Verdant

It is May Day today, and in celebration, the sky decided to dress itself in blue.  It goes rather well with the green of lush growth at this time of year.

We agreed to say nothing more about the wind and rain yesterday.  Forgive and forget.

It’s May!

There was a light frost, and I had fearful text message from Stevie on his train asking me to check the tomato plants in the greenhouse in case they were done for.  They weren’t, and neither was the walnut, whose buds were hit hard last year by a late frost.

Having swapped work days around this week, I was looking forward to a morning walk to see what was happening down the lane.  For the past few days I have been aware of a creeping presence.  Excited whisperings, a giggle here and there, a bubbling of uncontrollable energy, that just wants to burst out…

And then I spotted it:

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Cow Parsley (Anthrisis sylvestris)

Cow Parsley.  One half of the May double-act.  Cow Parsley is the fizz to Hawthorn’s froth.  Here it is is closer:

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Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

As delicate as champagne bubbles.  So where was the other one?

Here, but not quite ripe.  Hawthorn blossom is also known as ‘May’.  Usually it flowers in April for us, showing just how late this spring is.  I whispered to it as I walked past “it’s May you know.  You can open now.”

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Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna)

Common ivy is putting on lots of new growth.  Ivy is much misunderstood.  It often clothes tall trees, doing no harm, but providing evergreen cover for insects, birds and small mammals, as well as being a food source with its nectar, pollen and berries in winter.

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Common Ivy (Hedera helix)

The pussy willows (Salix caprea) are leafing up nicely, with their silvery shimmer.

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Pussy Willow (Salix caprea)

The catkins have gone all spiky, not so tempting to stroke.

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Pussy Willow (Salix caprea)

You may already know from my post The Greening that I have a bit of thing for oak trees.  It always interests me how oak trees vary in their bursting of leaf-buds.  Some trees are consistently early and some are consistently late.  Presumably this is genetic variation.  I think that these are all Penduculate Oak (Quercus robur), the leaves having no stem, whereas our other native Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) has stalked leaves.

Some were like this, still tightly curled and red, and a little bit angry-looking:

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Oak leaves (Quercus robur)

Some had taken the plunge, but were still unsure:

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Oak leaves (Quercus robur)

Others had decided it wasn’t so bad, and actually that bit of sun was quite nice:

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Oak leaves (Quercus robur)

These were the earlier adopters, looking completely at ease:

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Oak leaves (Quercus robur)

Do you want to see the full effect?  The GREEN?

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Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur)

Even the clouds are dazzled and are standing back to admire it.  You see why I love the oak tree’s GREEN?  Here’s how it stands out along the lane:

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Oak (Quercus robur) in May

Field Maple (Acer campestre) is a lighter, brighter acid green, because of its rather lovely flowers.

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Field Maple in flower (Acer campestre)

Our lane has been getting more traffic of late, owing to a new housing development and cars being re-routed, so I had to dive into a ditch at this point.  Which did allow me to appreciate the fine top of a hedge.  This is field maple again, but cut as a part of a mixed native hedge.

(I rather like the horizontals on this photo, with the line of the hedge, the trees along the horizon, and the flat layers of cloud.  What do you think, Rupali?)  It also reminds me of a similar photo I took back in January, Making the most of the morning commute).

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Field maple hedge (Acer campestre)

These shoots remind me of rubber gloves draped over the tap to dry.

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Field Maple (Acer campestre)

Whilst I was there, balancing on one leg, trying not to trample a bluebell, here is what I found: The May!

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Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Down here:

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Hawthorn (Crataeagus monogyna), The May blossom

Isn’t it lovely?

I also found this curious specimen:

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It was dangling over the hedge.  There were four or five tendrils like this.  It would have helped if I had found some foliage to photograph, but I didn’t.  Our native hedgerow climbers include Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and Hops (Humulus lupulus).  I don’t think it is any of these.  Anyone?

POSTSCRIP: It’s bindweed!  Which could have been easily recognised by loveheart leaves if I had been just a little more thorough in my investigation!

And yes, I did mention bluebells.  There were more in a little glade at the end of the lane.

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English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
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English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Many of you will know that our native English bluebell is under threat from the Spanish Bluebell, which hybridises with the English bluebell to produce Hyacinthoides x massartiana, a vigorous superbreed, which then out-competes the English Bluebell.  Whilst the hybrid is quite nice, it lacks the delicate charm of the English Bluebell.  The English Bluebell arches over, holding its flowers on one side of the stem, and they dance in the breeze in a delightful way.  The hybrid is upright, taller, broader, and holds the slightly broader flowers all around the stem.

I have been on a mission to eradicate the Spanish Bluebell from my garden.  We inherited several clumps, which have devilishly deep roots, and if you leave even a tiny bit of bulb, it will sprout afresh next year.  I thought I’d finally vanquished it last year, but lo-and-behold I found three clumps last week, which I had to excavate.  The disposal method has to be carefully planned: put it in the compost or the household waste bin and it will escape.  The only solution is to burn it or incinerate it in the oven (warning household members first).

Having enjoyed the dreamy deep purple for a suitable length of time, I turned back, with a skip in my step.  Facing this way, I could enjoy one of my favourite oaks:

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Oak in May (Quercus robur)

Here it is, closer:

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Oak in May (Quercus robur)

Over the bridge, as I neared our drive, I stopped in my tracks.  Is it?  Noooo!!!

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Hybrid Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana)

This is at our neighbour’s gatepost.  Do I mention it and risk looking insane?  Our neighbours are lovely.  If we leave this colony, the English Bluebells all along the lane are at risk…

Thank goodness for the hawthorn, which calmed me, as I went up the drive.  I nibbled a bit, as it is also known as ‘Bread and Cheese’.  It wasn’t terribly nice.

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Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna)

I love the patchwork of species in a mixed hedge.  Hawthorn blends into dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)…

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Native hedge of Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)

Into Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)...

And more Field Maple.  Its perfect layers of leaves reminds me of applique.

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Field maple (Acer campestre)

It is perhaps this stitching together that makes the hedgerows so verdant in May.  One species grows into another, overlapping, cannoodling.  And (mostly) they all get along.

What is looking verdant near you?  Can you identify my mystery vine?  Do you have any invasive species that give you the collywobbles?

45 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the intimate wat you look at the greening and flowering of the world around you.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Angela, it’s not hard living where we do.

  2. bcparkison says:

    Yes…You should confront your neighbor about the bluebells.
    What is the difference between Cow Parsley and Queen Ann’s Lace?
    and yes….I love all the Spring green .So many different hues…beautiful.
    Hawthorn….great for heart health.

    1. Ali says:

      They are the same plant, just different local names. I love collecting them!

  3. Beautiful walk down your lane! We have blackberries that sprout up everywhere. In the yard I dig them up and it seems to be a never ending battle. The birds bring in the seeds from the berry patches in the woods. Unfortunately, these blackberries choke out native plants all across the countryside. English ivy and Scottish sweet broom are considered pests here too!

    1. Ali says:

      Oh dear, ivy not so well behaved when on it’s holidays. Like a lot of British tourists!

      1. What can I say!?! It’s like my country men/woman! Both Germans and Americans can be an interesting sight abroad as well!

      2. Ali says:

        Yes, always awkward when confronted with the less attractive aspects of your national identity!

  4. annpappas says:

    Still so green compared to my garden! Onion weed is my nemesis in the garden.

    1. Ali says:

      Oh, I don’t know that, unless it has a different name. Is it an allium?

      1. annpappas says:

        Yes, it is an allium. Here you are: Onion Weed. Botanical Name. Allium triquetum. Family. Liliaceae (lily) family. Also known as. three-cornered garlic. What does it look like? Grass-like perennial (<60 cm) with a strong garlic smell, growing from main bulbs (<10-15 mm diameter) and producing offset bulbs. Fleshy, straight leaves (2-5, each 20-60 cm long), …

      2. Ali says:

        Ah, I thought it might be wild garlic, or ransoms, but when I google it it comes up as ‘Three cornered leek’ which is also an invasive species here. It was brought over from the Mediterranean.

  5. What a lovely stroll down the lane – I almost felt as though I were there! And I did laugh out loud with the diving in the ditch comment 🙂 I live on a fairly busy rural highway, and wouldn’t even dare stroll down the road, so I can appreciate the need to dive for cover from speeding cars…

    1. Ali says:

      I do wish people would slow down. The lane is single track, but often people think if they honk their horn coming over the bridge they’ll be fine.

  6. I love walking in my mind with your photos and words that describe uniquely 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      That is lovely to hear. Thank you.

  7. Delightful blue sky, green fresh leaves and my favourite Cow parsley. You are perhaps a week ahead of the lanes by me or perhaps I need to check in the morning

    1. Ali says:

      I love May for all this exuberance. It changes overnight, doesn’t it?

      1. It does and today I think we’ve had it all in one day!

  8. Heyjude says:

    Your lane looks equally as beautiful as ‘my’ lane and I envy you your tree knowledge. Aren’t the different greens just so gorgeous, especially with the blue background. You will have to return to that unknown specimen in a week’s time as it looks as though it is about to erupt, and then we may well discover its true identity.

    1. Ali says:

      That is a very good idea. My immediate gut feeling was that it was hops, and then I doubted myself. But your gut feeling is usually right, isn’t it? I should trust it more often.

      1. Heyjude says:

        Well I don’t see hops down here, but they are rather dangly aren’t they? So sounds about right.

    2. Ali says:

      It’s bindweed! Just found another specimen in my front garden. GAH!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Really? I have bindweed and the flowers are like spirals not like the ‘thing’ you photographed.

      2. Ali says:

        I had to double check when I got home from work, but yes, it is, and it’s about to come out! (Pulling on wellies in work clothes such is the bindweed panic!)

  9. janesmudgeegarden says:

    What a lovely walk down the lane with you. And thank you for illustrating the difference between Spanish and English bluebells: I think they must be Spanish when we have them here. Blackberry can be a terrible problem here with huge mounds of it filling farm land around creek beds.

    1. Ali says:

      I didn’t know you had brambles there too. They do take over here, if we don’t keep them in check in the garden. They are the first thing to start creeping in over the fence. But I do love going blackberrying in August and September. If only we could turn back the clock and not introduce these species where they don’t belong.

  10. GardenImagery says:

    Thanks for sharing. Forgot about May Day. Love reading how that day unfolds where you are. So different here in Melbourne, Australia as we wait for rain after a long dry summer/autumn, and trying to keep our plants alive.

    1. Ali says:

      I forgot to say, that my daughter and I saw some Morris Dancers outside the pub at lunchtime, so it was a proper May Day! When the girls were at primary school they would dance around the Maypole, and that was always very sweet.

  11. Clare Pooley says:

    I agree with Heyjude – go back in a few days time. It does look a bit like hop when it starts to go crazy and take over.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Clare, I will! I just consulted Stevie, who is a brewer, but even he wasn’t completely sure, but I think it is hops.

    2. Ali says:

      It’s bindweed, Clare! Just found a tendril creeping up my cobnut (shudder).

  12. pommepal says:

    Oh I do so love the way you humanise the plants around you, the fizz and froth and champagne bubbles, the giggling and those rubber gloves draped over the tap. I was smiling all through this post, and I adore oak trees too. Maybe more so as they don’t grow around here and I have to make an expedition to see them, or, of course, get my eye full in your lane. England in spring time is so beautiful

    1. Ali says:

      I remember seeing the odd very ailing specimen in Sydney, and felt very sorry for them! The liquidambars were glorious though.

      1. pommepal says:

        I had a gorgeous liquid amber in our NZ garden, just so vibrant in its autumn colours

      2. Ali says:

        They are stunning. And spend such a short time out of leaf.

  13. Lovely photos and thoughts along with them. The skies were blue as blue here yesterday too. So need more of the sunny stuff and clear sky days.

  14. Ali says:

    We do. We just enjoyed a sunny hour in the garden. Makes such a difference.

  15. Stevie says:

    Hops are one of my favourite hedgerow plants. Not because I make beer, but because for a week or two in late August the female flowers (cones) show up as little dabs of yellows-green paint against the darker green like little drops of sunshine, almost, but they soon go over and start browning.

    1. Ali says:

      I love them too, Stevie. We should grow them over the fence.

  16. Nicky says:

    A lovely walk, I enjoyed taking it with you!

    1. Ali says:

      Lovely to walk with you, Nicky!

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