Dear Readers, when we awoke this morning the temperature had dropped by twenty degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind was whistling in the chimney. I thought about putting a hat on before my daily walk to exercise, and was sorry that I hadn’t when the chill blast insinuated itself into my inner ear. Still, I was determined to see what was going on on my patch, and today I decided to tune into blossom because, with this wind, a lot of it was likely to be gone by tomorrow.
I had been particularly taken by the cherry tree above. It was positively laden down with candy-pink, puffball flowers. The photo above shows it on Sunday.
By Monday, it looked like this: you can see some of the areas where the green leaves are showing through.
And the pavements look as if there has been a wedding.
Incidentally, Durham Road also has one of my favourite, favourite trees, which I am slipping in here even though it’s its leaves, not it’s blossom, that makes it so gorgeous. I love the way that the colour shades from crimson to coral.
But as usual I digress.
Our street on the County Roads has a variety of very pretty street trees. This is a crab apple that produces a whole mass of fruit in the summer, and turns golden and red in the autumn. Not bad value for a single tree, plus the parakeets sometimes strip its blossom.
Further down the street there are two striking pink crab apple trees: these might be of the old variety ‘Purple Crab Apple’ (Malus x purpurea), and at the moment they are spectacular.
Incidentally, if you live in London and want to know about your street trees, the London Street Trees map will give you a reasonable idea of what’s what (though not the individual cultivars, and some of the trees are irritatingly described as ‘other’ which is not abundantly helpful). You can access it here. Just enter your postcode, and away you go! Might be useful for an exercise session (but be careful of your social distancing, as always).
Off we go into the woods, and there are the wild relatives of some of these trees blossoming away. They may not be as fluffily-adorned as some of the ‘domesticated’ trees, but they have a delicate beauty all of their own, the pristine white flowers standing out against the crisp green foliage. Being in the wood at this time of year can feel like being at the bottom of the ocean: there is a strange otherworldly feel to it, even as we sashay past runners and children on scooters. There was a husky howling its head off as we strolled through this morning, and it reminded me that there were once wolves here, though a very, very long time ago.
The plant below, for example, is Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) – the leaves are much less deeply lobed than in the common hawthorn, and this is a plant of ancient woodlands and clay soils. Apparently, when those pretty flowers are cut they have such an unpleasant smell that medieval people said it reminded them of the stench of the Great Plague. It’s probably best to leave the flowers right where they are, especially at the moment. Hawthorn generally has a rather feral scent, and one wouldn’t want to encourage it to get any worse.
And what about this tree? Looking at the leaves, I am thinking wild cherry (Prunus avium): the flowers are so white that they glow in the semi-shade. Like a lot of woodland trees, this is a rather scrappy little chap, surviving in the filtered sunlight that comes from being slightly closer to the stream than many other trees.
And so we loop back and head for home. I cannot resist taking a photo of this goat willow catkin though: soon the bees will be all over it (though it will need to warm up a bit first).
And look at this splendid single paeony just waiting to erupt in a front garden close to the woods.
I don’t know about you, but being in lockdown seems to have heightened all my senses, so that I am primed to notice the changes that happen every day in my immediate environment. It is a real privilege to be able to go out at all, and walking the same routes on a regular basis reminds me of the pleasure that there can be in observing a local ‘patch’ in all weathers. I am waking up to the delights of slowing down, and of making the most of a bad job. Dad was a very pragmatic man. I can see him now, shrugging his shoulders and settling back into his recliner with a cup of tea and the TV remote, ready for a Last of the Summer Wine marathon. He always reminded me a bit of a cat, ready to curl up in the sun and disinclined to get excited unless there was something worth getting excited about. I could learn a lot from his example.