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Spring Flowers

We have some April showers at the moment, but since the Equinox on the 21 March the days have been pretty nice and warming up well. Spring moves from the ground upwards into the canopies of the trees, so that the undergrowth blooms earliest and then the insects begin appearing, feeding on the nectar and pollen that is available.

The Early Dog Violet - Viola reichbachiana - one of the earliest flowering spring plants.
The Early Dog Violet – Viola reichbachiana – one of the earliest flowering spring plants in Wicklow.
Primroses - Primula vulgaris - blooming. These are among the most hardy spring flowers, sometimes blooming beneath snow. There was no snow this year, thankfully.
Primroses – Primula vulgaris – blooming. These are among the most hardy spring flowers, sometimes blooming beneath snow. There was no snow this year, thankfully.

Keep an eye out on the flowers for the insects, especially different species of bees. Spring is the time of the Mining Bees, and there are a number of different species, but the most commonly seen in Wicklow is probably the Mining Bee –¬†Andrena haemorrhoa.

A female Andrena haemorrhoa Mining Bee feeding on Lesser Celandine, one of the most beautiful spring flowers, which will continue to flower well into Autumn.
A female Andrena haemorrhoa Mining Bee feeding on Lesser Celandine, one of the most beautiful spring flowers, which will continue to flower well into Autumn. She collects pollen on special hairs on her rear legs, which gives them a yellow colour.

At this time of year the larger trees and bushes begin to blossom and their fragrances are now beginning to fill the air, and they contribute very much to the distinctive fragrance of the spring air. One of the most impressive of these bushes is the Flowering Currant –¬†Ribes sanguineum¬†– which is found throughout Wicklow in lowland areas and has beautiful flowing tresses of pink flowers.

Flowering Currant as you will see it at the moment along hedgerows and even riverbanks. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce the scent for you via the internet, but one day it may be possible, and that will be quite an adventure,
Flowering Currant as you will see it at the moment along hedgerows and even riverbanks. Unfortunately I cannot reproduce the scent for you via the internet, but one day it may be possible, and that will be quite an adventure.

Now that there is nectar to be had, keep an eye out for moths at the windows at night time. More and more are showing up, day-by-day, and one of the most common is the Hebrew Character – Orthosia gothica.

A Hebrew Character moth on a night time wall.
A Hebrew Character moth on a night time wall.

 

The Earliest Spring Ever!

Last night we had a severe frost in Wicklow, but it seems the plants have decided, for whatever reason, that spring is here to stay. I have never seen anything quite like it. On New Year’s Day I found Bluebells throwing the leaf-litter off and raising their juicy leaves to the sun.

Bluebell leaves …on New Years Day!

And not only were the daffodils up, but irises had poked their blade-like leaves through the soil, and the crocuses were not only well up above ground but some now have flowers on the verge of opening.

A crocus about to blossom, as I photographed it yesterday.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking these impetuous plants are mistaken: crocuses can sometimes bloom in the snow, as can primroses, and daffodils often make mistakes. Fair enough arguments, but have you ever seen cherry blossom in January? There are certain October-flowering Cherry trees, but not January ones, and the pair of cherries growing out front of the church (opposite the petrol station) in Newcastle village would seem to me to be the typical spring variety. True, they are in sunny areas, but covered in blossoms and being attended by big Bumble Bees. Incredible!

 

One of the blossoming cherries outside the church on Newcastle main street.
A close-up of the beautiful blossoms, with bees in there somewhere.

According to the weather forecasters we are in for another week of cold frosty nights and mostly clear sunny days, so winter is certainly not done with us yet. But spring is here, whatever the weather. And just to end, keep an eye out for the beautiful feather-duster like, aniseed-scented blooms of the Winter Heliotrope. They are in abundance this year, and they have to be as there is so much competition.

Winter Heliotrope flies the flag for winter, while it still can.

And after a great 2012, with the massive successes of Wicklow boxer Katie Taylor and cross-country runner Fionnuala Britton, it seems the very landscape itself has decided to throw a celebratory party. 2013 is off to an awesome start.

The Great Spring Flowering

In the British Isles there is a saying: “April showers bring May flowers”. It is especially true in Wicklow. After an unusually balmy and dry winter we finally got some decent rain, and some crazy weather events, including a large water spout (sea tornado) that was caught on video by several people as it almost came ashore at the town of Bray. But the flowers are now blooming regally. The floors of woodlands and road verges are carpetted with the white flowers of intoxicating Ramsons, our wild garlic.

Ramsons, the wild garlic that perfumes Wicklow's spring woodlands.

As we enter into high spring there are still very few Swallows, and almost no House Martins to be seen due to the northern winds, but that will soon change. Already the Lilac trees have flowerspikes that are opening, releasing gentle fragrance along the hedgerows.

Lilac flower-clusters about to open.

Of course, the flower that is most associated with high spring also grows along hedgrows, but is most spectacular when seen in woodlands in large numbers, so keep your eyes out for Bluebells right now, because they are in flower. Some are actually white in colour.

Bluebells along a hedgrow.