It’s spring blossom time. One of the first out in the hedgerows was the blackthorn. Contrary to the similar hawthorn, blackthorn gets the flowers out first, with leaves following later. At a distance, there is an ephemeral feeling to the vista presented by blackthorn en masse, as in the featured image from Anderton Country Park.
Closer in the individual branches have their own lacy beauty, especially set against the recent blue sky.
Blackthorn is also called sloe, and its fruits are used to make sloe gin. And the wood was traditionally found suitable for making walking sticks.
There was plenty of yellow common gorse on display at Anderton Country Park recently, but I was puzzled by this rather pretty red-flecked plant – a single specimen. A web search suggests it could be gorse bitter pea, an Australian flowering plant, quite out of place in the English countryside – but very pretty nevertheless. This is in a recently regenerated part of the woodland; maybe someone, or some animal/bird, put it there?
It’s wild garlic time in the woods, with that strangely garlicy-but-not aroma. With dappled shade, there can be strikingly lit patches amid the gloom.
It lifts the heart, makes the spirit sing, to see such patches. I almost get that sense also with the photograph. But actually it doesn’t bear technical scrutiny. The contrast is too much, the light too bright, the shade too dark. So nothing’s very sharp, if you look up close. Never mind, I love it!
This plant is also called ramsons or wood garlic. The latter seems most appropriate.
Following success in identifying the cuckoo flower, what were these similar small white flowers seen in a huge mass under trees during our next escape to Anderton Country Park? These had a yellow centre.
The obvious answer did not immediately occur to me. Scanning through the wildflower book it became clear from the shape of the leaves that it is a wild strawberry, also appropriately known as the woodland strawberry.
Interestingly, my telephoto close-up attempt did not work well – if you look closely, what is best in focus is the grass stalks rather than the flowers.
The other day we heard our first cuckoo of spring, in fact the first for several years, in Anderton Country Park. Cuckoos were ubiquitous in my youth, but alas no longer.
We then saw these small white flowers by the canal, which I had seen other years and been meaning to look up. What a surprise, when they turned out to be cuckoo flowers – so named because their appearance tended to coincide with the hearing of the first cuckoos!
Anderton Country Park is now resplendent with one of the later spring delights, hawthorn blossom. While growing up I remember its being called ‘May blossom’ – this is also known as the May tree. Its appearance is the herald of the coming summer.
Some of the trees or bushes are almost overloaded with glorious white blossom.
An unfortunate accompaniment is the really heavy pungent scent, which is not good for the hay fever.
According to Wikipedia, “the young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible, are known as “bread and cheese” in rural England” – indeed I recall that this is precisely what my father called it.
This plant is ubiquitous in our garden, the ultimate survivor which spreads rapidly in some areas every year. The patches are quite pleasing, with green variegated leaves all year and splashes of purple flower in spring/summer. But get in close and it’s magnificent!
The posh name is lamium purpureum, and the popular name is dead nettle, due to its resemblance to the common nettle but lack of a sting. With such close-up beauty, its third name, purple archangel, seems far more appropriate!
It’s difficult to believe that we would only just be home from Houston according to our original travel plans. We’re just left with family Zoom time and memories, including this pretty bottle brush tree, one of my more successful ventures into gardening in Houston. This one flowers well, early in March. It’s easy to see why it has the name.
These plants originate from Australia. They appear to be happy with the Houston climate.
The most striking flowers in the garden at the moment are the blue muscari in the flower border and the yellow marsh marigolds by the pond, now taking over from fading daffodils and tulips.
Click twice to see an image full screen.
The name marsh marigold is said to refer to its use in medieval churches at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary (“Mary gold”.) Also known as water buttercup or kingcup, amongst many other names.
Blue muscari is also known as grape hyacinth, corresponding with the resemblance of its hanging urn-shaped flowers to bunches of grapes.
Now well established, both plants come back reliably year after year with little attention.
The other day I was entranced by the pink and yellows of the grasses and flowers on Knutsford’s Small Heath. The fuzzy pink of the grass seeds offsets the yellow of the profusion of dandelions and buttercups. With only smartphone to hand, these were the pictures I took.
Sadly, this beauty is no more. The next day the grass cutters came and all was mown down, a rather dramatic illustration of the transience of nature’s beauty, and of the insensitivity of bureaucratic timetables.
Another week on from my last look, the petals on the now-huge allium flowers are losing or have lost colour and almost faded to nothing. The seed heads are full and bulbous. And still there is that amazing cluster of stems emerging from the apparently lit-up centre.
The speed at which these changes take place unnoticed by us is truly remarkable. The more you look, the more nature has to give.
It’s only just over a week since my post on Allium. Now the heads of flowers are bigger than my hand. Here are two pictures at the extremes of focus, each with a story to tell.
The petals are beginning to wilt, and the seed heads are forming – three pairs of bulging seeds corresponding to the three pairs of petals/sepals.
The interior focus shows a wonderful pattern of huge numbers of inner stalks that hold up the flowers/seed heads. The light seems to shine out from the centre!
My Panasonic TZ200 has a superb feature that makes this different focusing very simple, even handheld – it’s called post-focus, which takes a number of shots at different focus points and then lets you choose which shots to save.
The beauty of nature is all around. We tried planting allium bulbs in the garden for the first time this year. Late May they were looking promising (see featured image.)
But now look how they’ve now developed – long stems with huge heads, several inches across, comprising gradually emerging flowers with striking geometrical patterns.
Double click for more detail.
I’m intrigued that there are 6 petals on the individual flowers, which is not one of nature’s preferred Fibonacci numbers – but perhaps they are 3 pairs, and 3 is a Fibonacci number.
And if you look at the picture on the left, it’s impossible to count accurately, but there are over a hundred individual stems in the head, each of which will develop a flower. Since the situation is so dynamic you could not expect this to be an exact Fibonacci number, but it’s somewhere on the way between 89 and 144!
This red/purple cotinus on our deck (variant rhus cotinus) and its largely spent flowers become particularly attractive just after rain, and we’ve had a lot of rain lately. Not good for most photography, but great for raindrops!
Rhus Cotinus is also called ‘European smoke bush’, presumably because the large groups of flowers on stems can look a bit like a smoky edging to the plant (see above Wikipedia link).
Note to pedants. No they’re not the actual rain drops, but the varied effect of splashes, joining together, streaming, viscosity, surface tension, etc! That’s why some of the drops are rather large and some are very small.