I have been feeling very low recently for reasons I need not enter into but today I received a lift the moment I stepped out into the front garden and saw irises and crocuses in bloom. They have been flowering for several days but in the morning's bright sunshine they stood out splendidly.
|Iris reticulata, dependable and lovely. Stefen Hill, |
The iris was I. reticulata and this species, from south-east Europe and Iran, is both easily obtained and reliable. I wouldn't be without it in any of its several varieties. The yellow Iris danfordiae is delightful too but after flowering the bulbs break up to form tiny bulblets the size of wheat grains, taking years to get back to flowering size.
The crocuses (incidentally I checked to find that 'croci' is a perfectly correct but pedantic plural) were forms of C. chrysanthus but, although 'chrysanthus' means 'golden flowered', I am growing the variety 'Blue Pearl'. I will add other colours for next season.
My target was, once again, Newnham Hill, aka Windmill Hill. I have had reports of the large and handsome Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodorus lituratus, being already active in the south of England. Would they be on the gorse shrubs atop Windmill Hill? It is an exposed, windy site so I was not at all optimistic. And in any case, would I be able to spot it? The bugs in both size and colour resemble the unopened flower buds and are easily overlooked. The species adorns the cover of my much-thumbed copy of 'Shieldbugs of Surrey', by Roger Hawkins.
Sure enough, it was blowing a near gale at the top (the tail-end of Storm Henry) and toupee wearers were at serious risk of scalp exposure - and nary a shieldbug of any type was to be seen. It is a steep climb, with slopes of 45 degrees or more in places. I managed to avoid the more precipitous approaches but certainly the scramble raised the pulse rate. My doctors would have been proud of me.
In the face of the wind photography was tricky but I took a picture to prove to myself that I'd been there.
Sometimes, on hill tops such as this, insects will congregate or assemble, generally for mating purposes. I have not visited Newnham Hill specifically to look out for this behaviour but I must bear it in mind for this coming summer. (David Bellamy claims that he once plotted the distribution of courting couples on Box Hill for a biology paper; not quite the same thing I know but...)
Anyway, with all cobwebs thoroughly swept away I cautiously descended the hill, making it to my car without mishap.