Saturday, April 17, 2004

Warm sunny morning

The mature cherry tree on the Wanstead Flats closest to Manor Park Station is in the peak of bloom, and is heavy with white blossom. Although back in February it looked like we would have a spring that was 3 weeks early, the trees seem to be sticking very closely to the schedule of averages. Perhaps the cold nights have held them back till now.

Bluebells are out in the woods. Not all bluebells are English. Many of the ones you see around London, or in people's gardens, are in fact the Spanish bluebells, which like many things introduced into this island country, is threatening to take over the native species, which need protection. They do this not only by multiplying in their own right, but by mixing into the genes of the English bluebell. For years I nurtured the bluebells in my front garden, and wondered at why they were so vigourous, healthy and robust. I congratulated myself on my nature-gardening skills. Then I was disappointed to learn they were the Spanish bluebells, which are common as muck and as easy to grow as daffodills.

What is the difference between the English bluebell and the Spanish bluebell? The English bluebell has narrower leaves, tends to have a thinner more sparse flower spike, and most importantly, the flower spike bends over at the top and dangles all its flowers on one side. This is known as a one-sided nodding inflorescence. The Spanish bluebell is sickeningly meaty and overbearing, with wider leaves that spread further, and a bold upright symmetrical flower spike. Thanks, Germaine Greer, for drawing this to the nation's attention 2 years ago.

In other words, the English bluebell has a delicate beauty, whereas the Spanish bluebell has a weed-like robustness. The Spanish bluebell is taking over, because it does very well outside of the darker woods, with more sunshine and heat. If the English climate should once again experience a few successive years of cold dark dampness, they would die off very quickly. So that's enough about the English and the Spanish, before some naive Guardian-reading Anti-Racist accuses me of racism, (The Boys Who Cried Wolf, who destroyed the value of the word that might have saved a lot more people in Rwanda). Or see the noble reference at English Nature.

Along Aldersbrook Road, which borders the magnificent Thirties suburban estate of Aldersbrook, some vandal has smashed up the glass J C Decaux bus shelter at the corner of Herongate Road. J C Decaux is the equivalent of Ikea to the street furniture business (eg bus shelters, advertising hoardings, benches). They may well be most successful globalized industry to ever come out of Belgium. Almost every damn thing you see in the street in London nowadays is J C Decaux. Thanks Ken Livingstone, for blowing my burdensome Council Taxes on street furniture that even 11 year old kids think are ugly.