Saturday, May 08, 2021

Blossoming East Sussex


Cardamine pratensis. Battle, 7 May 2021.

I'm just back from a quick visit to East Sussex and, of course, I snapped a few flowers along the way. We start on a walk in Barne's Wood, near Battle, with one of the most familiar of spring sights.

Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis, Sw: Ängsbräsma). Throughout British Isles and all across Europe. And it almost reaches the top of Sweden, though the ones with coloured petals (ssp. pratensis) are mainly seen in the south. 

Like all other Brassicaceae species Lady's Smock is edible, but the leaves aren't very big and it seems rather a shame to harvest such a pretty plant when there are so many other choices. 

According to internet sources Lady's Smock is regarded as sacred to the fairies and hence as bad luck if you bring it into the home. As usual with these folkloristic claims, it's difficult to get a sense of context: how many people held this belief, and where and when. But I do think a group of Lady's Smock has the right sort of otherworldly feel: slender, dancing, self-sustaining, mysteriously circumscribed. This last, I suppose, is because it prefers distinctly wet spots. 

For whatever reason, it struck me as more frequent and noticeable in East Sussex than back here in Frome (where, however, it's still entirely commonplace). 

Leaf of Cardamine pratensis. Battle, 7 May 2021.

Flowers and developing fruits of Cardamine pratensis. Battle, 7 May 2021.

Prunus 'Shogetsu'. Battle, 7 May 2021.

Unusually, I found East Sussex lagging a week or so behind my hometown in Somerset (the recent weeks of continental high pressure were much colder down there). Accordingly, I was able to take a picture of the late-flowering cherry 'Shogetsu' at its best -- our own cherry-blossom season is fading now. 

Vaccinium corymbosum. Battle, 6 May 2021.

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) in bloom. My mum grows them in tubs on the patio. It's a nice choice; the small bushes have pretty blossom and attractive leaves that change colour through the seasons. And they produce enough of the delicious berries to improve quite a few September desserts. They're native to eastern North America. 

Vaccinium corymbosum. Battle, 6 May 2021.

Erythronium 'Pagoda'

This plant was a complete surprise, suddenly springing up in a part of the garden that had never been worked on, some months after my dad pruned back the shrub border. It's a variety of Erythronium called 'Pagoda' that has become popular with gardeners as a great choice for bringing some vibrant colour to shady spots. It's probably of hybrid origin, but one parent must certainly be Erythronium tuolumnense (Tuolumne Fawn Lily). This Californian species, unlike most of the others, produces several flowers on the same scape. 

The mostly-New-World genus Erythronium is called Dog's-tooth Violet by British gardeners. "Dog's-tooth" refers to the shape of the bulbs. "Violet" may seem inappropriate, but it arose because the sole European species, Erythronium dens-canis, has purplish-pink flowers and a passing resemblance to a violet. (It's this European species, too, that suggested the scientific name Erythronium, derived from Ancient Greek "eruthros" (red).) 

Also in my mum and dad's garden: a rather magnificent tree-heather ...

... some fiery tulips...

... and also this one, a lot less fiery but no less arresting. It might be Tulipa 'Spring Green' or Tulipa 'Deirdre', based on a very superficial search. Anyway it's definitely in Division 8 (Viridiflora). (Tulip varieties are classified in fifteen divisions.) 

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