The place to find green all year round in Malta isn’t the countryside, but our manicured urban areas. Here, roundabouts sport neat turf, irrigation sprinklers (sometimes on in the full heat of summer at 1pm for some reason), evergreen trees and a variety of annual colour – flowering rosemary, gaudily bright pelargoniums and various bedding plants.
The area of even turf can be so large on some roundabouts that kids in the back of my car often remark that they’d make tempting places to play football. Pitches here are Astroturf or gritty dust bowls usually.
Where do Malta’s green fingers come from?
The colour and variety of our roundabouts changes almost monthly as the public-private cooperative, Environmental Landscapes Consortium (ELC), that maintains them, seems to have a constant supply of seasonal plants from its Wied Incita Nursery on the Attard-Mdina/Rabat road. And, of course, replanting all the time keeps people nicely employed. I do wonder at tender pansies out in late February when they can be beaten down in an instant by the vicious rains and high winds we can still have this time of year.
A delight for drivers
Since Malta has large urban areas, with towns cheek by jowl, and a high density of cars on the road per head of population (Malta ranks 5th worldwide for cars per 1,000 people) we drivers spend a lot of time crawling along. So, we’ve have come to appreciate the greening of our urban landscape that has been going on since 2003 when ELC started up. For an interesting read on Malta’s car density issue, click here, and scroll down.
The approach to Valletta along St Anne street, Floriana is always a riot of colour despite registering some of Malta’s worst emission and particulate pollution. The roundabouts in Qormi, another heavily urban area, are a welcome sight as are the planted-up central reservations on the Regional Road. Even several countryside verges have had a make-over.
We’ve also bougainvillea attempting to clad the unsightly walls on the Kappara hill part of the Regional Road. How they will be watered in so dangerous a place till their roots find solace deep below Tarmac, I don’t know.
Urban safety first, urban plants second
In fact, the only negative thing I can say about the whole urban verge and roundabout greening is the traffic hazard posed by the badly parked vans of the maintenance staff or bowsers. It’s quite common to round a bend or emerge from a tunnel and suddenly find a maintenance van parked in your lane without prior warning. A few cones aren’t enough; we need notices saying ‘lane closed, men at work in 500m’, to give us time to change lane safely and avoid screeching to a halt with the potential of a mass of ‘front-to-rear’ bumps. I am waiting for the day an ELC man or a bowser guy is mowed down too.
We like the green, but with a few more cones, some commonsense and caution, we’d like the greening that much more.