Saturday, 17 March 2012

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

“The colours of spring deserve the name of beauty in the truest sense of the word: they have every thing that can give us that idea, freshness, gaiety, and liveliness, with softness and delicacy. […] The tints of the flowers and blossoms, in all the nearer views, are clearly the most striking and attractive; the more general impression is made by the freshness of that vivid green with which the fields, the woods, and all vegetation begins to be adorned. Besides their freshness, the earlier trees have a remarkable lightness and transparency; their new foliage serves as a decoration, not a concealment; and through it the forms of their limbs are seen, as those of the human body under a thin drapery; while a thousand quivering lights play around and amidst their branches in every direction."

Uvedale Price, Essays on the Picturesque, Volume I, Chapter VIII.

The last couple of weeks have been marked by more and more signs of approaching spring, that trickle of seasonal milestones which soon swells to a flood as the trees burst into leaf  and, as Uvedale Price suggests, the landscape becomes ‘adorned’ with a ‘vivid green’. A couple of weeks ago driving to work I began to notice the bright white of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) coming into flower by the roadside, joined soon by the bright candy floss pink of cherry blossom. This week, literally overnight, the Great Sallow, otherwise known as the Goat or Pussy Willow (Salix caprea), have burst into flower. Though, of course, their colour is provided not by petals but by domed arrays of gold-tipped stamens. Below is an extremely poor photograph taken today of a Goat Willow at the top of the drive.


Goat Willow is so abundant that it is sometimes viewed as little more than a weed, which only goes to show that in nature a plant’s prevalence is no index to its beauty. So often, if we take the time to attend to it, the ordinary reveals itself as the extraordinary.

In the garden as well, the signs of spring are becoming more abundant. Below are a few photos of what struck me as I walked around this morning. A couple paragraphs after the section I have quoted above from Uvedale Price’s Essays on the Picturesque, he suggests that the beauties that ‘give to spring it’s peculiar character, are not those which are best adapted to painting […] the thousand quivering lights, beautiful as they are in nature, have a tendency to produce a meagre and spotty effect in a picture’. On the evidence of the images that follow I’m sure he would have extended this judgement to photography as well as painting, at least as practiced by my uninspired eye coupled with an even less inspired camera. I can only suggest you use your imagination or, even better, come and visit the garden to see the flowers and trees in the flesh.

Starting with Price’s nearer views, the wonderful Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ that at this time of year dominates the entrance path has begun to flower.  On Tuesday we noticed that some of the furry buds had begin to split to reveal the crumpled cerise flower petals inside, and since then more and more flowers have burst out of their protective casings.

Below is one of the early Rhododenrons on the edge of the Quarry. I’m not sure of the name of this hybrid but I’ll update the blog when I find out.


 There are still great displays of daffodils on the Conservation Meadow in front or the terrace;


and on the Boathouse Flat.


Near the West Glade the Narcissus ‘Eystettensis’ or Queen Anne’s Double Daffodil are also in flower.

This pink Pieris japonica is in flower in a sheltered spot on the Top Walk

Finally, in terms of flowers, several Camellias are in flower including this one next to the Old Stable Block.

Moving on to Price’s ‘more general impression’, the tree that stands out in the garden at the moment is the large Golden Weeping Willow (Salix x sepulcralis Chrysocoma’) that dominates the far end of the moat. Just this week the fresh lance-shaped leaves have begun to sprout, producing a green shimmer around the drooping branches. This tree very much fulfils Price’s description of how the leaves of spring provide a decoration and not a concealment of the boughs and limbs.

I’ll end this blog entry with a further quotation from Uvedale Price’s Essays on the Picturesque.

“Such indeed are the charms of reviving nature, such the profusion of fresh, gay, and beautiful colours and of sweets, united with the idea of fruitfulness, that they absorb for the moment all other considerations: and on a genial day in spring, and in a place where all its charms are displayed, every man, whose mind is not insensible or depraved, must feel the full force of that exclamation of Adam, when he first awakened to the pleasure of existence;

With fragrance and with joy my heart o’erflow’d.


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