Tuesday, 14 May 2013

From pasque flowering to beech leafing

The long, cold winter has so held the gardens back, while the sudden warmth of early May sent everything charging forward, that there's a real sense of how 'the treasure of nature's germens tumble all together' (perhaps I misinterpret Macbeth, but the gist is right). I've delayed so long with the piece I wanted to write about three weeks in spring, and the changes seen over two visits to Kew, that now the purple wisteria, peonies and laburnum are out too. Initially, though, I wanted to observe the onset of easter according to the flowering of the pulsatilla or pasque flower. The rockery specimens above were out at Kew on 14 April, but my own windowbox subspecies finally flowered the following Sunday, and has only just stopped.

As for the crazy profusion of the Botanics, several rarities spotted on the first excursion of the year were over and gone by the next, on the second of three unnaturally perfect days at the start of May. Not surprisingly, many of the Alpine House inhabitants had paid their floral respects and moved on, among them this rare Iris sari manissadjanii from Turkey.

The carpet of Cretan Chinodoxa ('glory of the snow') near Kew Palace was also at its best one week, gone the next.

Mid-April leafing was slow. Only the Acer opalus or Italian maple was in anything like substantial leaf and flower

but various species of magnolia provided the flowering bridge between the April and May visits. Some had been nipped by the frosts, but not the later developers.You don't have to go far from the big gates in May to see a spectacular display.

Behind the pink magnolia, all furry buds several weeks earlier, is a wonder - cornus 'Ormonde' (a dogwood mixture between Cornus florida and Cornus nuttallii, if you really want to know).

There's another on the opposite side of the lake to the Palm House

and the nearby Gunnera are just beginning their monstrous annual adventure.

I headed up to the orchards between Temperate House and Pagoda

where apple tree marvels of all kinds were in full bloom and scent

and though the bluebell woods behind Queen Charlotte's Cottage were not yet in their prime, some patches were flourishing in plain sun.

Then I steered back round to the gate where I started alongside the Thames, via a Northern American red oak (Quercus rubra)

and a couple of magnificent beeches that turned out to be labelled not copper but purple (Fagus sylvatica purpurea - I think). 

Nature's profusion flourished under more sunshine on consecutive weekends. We spent a blissful afternoon in the garden of our friends Daisy, François and Garance on the Layer Marney estate in Essex, followed by a high-summery picnic on the beach by the Saxon church at Bradwell-juxta-Mare on Bank Holiday Monday. And last Sunday I was down at Glyndebourne to talk at the Ariadne Study Morning, a fine one while it lasted, before zipping back on the 12.20 train to London to spiel again between Denis Kozhukhin's epic afternoon journey through Prokofiev's Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Piano Sonatas for the Southbank's The Rest is Noise festival.

I mention these only because I'm afraid I'll never get time to write them up - more trips beckon, and I haven't even finished with Sicily yet - and I didn't want the atmosphere to pass unrecorded. Now it's grey, cold and damp, but I leave you with the Glyndebourne gardens on yet another perfect if shorter-lived May morning.


Anonymous said...

David, I have been reading your blog for a while, with interest but without comment (I wish you had a "like" button!). But these photos of yours are too gorgeous to be quiet about, so my comment will pass for a "like." Yes, I really did want to know about the dogwood - around here, we get either white or pink, not your lovely mix, with its pink tips. My favorite is the Turkish iris, which looks almost translucent - you captured it beautifully. And please promise an update on the gunnera, perhaps of yourself next to it, when it has reached its full splendor? A beautiful post, and I'm so glad you "finally" got around to it!

David said...

What a happy connection, Elizabeth (you see I have been over already, and I am delighted with what I see), not least in that there's a link with one of my other favourite bloggers - and most assiduous commenter - the wonderful Sue Scheid, who'll no doubt be here in due course to celebrate the conjunction.

Hmm, 'likes' - I know they're a formality but they still make my toes curl, which is one of many reasons I won't Facebook.

I agree about the exquisite Turkish iris (its being, not necessarily the photo), all the more precious for its evanescence. Dogwoods were new to me, I blush to say - but they are American in origin, right?

Laurent said...

David we were at Heathrow this afternoon while you posted this. We sent you a message do not if you got it. Will says he thinks it did not.Will had a nasty spill on one of the mechanical walkways between terminals. His shoe laces got caught in the mechanism, I quickly pushed the emergency red button, luckily nothing more than a fright. We are now in Munich lovely warm weather.
The gardens are lovely, such beautiful flowers sprouting at this time of year. At first I thought it was your garden. Looking forward to Salzburg this coming Thursday.

David said...

No, Laurent, nothing came through. Sorry to hear about the scare but hope the WH heart remains robust. You've got the lovely English Garden in Munich to enjoy. I was speculating about whether you two would make the Glyndebourne glories as suggested. Hope so.

Have just credited Will as a 'Canadian friend' in another Leopard piece, this time for the Arts Desk to tie in with the 50th anniversary of its winning the Cannes Palme d'Or. I hope he agrees that the anecdotes of the maestro di ballo were too good not to include...

Susan Scheid said...

Such wonderful snaps these are are! I know what you mean about time flying by so quickly in spring that it's hard even to get the photos up. I admire Elizabeth's keen spotting of the difference between the plain old dogwood florida and the cross breed (if I even have that right) with the pink edges. Had she not noted it, I wouldn't have known, and this even though a dogwood (florida, I presume) is the one grand flowering tree in our yard. Right now it is in its full glory. Within days, the petals will start to drop. Such a gorgeous time of year, yet so fleeting. I am also impressed at your window box pasque flower. That must take careful tending (something of which I am incapable) to get such a good result.

PS: What a fine read The Leopard has been, though it's one I hope to come back to, as it deserves to be slowly savored, rather than consumed in the bits and pieces I seem to have been allotted recently. I wished for the Don to last longer, but then, after all, it was a book evoking the end of a way of life, wasn't it? But such a life! (I also couldn't help but wonder, if the Don and Pierre Bezukhov had crossed paths, how they might have got on.)

David said...

I've never been so aware of the natural evanescence - especially as our early May seemed to be the most luminous ever (and it was so good to be experiencing it after last year). These things do pass so quickly.

I suppose each chapter of The Leopard can be read at some distance from its neighbour, much as Lampedusa wrote it. You're right, there could have been more but it's perfect as it is: a bit like Prokofiev's version of (scenes from) War and Peace. I've just written more on the film for The Arts Desk (it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes 50 years ago).

Susan Scheid said...

Ah, brilliant about the TAD review, as I just now have the film (original Italian, with subtitles, not dubbed, and I think complete) in hand to watch.

David said...

Unfortunately dubbed it is, like most Italian films of the 1950s and 60s. So the sticking point is Burt Lancaster's 'voice'. Paradoxically, the English-language version has the real Lancaster, even though post-synched (I presume).

As for the Italian version, the other dubbed voices aren't much better. And I suspect it might be a bit of a shock to you coming straight from the book. But by the time you read this, you'll have seen it; I'll be interested to know your thoughts.

Susan Scheid said...

I think you are off gallivanting, at least I hope so, but I had to stop by to say that today I discovered John Adams is conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC (5/30-6/1). Here’s the program: Respighi’s Fontane di Roma, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major with Jeremy Denk as pianist, and Adams’s City Noir. I have in hand, as I write, concert tickets for both 5/30 and 5/31, train tickets booked, now working on hotels. Wanna come (I know, certainly not feasible, but could not resist . . . )?

And why the same concert 2 nights in a row? Because I couldn’t decide whether to get a ticket on the stage or sit out in the orchestra, to which the Edu-Mate said, why not do both? The great irony is that, to do this, we had to postpone a long-scheduled financial planning meeting with our accountant. Listen to the music now, face the music later . . .

PS: The Leopard is "on the docket" for watching. Hopefully tonight.

wanderer said...

Oh David, another one of those 'I was there with you, all the way' posts. But then they all are really. I have been to Kew, admittedly in mid-summer when the spring glory had faded and it was the year the 'special garden' was on a theme of Mediterranean, which meant lavender here, lavender there, lavender everywhere, and truck loads of pebbles. What a beautiful grand old place it is, one of my favs, along with Regents Park.

The Dogwoods, as I see them in the photo, (I think I've seen them flowering one April in the Village, New York City) look remarkably similar to the most stunning of them all - the Magnolia Denudata (the Yulan Tree). It has the most haunting subtle perfume ( none of the new hyrbids, in any species, seem to have any perfume, as if they have been cleverly programmed to not carry the gene(s) to spite the biological manipulators). Do the Dogwoods have a perfume?

Anyway, the thing with the Magnolia Denudata is that it is ancient ancient, really ancient, and I heard it named as the first ever flowering tree. Eden. It certainly predates bees, imagine that, and (now getting to why I bring it into this conversation, as if its singular beauty were not enough) should we end up with a planet without bees (ref a previous post) then we shall simply be sentenced to a Yulan World.

I have not ever thought of a word of yours I would ever dare to think ... mmm. But I was surprised to see 'mixture' when 'cross' or 'hybrid' are available. See, I'm not a mere sycophant.

When I think about flowers, that I see what you see, and you see what others see, and have seen for millions of years, I can't think of anything else that crosses the time warp so absolutely. The Fagus family, and Nothofagus parents, go back hundreds of millions of years and have left us, down here (Tasmania actually) with our only deciduous winter tree. The fact of which reinforces the all-were-joined history of the continents (Gondwana from Pangea). So we become one again, where we should be, through trees and flowers, and posts like yours.

Howard Lane said...

These are stunningly beautiful images David, who would have thought London held such treasure? Our garden alternates between wasteland and jungle most years but I am much motivated to rectify this, "if I only had time..."

Spring can seem so fleeting and soon summer and all the festivals will be upon us (I'm already tired of hearing the name of Wagner constantly), starting in our case with the Venice Biennale, which Rowan and I are participating in next week. So gardening will have to wait until we get back, and hope the house is still visible behind the foliage.

A New Yorker friend recently bemoaned missing the Met's Ring and I told him he could see it all for £20 (with Tannhäuser and Parsifal thrown in for another £10) if he didn't mind coming to London and standing up for a few days at a time. He asked me to stop reminding him how much more civilized we Brits are...

David said...

Sue - you're right; I have been gallivanting, but also speaking a bit for my suppers. Glasgow for a night and a day (watching G&S, talking Stravinsky), then heavenly Göttingen again (remember the frogs? They sang again on another warm and fragrant afternoon). Were I not fatigued and penniless I would suffer the jetlag for Adams and Denk - what a sexy programme! Tho' we did get him conducting City Noir at a time when he was less accomplished than he is now on the conducting front. Enjoy twice, how on earth could you not?

Wanderer - I shall check out the Magnolia Denudata. Magnolia Grandiflora has, of course, huge calyxes and an overwhelming scent. But I love the sense of age. As we connect over different time zones, so - you rightly point out - we connect with the same sense-experiences of centuries past. On a slightly more mundane note, thinking of it because I've just bought J a new supply, how marvellous to still have Guerlain's Mitsouko and smell what Diaghilev smelled in the 1920s...

Was that clumsy, then, that 'mixture'? A rose by any other name...

Howard - I am quite baffled as to what you and Rowan will be up to at the Venice Biennale. More detail needed on that one, certainly. The Proms Wagnerfest is potentially quite a bargain, but I reckon you'd probably need a season ticket not to have to queue for a whole day, possibly overnight.

As for the images, there are more where those came from in the realms of the Chelsea Physic Garden and now, of course, my beloved Botaniker Garten in Göttingen, where the peonies are in excelsis.

Susan Scheid said...

I look forward immensely to more garden photos! (As wanderer says, "So we become one again, where we should be, through trees and flowers, and posts like yours.")

As for singing for your supper: Ah, as you know, how I wish you were "talking Stravinsky" over here—but perchance you'll write about that too, along the way.

We watched The Leopard yesterday. (I did see the dazzling new print on the big screen when it came out—that was my first introduction to The Leopard.) The version we viewed now, the original in Italian, is of course visually sumptuous, too, and, even if flawed, still a marvel. Interesting, though, to watch this time after having read the book. I kept wanting to reach for the book and compare. I agree with your TAD assessments, like this: “Period detail is rich, though inevitably not shot through with the deeper significance of Lampedusa’s aching love for centuries of beautiful arts and crafts.” The book does such an exquisite job with telling description and evocation of character that even the film, a visual medium—and good as it is—can’t quite compare. I think for example of this passage:

“Ingenuous masterpieces of rustic art from the previous century; useless, though, at showing boundaries, or detailing areas or tenancies; such things remained obscure. The wealth of many centuries had been transmitted into ornament, luxury, pleasure; no more; the abolition of feudal rights had swept away duties as well as privileges; wealth, like an old wine, had let the dregs of greed, even of care and prudence, fall to the bottom of the barrel, leaving only verve and color. And thus eventually it cancelled itself out; this wealth which had achieved its object was composed now only of essential oils—and, like essential oils, it soon evaporated.”

David said...

It was just such a passage as that which I wanted to locate, Sue; thanks as ever for doing the work for me. Makes an interesting comparison with James's The Princess Casamassima, where the hero loves all the beautiful things that wealth produces but not the basis of that wealth. Such a worldly bind, isn't it?

Howard Lane said...

Wanderer, that's a wonderful post and I wish I had your perspective - I'm more of a one day at a time person.

Rowan's steel band has taken her to the Albert Hall and now to Venice. The band has connections with the British Council and through them has recorded a soundtrack to a film made by Jeremy Dellar who is exhibiting at the Biennale this year. We are performing there next week (I was asked to join as they needed extra percussion). Exciting!

Looking forward to the Proms too although I won't have the stamina for Wagner... Not sure I would have the stamina for The Leopard either, perhaps I should just see the film as I am a big Burt Lancaster fan. Although I have banned the children from seeing The Great Gatsby (when they are old enough) before reading the book. Anyway it would have to wait as I am slowly working through The Rest Is Noise (good bedtime reading) and The Brothers Karamazov for the first time.

David said...

Ah, I see - what a fascinating route to the world's most amazing city.

Reading The Leopard is far less arduous than watching the film, believe me - it's short, episodic and there are none of Visconti's longueurs. But Burt won't disappoint (even if his 'voice' may).

And do read John Adams's Hallelujah Junction - more essential reading about the 20th century upheavals than Ross's book, though obviously from a different perspective. I have an F Scott Fitzgerald problem so won't be re-reading, or reading, any more of him. And much as I love Baz Luhrmann, this sounds like the self-indulgence of Moulin Rouge gone too far.

wanderer said...

Dogwoods to Gatsby. That's conversation.

David, I've been out of action but following up on all this, and the segue to Baz, I found this interview about the film, the book, the people and the person, quite revealing.