I very much enjoy watching the sequence of wild flowers unfolding in spring. Now that I’m out of London I see them on a daily basis, instead of making a special expedition.
The snowdrops are first, of course.
Even now I see them more often in people’s front gardens than in the wild, but there are a few small clusters in Hastings Country Park. In the past I have seen a very impressive display of snowdrops in the churchyard at Salehurst, near Robertsbridge (good to admire before going for a Sunday roast at the pub there), and this year admired snowdrops in deep drifts at the churchyard at Southease Church near Lewes.
After this, I look forward to the blackthorn bushes (sloes) with their cool little white flowers in profusion – like a spiky wedding posy for a frost-weather bride. Cheery gorse is out then as well. Both of these plants are very plentiful in Hastings Country Park, which is just minute’s walk from my door.
After this, the beautiful spring flowers come thick and fast. First is the celandine. These are lovely yellow woodland flowers, which can also be seen along roadsides and the edge of gardens. There are always plenty of them around and they are delightful.
Next the wood anemones – one of my favourite spring flowers. There are patches of them in the Country Park but other woods to the east seem to be better for them. I often get out to Guestling Wood nearby for a wood anemone walk, and you can see plenty from the train in the woods near Battle or Wadhurst.
Violets were a new discovery when I moved to Hastings. One local front garden which is at waist height used to have these tiny wild flowers all across the lawn in spring. I had never noticed them before, but after this spotted them all over the place – particularly woodland.
Sadly, the original garden hired a skip, threw away their lovely violets by removing all their top soil, and put down concrete slabs instead. Why do people do this? Even if they didn’t notice their prolific wild violets and wanted to do away with a “boring” lawn, why replace it with boring (and hot) concrete slabs? It wasn’t for the purposes of parking. And they would still need to weed, etc. between the slabs.
I did, in fact, rescue a piece of topsoil with some violet roots from the skip and grew the violets in a container for a while. I was hoping they would spread to my lawn, but they never did. My garden is probably unsuitable for the mysterious requirements of wild violets.
I love forget-me-nots as well. Easy to grow and look good with tulips. I suppose they are wild flowers but more often seen in gardens.
This spring I saw a magnificent display on someone’s grass verge (pictured).
Then, of course, the bluebells and – at much the same time – stitchwort – one of my all time favourite wild flowers. Stitchwort doesn’t seem to be particularly well-known but they are very common hedgerow or verge-side flowers of April and early May. They have beautiful white flowers with five petals. They grow on delicate stems which can reach around 50cm – so the flowers will appear at quite a noticeable height on the roadside banks that they favour.
Bluebells were recently voted the nation’s favourite wild flower – which is no surprise. They are beautiful, they are common enough for most people to see them, they grow in large drifts, they flower every year and always put on a fabulous display whatever the weather, they are only around for a few magical weeks, they are associated with a very pleasant time of year, and they are distinctively British. Almost half the world’s bluebells are found in the UK – they’re relatively rare elsewhere.
And finally, the late spring firework display of hawthorn blossoms, cow parsley, buttercups, yellow water lilies, foxgloves (finally! Thought they were giving 2023 a miss) and creamy elder! I love the matching colour schemes high and low – the pond with yellow water lilies and tall yellow irises – the country lane with white fluffy cow parsley at knee height and white fluffy hawthorn blossom at head height. It is amazing.
So all this abundance has inspired me to produce a series of linocuts celebrating some of these spring wild flowers. It may take a time for the series to unfold, but the first one will be Wood Mouse and Wild Garlic.
Watch this space …