Spring is Blossoming

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At last the spring blossom is here. Our apple trees (top) have begun to flower this week. They’re much later than last year. There has been less sunshine than usual, and more rainy days, so it’s not much wonder that the buds on the fruit trees haven’t been keen to open.

(In case you think I’m unhappy about the wet weather, I can assure you that I’m not. That’s because the extra rain will be a blessing if temperatures begin to rise the way they did last year. Excess heat and drought may become a problem here.)

It was still rather grey and breezy when I remembered to photograph the blossom on our very young pear tree. (It had it’s first fruit last year.) I was a bit worried that the blossom might get blown away if the winds persisted, but things calmed down and the blossom survived (photo below). It’s too early to expect more than one or two pears this year, but it was good to be at least able to enjoy the blossom.

Pear Blossom
Pear Blossom

Some stronger sun in recent days has now also brought the Morello cherry (bottom photo) into flower and I was even lucky enough to have a bright blue sky for a background. Whether I’ll be able to pick many of the eventual cherries before the blackbirds descend on them is another matter. I do hope they leave me some!

The flowering cherry in our front garden (‘Kanzan’ – a very pretty pink) is flowering surprisingly well this year, given that it has looked sickly for a couple of years. Eventually it may give up the ghost, so I really ought to go and pick a few twigs of flowers so that I can photograph them indoors. (They’re too difficult to get close to otherwise.) And then there’s the lovely deep pink crab apple out on the green in front of us. It is loaded with blossom this year. I think I need to go and get my camera…

Cherry tree blossom (Morello)
Blossom on the Morello cherry tree.

Colour variations: Tulips

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Tulips are wonderful subjects for photography. The flower shapes can vary hugely, some being a simple cup-shape but others being very like lilies or peonies. Their colourings and markings are even more varied and give unlimited opportunities for interesting photographs.

I photographed these tulips last year and again this year, and I was surprised to see how different the flowers look in the two sets of photos. They are a viridiflora tulip (my guess is that they are ‘Dolls Minuet’, but I can’t be sure). Viridiflora tulips all have a green feathered marking spreading from the base of the petals.

Last year’s photos (which you can see here) show these tulips as mainly magenta, with just a slight amount of green blush. The top photograph here is more like those from last year, with perhaps a little more green. But the photograph below shows a lot more green than I had expected.

I’ve just been out for a good look at these tulips again, a few days after the photos were taken. Now I can see that the tulip below has, in that short time, lost much of the green colouring. It has become more like the flower in the top photo. So that suggests to me that the flowers are greener when they first open and gradually change to become more pink.

This is something I hadn’t noticed before…or if I had, I’d forgotten. Spring is a very busy time in the garden, so it’s easy to let things pass by unnoticed. Hopefully next year I’ll remember the strong green markings when these tulips first open. Then I should have time to take some studio photographs of them too.

Purple Checks: Fritillaria meleagris

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As a photographer I find the tiny checkered markings on the petals of Fritillaria meleagris irresistible. Also known as the ‘snake’s head fritillary’ (because of the shape of the unopened buds and the resemblance of the markings to a snake’s skin), it is a most unusual-looking flower.

The distinctive markings have given rise to other names for the plant. ‘Chess flower’ is a pretty obvious one, but ‘guinea hen flower or just ‘guinea flower’ come from the similarity of the checks to the spots on the bird’s feathers. (The Latin ‘meleagris’ has the same meaning.) Then there’s ‘checkered daffodil’ (it isn’t a daffodil) and ‘checkered lily’ (it is a member of the lily family).

Knowing that fritillaries are Liliaceae made me suspect that, like other lilies, they would be highly toxic to cats. I have two cats of my own and occasional feline visitors (or invaders as my two would reckon). So I have kept this plant in a pot that’s out of their way. Turns out that I was right to suspect the fritillary’s toxicity because I’ve just read that the plant contains elements that cause damage to both heart and kidneys. This is probably one to be wary of if you have a cat that likes to nibble plants.

If you’re in the UK or Europe you might be lucky enough to come across a damp meadow where these flowers are growing wild. They used to be much more common in water meadows, especially in the area around the Thames, but gradually disappeared as more land was cultivated. Happily for their survival, they’re a popular garden plant. It’s easy to see why!

Flowers of Fritillary meleagris
Fritillaria meleagris

Springing Slowly…

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At last it is starting to feel like spring here. A few sunny days have persuaded the first leaves to begin to unfurl. Around the garden flowers are in bud and very gradually opening.

Daffodils have been appearing and going over, some are yet to open. (And I’m smiling to see the return of a few that I thought I may have lost.) Tulips are now showing traces of colour on their still tightly-closed buds and there are forget-me-nots sprinkled through the borders.

Everything is much slower than it was last year, though. Then, the early spring was especially warm and the garden felt full of flowers by the beginning of April. There was a mass of blossom on our few fruit trees – and lots of fruit to follow! This year the cherry and the apple trees look as if it will be a while yet before they’re ready to flower.

However, it’s good to see that life is returning to the garden now. Our young pear tree has just started to open its flowers as I’m writing this. (This year I hope to photograph that blossom before it disappears – I didn’t manage it last year.)

Earliest of the fruit to blossom is a small plum tree – you can see this in both photos. This tree has never yet managed to produce a plum, but it’s early flowers may mean that it manages to keep its place in our smallish garden. (I’m not making any promises to it though!)

Plum Blossom
Plum blossom – a welcome sight at last!

Flowers of the Wind…and Rain!

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Spring is still taking its time to get established here, but there are signs of new growth and flowers are gradually appearing. These are Anemone blanda, commonly known as the windflower or winter windflower.

Winter windflower seems an appropriate name for a flower blooming now, because our weather has been unusually wet and sometimes windy too. Conditions here are decidedly un-springlike at the moment. Despite this, these small flowers are quietly establishing themselves in amongst the bigger perennial plants that haven’t yet come into growth. Whenever the sun comes out they open their flowers fully and bring a gleam of light to the still somewhat wintry garden.

There are only a few of the white windflowers in the garden so far. We also have the blue windflowers which have begun to spread, so I’m hoping that the white ones will too. These brave little flowers will always be a welcome sight as winter loses its chilly hold on us and we get ready for spring to arrive in full bloom.

White anemone flowers (Anemone blanda)