Blooms and birds
Blooms and birds
Among the gales and squalls last week there was one perfect morning, and what better way to spend it than walking along the Wharfe through Strid Woods? The summer migrants had arrived and were all singing energetically: willow warbler, chiffchaff, wood warbler with its unmistakable whirring trill, blackcap or, perhaps, garden warbler. I can never confidently distinguish between their rich sustained songs. Then, popping unconcerned into a nest-box on the very edge of the busy footpath – the star of Strid Woods – the pied flycatcher – perfect!
As I listened, my eyes were busy too because the flowers were also wonderful. Spring wows us with great sheets of colour – dappled white sheets of wood anemones, damp corners golden with celandines or kingcups and, of course, the blue carpet of bluebells now already gone to seed. Early summer is subtler. The tangled banks of vegetation along the riverside and bordering my path through the trees somehow effortlessly achieved the effect I strive for in my garden. For a start the background of different foliage – all that variety of structure and texture recommended in gardening programmes: a few towering burdocks with huge crinkled leaves and blunt buds, arching ferns and delicate circlets of woodruff. Among all this the flowers – yellow herb Bennet, held upright on wiry stalks and already accompanied by the prickly balls of their seed capsules, vibrant pink campion, a sprinkling of powder-blue forgetmenot, stars of white stitchwort and the rich purple of bugle. Close to the river were arrays of dame’s violet – purple, mauve, white. I haven’t seen such fine examples since I visited Monet’s garden!
In damp shady spots, I always look for the water avens. I love their brownish-pink colour and graceful drooping flowers. They hybridise with herb Bennet (wood avens) and at certain points along my path are patches with hybrids of every combination of colour and form you could imagine – like a horticultural test bed. Another speciality I like to check on is an intriguing plant – a parasite which, having no green pigment of its own, cannot photosynthesise so has to take nutrients from its host. It’s called toothwort. Arching stems carry its bell-shaped flowers – all a creamy white – rather like slightly grubby felt – and you can find it under its host – hazel. I managed to discover a good specimen, though the flowers all rather past their prime. I make a mental note to look for it at the beginning of May next year.