The hot summer has added the hollyhocks, only occasionally it shines on Zurich's Limmatquai still in purple, pink and pink. For laymen, the square around the trees at the roadside in early August may look a little sad: bleached stems, brown grass, withered leaves. It's a gift for Maurice Maggi. As the cars rush past him, the 64-year-old pinches off the yellow-brown capsules of hollyhocks, popularly known as mallows, opens them and shakes the small brown seeds into his cloth bag. The passers-by who watch the man in the hat and the colorful striped shirt look confused. What does the guy want with the weed?
What they do not suspect: Without him, there would not be a single mallow in all of Zurich, at least not outside the gardens and parks. Because Maurice Maggi has sown them: in the middle of the city, in cracks and niches, on traffic islands and gravel areas, around trees and lanterns, under benches and bushes. For 35 years he has not tired of bragging Zurich every year with colorful flowers. In the meantime Zurich tourism is even promoting its mallows, they have become a kind of symbolic city flower, a sign of modern urbanity. Even on architectural drawings of construction projects, they appear.
The mallow is not alone on the roadside: Wegwarte, yarrow, ribwort, wild carrot, fennel, thistle, meadow sage, labweed, clover – Maurice Maggi has around 50 different varieties of seeds in his cloth bag, which he always carries with him. Some he has bought, others he gets sent by people who support his work, most of which he reads himself. From March to October, he picks up his bag every time he goes for a walk and spreads the mixture where something colorful is good for the city. The seeds he has selected so that it blooms at best from May to the end of September. Actually, he does not think much of the rules, but he still gave a bit of order to the chaos: Locals must be the plants he chooses. And sown only in public space.
He consciously drops some seeds in certain quarters. He has planted a lot of horseradish in the Wiedikon, a neighborhood with many Jewish inhabitants, because he knows that the traditional dish “gefilte Fisch” is often served with a vinaigrette of beetroot and the attrition of this root. And spice stew in Sihlfeld for Tamil families scattered, which occupies a special role in their kitchen.
Nobody had ever heard of Urban Gardening when he started it
And why the effort? His city was simply too gray for him, back in 1984, when he still worked as a gardener. He also found it dull that he and his colleagues had to remove the weeds around the trees every June that the town council had planted along the streets. When he came across a bed of blooming hollyhocks in a garden, he read the seeds and began to scatter them. “I wanted to know how the city reacts when there is no wild plant growing on the green spaces, but a wild cultivated plant,” says Maggi. The mallow is already 1.50 meters tall, it is difficult to cut them off.
He sprinkled the first flower seeds on his doorstep and along his daily walks, as well as in front of his friends' houses, so that they would have something to look forward to on their way to work. And lo and behold, in the spring it was blooming, the gardeners left the mauve, mowing around it. The local papers wondered at the power of nature, which suddenly regains its space. Only years later learned Maggi that the gardening office at that time received many calls from citizens who thanked for the great action.
However, nobody planted flowers for a long time. His secret, after all, he, the gardener, thereby violated the city's care concept, which usually cuts off everything that grows wild in June. Since then, “Malven-Maurice”, as he has long been known, packs his plant bag every spring and takes a long walk.
Maggi is a city dweller who even smuggled the mallow to New York
Today, the big cities are full of raised beds, beehives, insect hotels and vertical gardens. But when he started, they had never heard of “Seedbombs” or “Guerilla Gardening.” “30 years ago, for half an hour, I had to explain why what I do is so important,” says Maggi. Under the name “flower graffiti”, people would have gotten it faster, meanwhile, he's no longer alone with his green thumb. The zeitgeist has caught up with him, there are more and more imitators. “I can see immediately which plants are not mine, some varieties are not in my assortment,” says Maggi. The more, the better, he thinks – after all, one works for the same thing.
The same means: the cities should deal more carefully with their rooms, so his demand. Every seal must be substantiated, too much care effort in 2019 must no longer be an argument against the green. After all, flowers and plants are not only pretty to look at, they provide animals of all kinds with living space, provide clean air and affect the mind of the people. You could achieve a lot with little effort, because he is sure. If you do not screw it up like the newly designed Europaallee, not far from the central station. Concrete, glass, metal on 78,000 square meters: The project was to become the symbol of a modern city, instead it hailed protest and criticism. Now think about making pots with mallows as compensation, Maggi says. “Will not work, mallows are deep roots.”
He never got the idea of leaving Zurich. “I'm a city dude, I did not like the countryside.” The idealist who smuggled the mallow all the way to New York to scatter it there is pleasantly modest. Focusing on himself does not mean anything to him. He just does what he thinks is right. And happy when he sees people on the street pulling seeds from the mallows for home. However, after all these years, it still amazes him how little flowers are picked. “I would not mind doing that, it's collective property.”
Maurice Maggi will travel through Zurich with his white cotton sack until October, when the winter breaks. He does not even think about quitting, he does not get enough of sowing. “As long as I can move, mallows will grow in Zurich.”
. (tagsToTranslate) Life and Society (t) Sustainability (t) Zeitgeist (t) Style (t) Süddeutsche Zeitung