Transient Pleasures: Crocuses

In spring things start to move quickly in the garden. The first shoots soon become the first leaves of re-emerging plants. Flowers arrive, dazzle us with their vibrant colours, and disappear again. There’s always something new coming along to replace the flowers that have gone before.

The busyness of spring means that I often miss photographing some of the flowers in the garden. Every year I tell myself that I’ll try to get them all, but that doesn’t happen. There are usually too many things demanding attention at the same time (a new pond this year), so some things just don’t get photographed.

These crocuses are an example of my ‘misses’. The pictures here are from last year. This year I was too slow with them. I certainly noticed the crocuses when first the yellow, and then the purple and the purple and white flowers opened wide in the sun. And I did take time to enjoy the sight of them. But somehow I was always too busy to have my camera in hand whenever I was near them. By the time I’d thought of it, they’d started to go over. Shame. But I’m glad that I did make the effort to take photographs soon enough last year.

This spring the crocuses seem to have gone over more quickly than usual due to the very warm weather we’ve had. One minute their flowers were gleaming in the sunshine and the next there were what looked like shreds of tattered silk on the ground. The crocus flowers arrived suddenly and departed just as suddenly. Next year I need to remind myself that they may not be around for long and to take photographs as soon as I have the chance.

Purple-striped crocus 'Pickwick'

A Bright Spot

While I’ve been waiting for the spring flowers to start opening there has been a very bright splash of colour indoors. These bold reddish-orange flowers belong to Clivia miniata, otherwise know as the ‘forest lily’ or ‘natal lily’.

The colour feels much more summery than the paler colours that are appearing with the spring flowers. Reds and oranges always make me think of hot summer days. I think my clivia is a rather darker shade and more red than most (judging by the pictures in Google search). Apparently they are more variable when raised from seed, but I have no idea if this one was. (It was given to me by another gardener. A fabulous gift!)

These flowers have been a cheerful and quite exotic sight. They have greeted me every time I went into the conservatory for the last couple of weeks. Now the flowers are starting to fade – I shall miss them until they return next year!

Clivia miniata (forest lily or natal lily)

Oh! You Pretty Things

The hellebores here were given to me from my neighbour’s garden. She knows that I photograph flowers, so she knew I would be delighted with them. A lovely gift, and one that kept me happy for a long while.

The top photograph is of a flower floating in a bowl of hellebores. I found that I preferred photographing the hellebore close-up, rather than trying to photograph the whole bowl of flowers. I think that’s partly due to the limitations of my bowl (not the most attractive) and partly because I find it much harder to create a pleasing composition from so many very varied flower heads.

It’s a lot more satisfying to me to arrange a smaller group of flower heads, especially if they are somehow related. That makes it easier to concentrate on the details of the flowers – even more so if I choose to photograph just a single flower.

I love seeing hellebores appear in early spring. They have a very exotic look which is not what I would really expect in a UK garden that is still shivering in chilly breezes. Both single and double flowers are utterly enchanting, but the doubles are just a bit more elaborate. I actually think the singles suit my garden better because of the fairly naturalistic planting here. However, I’m happy to create a slightly more formal looking area that should suit a few of the doubles – if I get a chance to buy some!

You may have noticed that I pinched my title from the David Bowie song. If you’d like to hear a very different version by Lisa Hannigan, it’s here. Enjoy!

White hellebore flowers