Green & Spring Life
April and May 2013
Well, I think I spoke a little too soon with the last posting – spring was certainly not quite on its way or, if it was, it’s taking a rather long time to actually arrive. Hard to believe that the clocks have gone forward and British summertime is here. Oh well – a late spring – it will be all the more exciting when it happens.
The garden is like a coiled spring waiting to bounce into action once the temperature finally goes up (it has been sticking firmly around zero for quite some time) and it looks like it’s going to be any time now… but for the moment I’m throwing logs on the fire and wearing several jumpers.
In the countryside…
The trees are still looking utterly wintery with barely a green shoot to be seen. However, the odd hawthorn bush in the hedges has sprouted some fresh green leaves (good to eat!) and the wild cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) is flowering. This is the relative of the purple-leaved plum tree (Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’) that can be seen flowering in towns and cities all over the country right now (it gets rather dull maroon leaves later). The purple plum is one of the earliest ornamental blossom trees along with the almond and has pretty pale pink flowers borne on its bare branches whereas its wild cousin has dainty white flowers on its bare twigs. It’s lovely to pick the just-opening flower stems and put them in a vase indoors where you can watch them unfold.
Violets, primroses and celandines are flowering along roadsides and hedges – the first two are well worth having in the garden but the last is a pesky nuisance that soon runs riot through the borders although its starry yellow flowers are rather adorable.
In the garden…
Despite the cold weather, the spring garden flowers are bravely appearing while the rest of the garden is pinched and unusually bare. The grass is still the dull green of winter, with no limey new growth on the shrubs yet but early daffodils (like the sweet little spiky Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’) and the earliest tulips (the diminutive Tulipa kaufmanniana types) are flowering, as are the lungworts (Pulmonarias), Scillas, Chinodoxas and early anemones (Anemone blanda). Many of the spring flowers are small and carried on low-growing plants. This is so they can quickly emerge from the ground, flower, attract insects and set seed before the canopy of leaves from trees and shrubs (that they are adapted to cohabit with) opens and shades them out. Most woodland plants flower in spring for this reason so it’s the loveliest time to visit woodland gardens and wild woods – don’t miss your local bluebell woods in May – it’s well worth a drive out from the city if you don’t live exactly near a wood.
A new hobby…
My sister decided that she’d had enough of looking at 2 tyres that had been dumped along the road into our village so she suggested that for her birthday party we go litter-picking. A group of us got together and amassed a horrific (but very satisfying) amount of rubbish. Apart from the tyres, there were bottles, cans, copies of free magazines that someone could not be bothered to deliver, wrappers, bits of car – even an old television. And this is all right outside a pretty Buckinghamshire village.
Our British countryside is so beautiful with its huge variety of wild things and wonderful changing seasons, it’s a privilege to be in it or to visit it. Why on earth do people chuck litter into it?
Anyway, it was the one day the sun shone this February (coincidence?) and we had a good work out (who needs the gym?) and celebrated with a glass of fizz. It’s a real pleasure to drive up the road into the village now and see it free of junk. Unfortunately, it’s become a bit of an addiction and I am now often sneaking off bin-bag in hand.
High spring (along with autumn and its fruits, berries and mushrooms) is the forager’s delight. Hedges, verges, fields and woods are full of fresh young foliage perfect for cooking, turning into soups or salads – wild garlic, chickweed, alexanders, hawthorn, nettles, sorrel - even some of the really annoying weeds like ground elder, dandelion and fat hen can be eaten, so get gobbling and fill up with vitamins. If you are unsure what to eat, you could go on a foraging course, they are becoming quite widespread and you might meet someone really interesting.
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