Spring has been very late this year, but is now here in glorious colour. I got to thinking about the colours associated with different seasons. Winter to me is white, or rather, monochrome. Colours are very muted, there is snow, and any plants that struggle through, like snowdrops, are white. To me, the excitement of spring starts in the woods when we see a tinge of yellow, from our daffodils, but also from our lesser celandine in the shade of the trees and on our woodland paths. Lesser celandine is like a herald of the beauty to come in the form of the showy daffodils.
More spring yellowness comes from the primroses and cowslips that have been slowly and quietly spreading across our wet and shady areas in the woods, doing particularly well this year (and maybe producing oxlips in future – those showy primroses up on long stems that result from primrose/cowslip hybrids). These little gems of brightness on cloudy and wet spring days are really cheering, particularly so this year after the dismal, long and dark winter.
Then, ever so slowly, the palette changes. Yellow stays with us, in the form of buttercups, but is joined, first by blue and then by white, pink and all the colours of the rainbow. Blue is the complimentary colour of yellow, providing a wonderful counterpoint to the yellowness of the daffodils, buttercups and primroses. We are so very lucky that our woods are full of bluebells, almost all of them blue, a few white and pink, and a stunning sight they make. There is also a blue counterpoint in the meadow in the form of both germander speedwell, and forget-me-not – these two beautiful, complimentary colours enhancing each other. Even the emerging leaves, acid-green with a strong yellow tone, and the yellow of the catkins and tree-flowers, add to this spring yellowness. The first butterflies are also yellow – the brimstones that range along the woodland edge looking for buckthorn on which to lay their eggs.
The changing palette brings in purples and pinks (campion, snakeshead fritillary, early purple vetch) and white (greater and lesser stitchwort, Jack-under-the-hedge, early ox-eye daisy and mayweeds). These are the colours of summer – along with the red of poppies, the blue of cornflower, the pink of corncockle, and a multitude of beautiful colours from clovers, vetches, sainfoin and our wonderful southern marsh orchids. Summer to me is a rainbow, rather than one particular colour.
This year, spring has seemed the more spectacular because it has been compressed – coming late, and making up for that with a vengeance. Let us hope it is a harbinger of a beautiful, colour-filled summer.