Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

The cherry delights us because the delicate blossom arrives before there are leaves on the trees and the white amid the bare branches tells of all the flowers to come. Housman was right that although the cherry's white can be seen deep in the woods, it prefers to be on the edge. However it is not a fussy tree and will happily grow on rocky soil close to the wall of an old stone building.

The wild plum in the hedgerow where the blossom covers every twig and the sloe with its flowers along the intricate, twisted, thorny branches are even more lovely seen close to. Then later when all the leaves are appearing, the tender green of the beech, along the rivers comes the bird cherry to scent the air and sway in the breeze. The wind and the rain poured down petals from four very old cherry trees in the village beneath which the cows, let out by day from their winter quarters, graze amid the dandelions and cuckoo flowers.

I know a bank wheron the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows

On steep, stony banks all the herbs grow wild, not only thyme but also marjoram and basil. First come the oxlips, then the cowslips, with gentians, orchis and alpine strawberries. It is the cowslip whose head nods in the lightest air. Violets will grow on the stoniest of grounds like coltsfoot and forget-me-not which powders blue the banks of the rivulets and mixes with the fools' parsley in the pastures. The wood violet shares the shade with anenomes white and yellow and later the more delicate wood sorrel.

4th May 2003