The cold, snowy winter and even snowier March, following a brief spell of mild weather that fooled both the birds and the very early flowers, upset the order of the usual harbingers of spring, as many are late: the daffodils have collided with the tulips; flowering currant and cherry are blooming together. Perhaps ironically, the fruit trees are full of promise; up here in the hills, they often succumb to the devious daggers of frost, but their blossom has arrived so late that it has dodged the devastating chill. I’m anticipating a late summer and early autumn laden with bounty.
Anyway, back to the woods, where normality is not well: the bluebells, one of my favourite wild flowers, have been cautious, dithering in the cold and arriving at least two weeks later than usual. The trees, by contrast, are embracing the spring in a rush. Perhaps nurtured by the continuous snow and rain of the endless winter months, their green leaves are burgeoning unusually thickly and very fast for the time of year. The bluebells, in their huge swathes, have yet to reach perfection, that moment when the understorey is carpeted so richly with their violet-blue that all the trees appear to be floating in an indigo haze. This year, however, they will have to make haste if they are to work their customary mood magic, for the woodland canopy is fast closing over. It seems that they will be slaughtered before their time, starved of light and stifled. In most years, by mid-May, they are bedraggled by a month in flower, their loveliness fulfilled and their seeds set. But not this year.
The phases of woodland plant life are delicately juxtaposed, each species adapted to take advantage of the moment. But now the time is out of joint and there is nothing to be done to set it right.