Newer readers might not be aware of my contentious school project to protect the beautiful and critically endangered Centaurea tchihattcheffi (yanardöner in Turkish). The natural habitat of this nearly extinct species of the cornflower family is in the vicinity of our school, and for the past few years two of our science teachers and I have bravely fought to propagate seeds on our campus (click here for photos and text from a happier time).
The flower's habitat is threatened by large scale agriculture, Ankara's urban sprawl and, ironically, its failure to be noticed (behavior which I have commented on before). After first collecting seeds in the wild (natural habitat pix here), we carefully prepared a plot close enough to be observed, but just out of the school bus and recess commotion. For a couple years following, we (that is, I) collected seeds, cleaned and sorted them, and then recruited students and colleagues to get a little dirty in the name of species diversity, sowing the seeds in our gradually increasing garden.
Who would have thought three years ago that we ourselves were a threat to our centaurea's survival?
Like I wrote recently concerning the local aversion to disorder, straight lines and right angles are the norm for flower gardens, and our nonconformist self-seeding weeds were a threat to that system. Our well meaning grounds crews and I were constantly in a race, they to restore order, and I to protect disheveled nature. As soon as I got one crew and crew chief on board with the project, they would be reassigned and new workers would show up, hustling to clean up the mess their predecessors apparently had left behind.
I was away for the entire fall semester this year, a critical time for fending off welldoers. When I returned to school in February I was disheartened to see that orderliness had finally won out: the garden was neatly hoed and planted with shrubs in straight little rows. The notion of death by PBL crossed my mind.
A few weeks ago I finally went out to see if anything had survived, and felt the faintest whisper of hope when I found that there were, in fact, a few buds creeping out of the ground. I went back today and saw that quite a few more were popping up at the edges of the plot. I found the newest commander of the gardeners (the 4th in the lifetime of this project) and together we assessed the state of the plot and agreed on a plan and a compromise: once the centaurea were in bloom and easy to spot, workers could go in among them and pull up the other less desirable weeds.
While we were examining the grounds, we found that two had bloomed. I took some quick shots with my mobile phone, as evidence that our project had survived all our best efforts at project based learning.
The title of this post is adapted from the poem Mending Wall, by Robert Frost. The photo is unretouched, taken under heavily overcast skies.