Walking round the village over the last few weeks, the gardens have displayed their own alphabet of blossom: apple, ceanothus, elder, forsythia, horse chestnut, lilac, peony, quince, rowan, sorbus, tamerisk, wisteria – and the hedges and towpath haven’t been outdone with blackthorn, comfrey, flag iris, garlic mustard, hemlock water dropwort, ox-eye daisy, smooth hawk’s beard, red campion, white dead nettle, and now the magisterial May blossom itself. In our garden, at least, the blooms have come and gone quickly, no doubt a result of well below average rainfall in March and April, and the summer will have a palette of very muted colour if this continues. Even so, one flower will shine no matter what, or how briefly: the understated, very English, dog rose, the first buds of which are beginning to appear. Here’s a fragment from George Meredith’s Wild Rose.
High climbs June’s wild rose,
Her bush all blooms in a swarm;
And swift from the bud she blows,
In a day when the wooer is warm;
Frank to receive and give,
Her bosom is open to bee and sun:
Pride she has none,
Nor shame she knows;
Happy to live.
Unlike those of the garden nigh,
Her queenly sisters enthroned by art;
Loosening petals one by one
To the fiery Passion’s dart
Superbly shy. …
She is only a plain princess of the weeds, …
Her aim is to rise into light and air.
One of the darlings of Earth, no more,
And little it seems in the dusty ways,
Unless to the grasses nodding beneath;
The bird clapping wings to soar,
The clouds of an evetide’s wreath.