As we move into early summer, I thought I’d pause for a second to take you on a short tour of my local park to see the fresh, light greens of spring.
The horse chestnuts have reached full leaf and underneath their canopy the reduced light supplies dramatic contrasts between bold, sturdy tree trunks and verdant, recently cut grass.
Together with the horse chestnuts, lime trees line the paths of the park accentuating the curves and sweeps.
There’s not just fresh green but delicate coppery apricot colours too.
The new leaves in the park are most welcome, but there’s something even more uplifting when you observe the re-emergence of sea kale (crambe maritime) on beaches at this time of year. The plant’s sheer tenacity as it pushes up through the salty shingle for another season of sun, wind and rain is very pleasing.
Earlier this week it was MOT day. Not a day overflowing with excitement, but instead a day suffused with trepidation. Last year was a spectacular fail (fault with the anti-lock braking system!?) leaving me without a car for two weeks and an eye-watering bill in excess of £600. This year it was a bright and clear morning when I left the car at the garage with my fingers crossed. I took the opportunity to spend the ‘waiting’ hour with my camera in the nearby local park to photograph any attractive flowers or birds, and record this flamboyant graffiti.
Holywells Park is my favourite park in Ipswich and I was hoping to capture some spring flowers, but despite the recent, unseasonable warm weather there was only a few clumps of cheerful daffodils and the big old magnolia in bloom.
However, there were plenty of ducks. There was a rather handsome mandarin duck diving for breakfast.
And, quite a number of mallard ducks. The males being easy to spot with their glistening green heads. (Do you not think this sumptuous shade of green with its satin-like quality is surely so luxurious it might even feature in any future Lulu Lytle revamp of Downing Street? )
Leaving the political sideswipes behind and moving on, I spotted and even managed a couple of shots of the little egret that is now visiting the park’s ponds.
I was just about to leave, when I noticed the perennial wallflower, erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, was coming into flower providing timely pollen and nectar for those early-emerging bees. It’s such a cheerful, strong pink for this time of year. And, as it turned out when I left the garage I, too, was cheerful as the old car had passed its MOT.
After such a long and very dull winter and a slow start to the spring I see in the park that leaves, blossom and early blooms are bursting into life.
Perhaps the most graceful example of a tree in the first green of spring is the willow. And, in Holywells Park this beauty grows in the middle of one of the ponds, with the drama of drooping, feathery greenery enhanced by the still water.
Holywells Park also has a couple of old magnolias now putting on their annual outrageous blast of sugary pink.
Of course any park worth its salt has an ornamental cherry or two, but the only one in blossom when I visited was this semi-double white cherry.
For the handful of folk who have not noticed this has been a very dry spring particularly here in East Anglia, and, the park’s dry garden looked suitably resilient. The daffodil display was just coming to an end as the first green spikes of the ornamental grasses pushed up through last year’s neatly pruned brown clumps .
One of the aspects of Holywells Park that I appreciate is that it isn’t a particularly ordered or a heavily maintained park. There are areas of light-touch maintenance where primroses peek out from under the hedges and
weeds/wildflowers such as red campion and nettle are left to thrive in a naturalistic manner not least to the benefit of the wildlife, and a human with a camera.
We’ve had some high winds and fast moving weather systems recently in East Anglia. Clouds, some with and some without rain, have been whipping across the Suffolk countryside.
These photographs were taken in less than a minute as we drove through the pleasant village of Little Glemham. It was almost a Hitchcock moment with the sudden darkening of the sky, but without the multiple flocks of birds.
And, then back in Ipswich on Monday, walking through Christchurch Park, it was all jolly waving daffodils in the bright spring sunshine . . .
and I spotted . . . a flashy, noisy bird who turned out to be camera shy!
Last month we had strange weather. February had days feeling like spring and I saw people walking around in T-shirts! In climate terms a week of warm weather in February is disturbing.
However, March, so far, is turning out to be more like a usual March. It has been very, very windy, but that hasn’t affected these British grown tulips. They come from some of the extensive glass houses in Lincolnshire. Growing under glass has enabled British tulip growers to compete with imports from overseas and there are no air or sea miles. Growing under the protection of glass also lengthens the season for growing all kinds of cut flowers. Have you noticed how stocks (Matthiola incana) have joined the buckets of roses and lilies commonly available? However, for us domestic gardeners in East Anglia it will be another month before even the tulips are blooming in full force.
This year I resisted the temptation to plant seeds in February. I am holding my nerve even with the indoor sowings. I am trying to avoid weak, leggy seedlings as I don’t have a greenhouse to provide consistent good daylight.
It is early days in the ‘new’ old backyard and too dreary to photograph with piles of rubble left behind by previous owners. Although it is a small space, it’s going to be a long old haul to sort out, but some pots of pelargoniums and dahlias, and a mini swathe of hardy annuals should at least add some colour for this summer.
Expecting the best, I have already had a poke around in the pots of the overwintered dahlias and, fingers crossed, so far they’ve come through the winter. From now on I just have to watch out for early slug damage to the tender new shoots.
At last I have a rough plan, you could, at a stretch, call it a design for the backyard. It has been just over a year since I moved in and I have been observing the sunlight and shade patterns and I can see I have my work cutout to achieve any kind of flower garden. Disappointingly, there’s more shade than I had expected, not least from the enormous eucalyptus tree three gardens down.
It is a long-established tree and is easily 10 feet or so taller than the surrounding three-storey houses. As I write, its upper branches are violently whipping around, bending this way and that in the strong winds. It is really quite inappropriate for a Victorian terrace backyard and it overhangs six gardens. I am guessing it was originally planted to screen out the neighbours at the bottom of the garden and has just been left to grow and grow by a series of non-gardening homeowners.
Finishing on a more optimistic note I am looking forward to more of this
It was the Vernal Equinox on Tuesday and despite all the wintery and bitterly cold wind (a short visit from Mini-beast last week, the cousin of the Beast from the East) it is officially spring and just a little bit warmer today. And, furthermore, with impeccable timing the UK Handmade Spring Showcase went live on Tuesday too.
I have been lucky enough to be selected for this showcase and two of my scarves have been featured.
I think the two photos chosen are bright and colourful – hopefully capturing that optimism associated with spring. Who doesn’t need some bright cheeriness after the winter?
It’s Chelsea this week and it’s pouring with rain, so English! And thinking of flowers I see that the tulips are just finishing their annual contribution to the garden. They provide beautiful strong intense colours,
but also delicate shades for the spring garden.
And, then there is the drama of using tulips in a restricted palette for the odd flower arrangement or two.
But it has been white, at least in my garden this spring, that has been the most eye-catching accent colour against the fresh green.
Unusual for us Brits to get a Bank Holiday with sunshine so I made the most of it busy in the garden. Seem to be snowed under with self-sewn white honesty this year.
All the greens are vivid and fresh and over the pergola the wisteria is just about to burst into its dramatic display.
It’s a busy time in the garden pricking out seedlings, potting on and preparing the raised beds for plantings.
I’m always surprised at how each year the garden is different. Over the winter some plants have survived and others have withered, but this spring the amalanchier lamarkii (Juneberry) is finally looking tree-like after 10 years.
It’s that time of year when yellow is big in the garden and often just for a few days you might see people dressed in yellow. For us northern European folks yellow is a notoriously difficult colour to wear successfully. A pale lemon or a gentle soft buttercup knit may look fine in out northern light, but after the long winter and many indoor hours too often even pale yellow does not enhance a washed out and sometimes sickly complexion. Strong bright or piercing acidic yellows are mostly definitely out. And, it’s not just clothing, I’ve noticed how bright yellow cars appear less than appealing in our spring sunshine, yet somehow in the same light nature’s yellow is so satisfying.
Marni yellow leather jacket (£3,300) and yellow leather skirt ((2,110) from their Milan show.
Yellow Vauxhall Corsa – great if you live in a hot sunny country, bit sad in grey drizzle.
Whether it’s cultivated daffodils, violas or forsythia, or even the humble roadside dandelion, nature’s yellow is eye-catching, refreshing and triumphant.
At the moment I am painting another scarf inspired by the Tudor bows seen in the stained glass from St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds. However, this time I’ve taken the bow motif and, with spring in the air, used some lighter spring pinks and greens.
Strangely, it was seeing this art nouveau ceramic tile that was the final push to make me mix up these seedtime colours.