At he end of April last year I posted an entry called Spring Flowers with photos taken in my garden of cowslips, bluebells and forget-me-nots. I had good displays of those again this year but things have moved on and now in early June I thought I would do a similar post.
I have a hawthorn in my front garden which I have to keep under control so I treat it like a hedge and clip it regularly. I don’t know if you can see on the photo but some of the flowers are just starting to get a pinkish tinge. A couple of years ago I harvested the fruit to make jelly but there were a couple of problems. As soon as I put the haws in water, little wormy things started floating up to the surface. I left them for a while in cold water and skimmed off the creatures before turning up the heat but I was disturbed to find more appearing. I carried on anyway and ended up with a brownish red jelly that was very firmly set, so much so that it was almost rubbery in texture. I don’t think I will be trying it again. The scientific name is Crataegus and the creatures were probably Lepidoptera larvae, some of which feed exclusively on hawthorn. Hawthorn marks the entrance to the Celtic Otherworld.
The second photo features a few varieties of Aquilegia, also known as columbine. The seeds and roots contain cardiogenic toxins but they are (like hawthorn) used as food plants by some butterfly and moth caterpillars. Also in the photo on the left is the corner of my largest woodpile, in the top centre an oak that sprouted a few years ago and is now taller than me, and on the right a rhododendron.
I know a lot of people don’t like Rhododendron because of its tendency to invade woodlands but those flowers surely deserved a closer shot. And now you should also be able to see a vine winding around the bush – this is Solanum Dulcamara, known by many names including bittersweet and woody nightshade. It is a species of vine in the potato genus. The berries are toxic to humans but various birds feed on them and disperse the seeds. Here is an interesting video which explains why, despite the high toxicity, very few people have been killed by eating the berries.