The unrelenting, cold wet days since April had even the hardiest of gardeners struggling to be out and about and yet, despite this lack of intervention, the procession of plants pressed on regardless. Feeling somewhat redundant I sought a brief change of outlook on the East coast, coincidental with escape from the hyperbole that is Chelsea flower show .
Fortune favours the brave and with a sudden volte face in the weather, the barometer shot to the top of the 70s. But as with any busman’s holiday, the gardener never really stays behind, even when at the seaside. Planting arrangements, from houseboats to street containers caught my attention whilst I literally had a field day with the wildflower displays- hence the abundance of images herewith! [Click to enlarge]
One of the advantages of going East (or North) is the opportunity to re-run some of the Spring flora that has come and gone in the soft underbelly of London. Hawthorn and Horse Chestnut blossom overflowed from field and hedgerow with all the cultivated copiousness of a ‘bridal wreathed’ Spiraea. Out-blued by the bugloss ‘Green Alkanet’, the last of the bluebells were nodding off in the damp and shady places. Alarmingly many were the wretched offspring of English natives with Spanish hyacinths (H. × massartiana.) and no respecter of the wild woods. There was even a dense patch of the alba version on National Trust land which a pair of Ruddy Darter dragonflies were delighting in.
Signifying golden days ahead, the high-gloss yellows of Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and dandelions as round and spiky as suns in children’s paintings. Fringed with a paler, double petalled aura, Hawksbeards are more delicate and refined than their rumbustious relatives.
What the tiny wildflowers lose in wow factor, they more than make up for in the impact of dense carpeting . Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys ) spreads a dainty blue haze in the grass whilst Chickweed smothers as its goes. Lifting the tiny white flowers for a closer look, the patter of seeds falling in their hundreds shows why this is such a perennial annual. On a somewhat higher plane, the naked, erect stems of Ribwort plantain attract attention with unique, satellite-headed blooms.
All along the lakeside edges, wild Bugle (Ajuga reptans) spread out like sun bathers in the rabbit-cropped grass. The chocolate foliage and lavender-blue flowers have been cultivated into slightly taller, intenser varieties, displaying a versatility for groundcover across the whole light-shade continuum.
By no coincidence was this ‘National Nettle’ week, overlapping with ‘Save our butterflies’. 1 The stinging armoury of Urtica doica means that dense areas of Nettle, flower and thrive unmolested by grazers, which in turn makes them a safer habitat for several species of butterfly and moth larvae. The Speckled Wood caterpillar however feeds on grasses but beneath the encroaching tree canopy, a male butterfly uses the dappled limelight on a nettle patch as launch pad, either to attract a mate or to intercept an intruder.
If English bluebells are the ”Blackpool illuminations’ of Spring , it is the froth of Anthriscus acreages which quicken the pulse and summon summer. The white umbels may be a gastronomic sight for ruminants and grazers (hence the epithet of cow mumble or conie parsley) but by any of the multitude of local names from Lady’s lace to Gypsy umbrella, it does smell as sweet. In their massed scent is the distillation of country lanes which marks this sea change of the season.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. 2
And now it must surely be time to join others at the Little Red House for another Mosaic Monday