Clockwise from top left: herb robert (Geranium robertianum); hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium); lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria); Alexanders / wild celery (Smyrnium olusatrum); common gorse (Ulex europaeus); blackthorn / sloe (Prunus spinosa); red campion (Silene dioica); dog violet (Viola riviniana); three-cornered leek (Allium triquetum), primrose (Primula vulgaris); common scurvygrass (Cochlearia officinalis); bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta); dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and field chickweed (Cerastium arvense).
This week me and Him Indoors are enjoying a break in North Cornwall with friends Rachel, Simon, Scarlett, Jack and an adorable Cockapoo puppy named Barney. Although spring has been as slow to get going here as it has up country, the hedgerows are already thick with wild flowers. The cliffs around our holiday cottage in Talland Bay are frosted with blackthorn (below) and gilded with honey-scented gorse (above). The white blackthorn blossom is so impossibly profuse that it’s almost indistinguishable from the foam cresting the waves in the rocky cove below. This year’s crop of sloes will be bountiful.
In the lanes that lead toward the fishing village of Polperro, the high Cornish hedges are festooned with garlicky three-cornered leek and perfumed posies of dog violet and primrose. The primroses are so abundant in places that it appears as if the landscape has been spattered with acid yellow paint.
Assisted by my 12 year old protégé Scarlett, I collected flowers from over 20 wild species to study and photograph at home after tea. Many were natives, but some, like lampranthus and periwinkle, were exotics that had escaped from gardens to join the locals.
I wonder if it’s any coincidence that the flowers gracing our hedgerows in April are the same colours as those that we choose to adorn our gardens – white, yellow, blue and candy pink. Together they scream spring, rescued from the brink of gaudiness by a vast, saturated canvas of green. In a few weeks the grasses and ferns will have grown so tall that only the red campions, cowparsley and foxgloves will hold their heads above the rising tide of foliage.
I am off now to pick wild garlic (Allium ursinum) and wild celery (Smyrnium olusatrum) for our dinner. Lightly steamed, these foraged herbs will accompany a hearty meal of sausages and mash. Wild Cornwall doesn’t just look good, it tastes pretty special too.