J Peggy Taylor
J Peggy Taylor
J Peggy Taylor
When I saw Cee’s chosen theme this week was “Flowers”, with so much inspiration around at the moment, I thought I’d follow on from my recent Daily Post Photo Challenge on the theme of Spring with my first entry in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge …
My chosen flowers for this challenge are all Springtime flowers we see near us here in the northern UK.
This one’s from my wild flower photo archives.
I spotted this lovely little clump of Daisies when we were in the woods this weekend.
I love this photo that one of my sons took of this small but very distinctive Spring flower – Moschatel (it features in another post I’ve written too)
How could I resist the opportunity of sharing one of my favourite Spring flowers another time! (This one features in another post I’ve written too.)
Isn’t Spring amazing! Flowers, flowers everywhere!
… and thank you Cee for giving me another excuse to shout about them too 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
Having the woods right on our doorstep makes me rather like Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. If you know this classic children’s story you may recall that Mole is drawn from his chores by the temptation of the outdoors. “Hang Spring Cleaning!” he exclaims before setting out to explore Springtime in the countryside. Just like Mole, I find sunny Spring days hard to resist … who wants to be stuck indoors when there’s so much to enjoy outside!
For us, woodland walks in Spring bring the exciting prospect of foraging for fresh wild food. Spotting the first ‘munchies’ of early Spring is something of a family ritual. The wild food we fondly refer to as ‘munchies’ is Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella. Once the Wood Sorrel’s new acid-green citrus-flavoured trifoliate leaves begin to brighten up the forest floor we can’t resist picking a few as we meander on our way.
Whilst on the same walk, as well as finding this year’s first ‘munchies’, we also spotted the feathery leaves of another Spring flower of old woods, the Pignut Conopodium majus. The chestnut-type root of the Pignut seems to be quite a well-regarded wild food though I must say I have never tried it. The digging up of any wild plant is not legal in the UK unless you have the permission of the landowner. I forage out of interest rather than necessity so I tend to restrict my wild food foraging to leaves and fruits, making sure that the plants retain the ability to thrive and re-grow. This photo shows the Pignut in its classic habitat – growing amongst the Bluebells.
Some of the woodland flowers are among my Spring favourites – I find I have ‘favourites’ for each season! Spring finds me combing the sunny banks for the first Violets and Wood Sorrel, or taking certain paths through the woods to seek out keenly anticipated patches of wild Primroses or Bluebells.
I have been eagerly watching out for the Primroses in one of our woods in particular. The area where they grow had been under conifer plantation for some years but has recently been part of a programme of ancient woodland restoration. Now that there is more light reaching the forest floor, it is wonderful to see those sleeping seeds that have been waiting patiently in the woodland soil for years taking their chance and bursting into life.
This week when we visited the wood we found the Primroses had sprung up in lots of lovely patches of yellow and green. They looked wonderful! We also discovered this lone Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa nearby. I love the way my son has managed to capture the silky texture of the white petals in his photo. The flower was popular with insect visitors too – there’s a small cardinal beetle making a cautious entrance in this shot! Hopefully that will mean there will be more Wood Anemones here next year.
Here is another fascinating flower that I watch out for each Spring. This is Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina. It grows on a sunny bankside beside an old road over a Victorian railway bridge in our woods. I have seen it described as the ‘Town Clock’ flower and when you look closely, it is easy to see how it came by this name. Each flowerhead is held on a tall stalk (approx. 5-10cm high) and comprises five yellow-green florets with yellow stamens. Four of the florets form a square with the fifth one facing upwards. The three-lobed leaves at the base of the stalk are a darker green than the flowers.
On one of our sunny Spring walks this week we saw the promise of the first fruits of this year – the bilberry, that’s the UK’s own wild ‘blueberries’ which grow quite prolifically in our local woods. The pink berry-like flowers are just beginning to open. Although we have hillsides growing thick with the low-growing bilberry bushes, these berries do take a bit of picking when they ripen in late Summer.
The berries grow singly and are often tucked away out of sight so keen eyes are needed to hunt them out. Equally keen eyes are needed if I am hoping to make sure any of these tasty purple-blue berries actually make it back home rather than being enjoyed straight from the bushes 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
I try to grow as much as possible in my very tiny back yard – from herbs to flowers to numerous small trees. My yard faces west and only benefits from a little afternoon sun in Springtime so this tends to mean my early flowers take their time to bloom. But our recent mild and sunny days have persuaded some of them to start the Spring Show.
Our purple crocuses have now opened their glorious eyes to reveal their white depths and vivid orange stamens. The seedlings underneath the crocuses are the beginnings of a favourite wild salad leaf of ours, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata. They’ll grow on after the Spring bulbs are finished.
Our mini daffodils are doing rather well too. I originally rescued a pot containing three rather sad-looking specimens from a plant stall two years ago. Now we have a pot with four healthy flowers and the promise of more, judging by the additional greenery striving to put in an appearance around this year’s flowers. I can see they will definitely need lifting and repotting after this flowering season.
The Washfield Double hellebores I have on my doorstep do appreciate the indirect light and have been quite successful in their large pots for several years now. I love the under-stated pink of this hellebore. My other plant has subtle yellow-green flowers with maroon markings. I usually feed these plants with home-made garden compost in early Spring when I finish trimming back the old leaves. So that’s another job to get done soon.
I planted some new willow cuttings a few weeks ago and they seem to be doing very well. I’ve a few more cuttings to find homes for too – more willows (but with a reddish tinge to the stem) and a few sprigs of Common Mallow Malva sylvestris I rescued from a plant that had been strimmed down on some council-owned land nearby.
Rather like my love of upcycling with other materials, I’m a bit of a regenerator of plants as well! I discovered the wonder of cuttings a number of years ago and have found this a great way of generating more plants. Some plants such as willow, mint and lavender I have generated entirely from cuttings.
I also like to seek out those sad-looking plants on plant stalls that look like the-dog-that-nobody-wants. Then I find with a little bit of tlc these plants can be brought back to their blooming best. My mini daffodils are one such success and now I also have some tulips that I ‘rescued’ on my last town trip …
J Peggy Taylor
Our snowdrops looked really lovely in today’s February sunshine so I thought I’d share them with everyone 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
We seem to have spun through January and reached February already in 2014. I am relieved to say in our northern valley, apart from periodic bouts of strong winds and gales, we have not suffered with the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced elsewhere in the UK.
Walking out in our local countryside in mild winter sunshine on both days of this weekend I couldn’t help thinking about the people of Somerset and others who are still suffering flooding – a month on – with the weather forecast again offering them little in the way of respite.
In recent winters we’ve had snow that lasted for weeks but this year on the first weekend in February, muddy paths and busy burns were the only signs of winter weather we encountered. The sunshine was very pleasant and we remarked on it with other walkers we met along the way.
Whilst I would say our winter has been relatively mild, we were still very surprised on Saturday when within a short stretch of a favourite woodland path we spotted Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) in three different stages of growth.
The first example was particularly remarkable as it was not brown and broken as you’d expect in late winter, but green with newly-formed seed pods! We normally see it at that stage in August not February!
A little further on, along the stretch of path where summer finds us spotting curious insect-life, some brown stems of last summer’s Hogweed were still standing proud above the remains of other plants and grasses. I love the way the winter light reflects from their starry seedless heads. These old stalks still have beauty to offer yet.
Across the path in the lea of the towering mature pine trees we saw our third state of Hogweed. These ones were in full autumn glory, their heads sporting a full complement of perfectly formed seeds – again, a beautiful sight with the morning sun catching them as they danced in the light breeze.
As we retraced our steps homeward we stopped by the burn to seek out any signs of early spring flowers. No Dog’s Mercury or Wood Sorrel yet, but the very-small-flower-with-the-very-long-name was looking promising by the waters-edge. I’m talking about Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)- which, as you can see, is indeed a very long name for so small a plant. The tiny golden flowers were ready in their buds so I’m sure will appear very soon.
Sunday brought another chance for a sunny walk under azure blue skies. Today’s walk was in a different direction, along the valley side on an old mineral line before dropping into another woodland below. The spring signs I was seeking here were Blackthorn blossom, Gorse, Broom and Primroses. I found two out of four, so wasn’t disappointed.
The Blackthorn buds are filling up but none had burst forth yet. Both Gorse and Broom grow along the old railway line. I thought the Gorse looked particularly beautiful against the amazing blue of the sky.
The birch trees with their white trunks and purple twigs also caught my eye as I walked along.
There was lots of mud in the wood … but no sign of primroses today. Still, there’s plenty of time for them yet.
J Peggy Taylor
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