Three cheers for the May Day Bank Holiday. Hip hip, hooray! A Sunday night free of work worries, an extra day in the garden and then just four days until the next weekend. What could be wrong with that?
Yesterday we walked miles through the East Kent countryside, bounded all the way by high hedgerows frothing with white flowers; cow parsley, the first elderflowers, sickly-sweet bird cherry (Prunus padus) and of course may blossom. The flowers of Crataegus monogyna, the common hawthorn or ‘may’, are synonymous with the month bearing the same name. This year it has been flowering abundantly since mid April, but in other years its blossoming heralds the start of my favourite month of all.
The may’s tiny white flowers, with their disproportionately long stamens, are produced in such profusion that mature trees can appear as if temporarily dusted in snow. They are offset by new foliage of the most vivid lime-green.
We are most accustomed to seeing may growing as part of a country hedge, but given space it will form a very handsome small tree, like the one below growing in the village of Reading Street near Broadstairs. May trees are famously long-lived. One of the oldest trees in the UK can be found in the churchyard of Hethel, Norfolk and is reputed to be over 700 years old. Over the years hybrids have been created, including the double pink Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’, but none really compare to the original when witnessed in its natural setting.
I hope the may is flowering where you are and that you have a wonderful day gardening or just soaking up the spring sunshine.