We look forward so keenly to the Spring flowers, and rejoice in them so deeply – those first celandines, primroses, bluebells – but how about midsummer flowers? Do we tend to take them for granted? I found myself thinking along these lines as I drove along country lanes through Cumbria last week, and again, later, as I walked beside the Wharfe. There’s a lot to appreciate in those lush overgrown verges to path and lane. Take the variety of sedges and grasses: you could spend a happy hour just collecting a bunch with seed heads ranging from delicate Yorkshire fog to the solid busby shapes of the different cat’s-tails. It would form an interesting challenge to the children or grandchildren on a weekend walk to see how many different species they could find. A good field guide would help with identification – or you can just enjoy the variety of shapes and textures.
Forming a continuous foam across all the hedgerow-banks were masses of cow parsley, and other umbellifers too, many of which would have needed a research stop to identify. My particular favourite is sweet Cicely with its delicious aniseed scent. Other wayside flowers in June have to be tall to find their way through the tangle, and what colours!- particulary the red campions, somehow a more vibrant pink against that green back-drop. Various kinds of cranesbill also flourish here from the delicate sprays of herb Robert to the lovely purple splodges of meadow cranesbill. In Cumbria we also saw a lot of wood cranesbill; superficially similar to meadow, these had smaller deeper purple flowers each with a white centre. Soon now this natural herbaceous border will be joined by another spectacular favourite. Keep a lookout for bellflowers, their tall spikes of violet-blue flowers rising above the mass of other vegetation. They are relatives of the hare-bell, and you may see the more modest nettle-leaved bellflower or, if you’re lucky, the even taller and more robust giant bellflower with its silvery-blue bells glistening in the sunshine which, surely, we’re due to get soon.
The other way for a plant to flourish in high summer is to find a niche, and if you’d like to see a species really happy in its niche just look at the Old Bridge in Ilkley with its colonies of mauve and white fairy foxgloves – a plant more usually found on rock-faces and scree.