What is a Lavender Scavenger, besides a bad name for an indie band or a misguided cocktail idea? Well, it describes the person doing some urban foraging on Karl-Marx-Allee, while I was enjoying a sparkling rhubarb juice on the front terrace of Café Tasso…
I was observing the various people and dogs enjoying the four scrappy fountains that adorn the rather brutal architecture of this huge boulevard where I live. Each fountain is simply a shallow square of water with a single plume of water squirting out of the middle, surrounded by the same random mix of scrappy little pink roses, weeds and lavender that populate the Rose Garden directly next to my house. The plants are only pruned and weeded about once a year so they are usually in a very disorderly shape.
As I sat there, I noticed a burly young-ish guy with a large, sturdy white bag and a pair of garden shears bending repeatedly over the plants. Further observation revealed that he was harvesting the lavender – and he was not being shy about it. Bunches and bunches of purple buds disappeared into his big white bag, which looked quite full. I thought about sneaking closer and taking his picture, but soon he decided he had gathered enough and abruptly hopped on his bike and hurried across the street. I could only catch a picture of some remaining lavender buds:
I would dearly love to know what project he had planned with his urban lavender! Is he making a fragrant bath for his loved one? Sewing scented eye pillows to sell at the flea market? Making lavender lemonade? Perhaps he planned to brew lavender syrup, as we recently did with elderflowers and lemons:
I would be hesitant to drink or bathe in anything that grew right on this street, with its emissions from six lanes of traffic. But I know of a couple other areas with lavender that I don’t think anybody would miss. Maybe I’ll go gather some of my own this weekend. Although an acquaintance gave me a terrible dressing down the other day when I merely toyed with the idea of plucking tulips that, apparently randomly and not by any design, grow on public property and traffic islands.
What do you think? Is public foraging a healthy way to interact with public space? Or is a dangerous move towards trees stripped bare, with a few people selfishly enjoying the fruits and flowers while the rest are robbed of beautiful green spaces?