Also known as Rose Bay Willow Herb, the prolific wild flower called Fireweed, five feet tall with spikes of magenta flowers, cheers the hearts of those whose cityscape has become a bomb site or whose buildings have been cleared by machine. The dormant seeds spring to life after destructive events such as forest or man-made fires, hence the name, Fireweed. This occasional column will celebrate the persistence of wildlife in urban conditions.
Before the Blizzard
4th April 2012
A crimson tulip growing through the stark white of newly fallen snow: an arresting image from the TV reports of blizzards in Derbyshire. Weather experts say that we are more likely to have snow at Easter than at Christmas, though no one wrote a song dreaming of it. That’s because there’s something not quite right about a duvet of snow at a time when the earth is stretching to life.
Hard to believe that only days ago I was meandering about at a local garden centre, unaware of the north-easterlies heading our way, and watching the ladybirds at the golden centres of euphorbias. Coral red with black spots, their enamelled roundness gleaming in the sun, they epitomise the wonder of our childhood days of discovery.
There were peacock butterflies among the primulas, placing their wings together as if in prayer or hovering and fluttering between mauve, magenta and white, the hue of each flower vibrating differently with the colours of the butterfly. It was as if someone was making up a bouquet and deciding where best to place a special flower. Two sets of black and white edged “eyes” give drama to the peacock’s wings: the upper eyes tan-red, the lower eyes a chalky blue. The soft insect body in gauzy grey-brown is thus de-emphasised.
These were the springtime previews of summer before the blizzard days chilled our picnic hopes!
Fireweed 1 - St John’s
Gardens & Springing to Life
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