“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.”– A E Housman – A Shropshire Lad
One of my favourite snatches of poetry, dedicated to the wild cherry or gean (Prunus avium), and not the overblown sugary confection that is the cultivated cherry commonly found in suburban gardens. At this time of year, you find them not only in woodland rides as in Housman’s time, but all along roadsides planted with native trees. The pendant blossoms have the faintest tinge of pink, heightened by the warm tones of the emerging leaves that also bedeck the branches.
Other native trees flowering at more or less the same time include the blackthorn (sloe, Prunus spinosa) with its stiff, wickedly thorny branches often completely covered with white clustered blossom, and the more twiggy and open branches of bullace (wild plum, Prunus domestica insititia) dotted with airy white flowers. In a few weeks, all the leaves will be out and we will be able to welcome the hawthorn (may, Crataegus monogyna) with its neat bunches of white blooms with red stamens amidst glossy serrated leaves. Their heavy scent is so evocative of summer – which seems to recede ever further into the future this cold wet spring, although we’ve been tantalised by the promise of sunny bank holiday weather!