As the first hedgerows started to show signs of greening up in early April, I was struck by sections of hedging unfolding the most beautiful soft, fresh green leaves, followed by large, upward-pointing pink buds. As the flowers started to open, I was able to identify them as quince trees (Cydonia oblonga), some of them growing to four metres or more, although the hedge cutting machine has been along and made them grow more like espaliers in places.
Quince blossom in bud
Quince blossom in bud
The more the blossoms open, the more striking the sight due to the size and number of the soft pink cup shaped flowers. They remind me of something a ballerina might wear.
Quince flower (Cydonia oblonga)
This is something I would love to have in my future garden. I must look up how easily, and how quickly, they grow from cuttings.
All of a sudden, it seems, instead of bare branches everywhere, there is a haze of green. The earlier trees have been unfurling their leaves for some weeks now, but even the oaks have suddenly started to shed their winter bareness and to glow a bright spring green.
Splashes of fresh acid green now light up the valleys, and the birds have been showing their appreciation by singing louder, earlier and longer. I heard my first cuckoo on 31 March, and he now seems to have brought along a load of his friends!
Birds are not the only ones enjoying the warmer weather. I surprised a hare this morning, sitting at the edge of the road, and two deer loped away down a field as I passed. Everywhere you walk you hear sudden rustling sounds as invisible lizards scurry away through the dry leaves. The crickets have moved up a gear from starting to ‘sing’ in the early evenings last week after a warm day, to a gentle chorus that starts as the sun burns off the morning chill. At night, the frogs take over, from the bottom of the valley where they must be enjoying damper conditions.
In the last few days of March I noticed the very first Early purple orchids (Orchis mascula) poking through in the roadside verges, adding a bright splash of colour. Now I’m seeing more and more of them – mostly in ones and twos, although sometimes they grow in sparse patches. The largest I have seen has been about 30 cm tall, although I gather they can grow up to 60 cm.
Early purple orchid
The flowers are stunning close up, as is the colour:
Close up of Early purple orchid
Today, as a cycled along, I also spotted what I think I have identified as a Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea), growing on a very steep bank beside the road, which made photographing it a bit difficult.
Lady orchid (Orchis purpurea)
For such a warm, sunny part of the world, I am surprised at the amount of lichen and moss everywhere. Shrubs, trees and hedges are all covered with thick tufts of lichen which make me think more of prehistoric jungles than south west France, and stone walls are often thick with moss. I am no expert on lichens, but a brief bit of internet research suggests these tufty coverings may be Ramalina farinacea or similar.
It does make for some beautiful images, and along with the moss gives an other-worldly feel to certain woodland paths and trails.