red-brown shirt with the pinstripes, and those huge green cordoroy trousers that in fact I know I threw away long before. And Ursula– shall we say she was wearing a long black skirt, a green jumper (Johnstons of Elgin of course), covered with a black trenchcoat and a red beret.
Not wanting to scare away our quarry, like an inept and inexperienced hunter, we chose a rather roundabout route through the gardens, stopping here and there to take a few seeds from a particularly beautiful-looking tree (or simply beautiful seeds, some like little heads of cotton we couldn’t resist, others as long as runner-beans but fatter, which rattled satisfyingly when shaken). But soon we were upon it– or rather directly underneath it. Truth be told it wasn’t likely to run off very fast– the target was the largest, oldest tree in the garden, a larch with an unusual red timbre to it’s leaves, nay, it’s very bark seemed to shine with it.
Now was the moment! Out disguise has gotten us so far, but we had to throw caution to the wind in the end and grab greedily from the huge clumps of seeds hanging down over the heads of the other park-goers. Big handfuls of brown seedlets, mostly doublers, though some spun down around us in singles as well. In our excitement we mounted a rockery to reach higher into the branches, and I do believe Ursula may have have ended up on my shoulders at one point.
Needless to say we filled our vessels rapidly, and brimming with vim and verve we left the park. Winter was coming on, and we strolled through the old city cemetery– now a public park– at the back of the gardens before heading home to patch up the box for the post.