Monday, 27 February 2017

The darling buds of February

Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 reminds us that:
                                      Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.

But in fact, what with storm Doris roaring in, February has been giving the buds a bit of a hard time. The winds were very fierce of course and once they had abated I went forth expecting to find that there had been significant damage but in fact no trees had been uprooted, perhaps because they have yet to put forth their leaves. Only on my own back garden did I find structural damage where a flimsy fence erected by my neighbour had come to grief. 'Fred's erections have never lasted long,' complained his wife.
Just missing our young Garrya! Storm Doris did little real
damage. 23 February, 2017
Other than that there was a good scattering of twigs and small branches littering the pavements and an estate agent's sign lay prone. Thankfully the property had already been sold.
The property market has crashed. Christchurch Road, Daventry.
23 February, 2017
But back to the buds...
Among the more advanced were those of Lilac, Syringa vulgaris. My grandmother, along with many of her generation, applied the name 'Syringa' to the unrelated Mock Orange, Philadelphus, but this example of botanical confusion seems not to have persisted. Perhaps the fact that the flowers of both are strongly fragrant led to the muddle. Incidentally it is said that the flowers of lilac are commonly visited by bees and butterflies. This has not been my experience and I must have a good look later in the year.
Lilac buds. Badby Road West, Daventry. 27 February, 2017
The buds of hawthorn are also now breaking, to reveal the bright green leaves. Already some of these are sufficiently developed to be eaten. Harking back again to my grandmother, she would refer to these fresh new leaves as 'bread and cheese'. Tasty they may be but filling they are not. Although some people recommend adding them to salad I am not tempted and even their alleged ability to lower cholesterol levels will not move me.
Hawthorn leaves are unfurling. Badby Road West, Daventry.
27 February, 2017
Going back to Shakespeare's 'darling buds', I was cheating a bit because he was probably referring to this tree rather than the month of May in his celebrated sonnet and to the flower buds rather than the leaf buds. In his day only one species of May (Crataegus) was recognised; why I mention that I've no idea because it is clearly irrelevant anyway.
Hawthorn leaves are unfurling but the blossom won't be here for a few weeks yet. On the other hand its relative, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) should be flowering shortly although there is no sign of the leaves. Although unalike in so many ways both are members of the Rose family, Rosaceae, and the flower structures are broadly similar.
Flower buds of Blackthorn. Badby Road West, Daventry.
27 February, 2017
In 'The Hedgerow Handbook' the author, Adele Nozedar states that the fruit of the blackthorn, i.e. the sloes 'are the great grandmothers of our cultivated garden plums'. This is suspected but not proven. Our cultivated plums are Prunus domestica and, although other Prunus species, e.g. Prunus cerasifera, may be involved in some small way the genetics are so complex that the full history of our domestic plums may never be established. Adele Nozedar goes on to say, 'The flowers are edible and taste a bit like almonds' and she suggests they may be added to salads or used for cake decoration. True enough but the almond taste is due to the presence of cyanide so perhaps we shouldn't overdo it!
In this blog I really wanted to make reference to the sticky buds of Horse Chestnut but that must wait for another day.

No comments:

Post a Comment