It’s early June and the hedgerows of England are at their most ebullient. Nowhere are they more vivacious than in the West County where the crystal clear air permits colours to pop and sparkle. Warmed by the summer sun, refreshed by the last rains of spring, our hedges are flushed with foxgloves, ferns, campions and buttercups, softened only by a fine haze of cow parsley. Like a morning mist this thin veil of white blossom will soon lift to reveal the harder edges of high summer. A palette of candy pink, canary yellow and white, with quenching highlights of blue, puts me in mind of a bag of Liquorice Allsorts.
I can’t recall witnessing red campions as plentiful or vigorous as this year. It’s interesting to note the natural variation in flower colour from plant to plant; some a pale lilac-pink, some the colour of seaside rock and others a more intense rose pink. Out walking in St Agnes at the weekend I was taken aback by the sheer number of foxgloves taking advantage of disturbed field margins and old bonfire sites. The spotted pink trumpets were dazzling against the blue sky. A mob of ox-eye daisies, hogweed, vetch and buttercup attempted to infiltrate the hedges in places, but still pink held sway.
Without the green of ferns, ivies, brambles, nettles and grasses the colours of June would be kaleidoscopic but far from calming. I am always amazed at the success of hart’s tongue and male ferns in the stone hedgerows of Cornwall. Normally shade lovers, they bask lazily in full sun, yet find a ready supply of the moisture they thrive on within the cool rocks.
Escaped from gardens I spotted Rosa rugosa, Oxalis floribunda and Gladiolus byzantinus gilding Nature’s lily, and along the clifftops the pink theme continued with hummocks of thrift, now beginning to fade gently to white. Within days the cliffs below will be covered by acres of magenta-pink bell heather.
In the shelter of Chapel Porth valley I went in search of orchids. I never know which is which, but they are an exciting find nevertheless. I came up trumps with these fine flowers sprouting along the edge of an iron-rich stream. At a guess they belong to the northern marsh orchid, Dactylorhiza purpurella, a species which can be cultivated in gardens but must not be collected from the wild. ‘Ansome, as they say in Cornwall.
This moment in the pink will not last for ever. In a few weeks’ time the hedges will start to lose their youthful verve, taking on the chintzy shades of mid summer. Until then, let’s rejoice in the colour that symbolises charm, romance and sweetness and which fills the June countryside with fun and frippery.