Up close in the woodland

Six beautiful flower portraits,  captured today in the woodland garden, glowing in the early evening light.

Sometimes you need to stop and really look closely to appreciate the fleeting details. Beholding beauty requires patience, a steady eye and an unhurried mind. The camera reveals the details we so often overlook in our daily hurry.

1. Helleborus orientalis – unnamed seedling
In this image the delicate veining and gentle form of the flower is evident. Hellebore flowers are surprisingly persistent, flowering for months on end. This is because the ‘petals’ are really sepals – tougher outer structures usually small and seen behind the more showy petals of normal flowers. As time goes by hellebore flowers become more coarse. but in this image a late opening flower shows delicate veining.

2. Narcissus ‘Thalia’
Thalia has to be one of the most delicate of the narcissi: small, though not quite miniature, pure white and almost orchid-like in its form. The petals glisten as if made of crystallised sugar. It hangs its head demurely,  so its full beauty is partly hidden from casual passers-by.

3. Erythronium tuolumnense ‘Pagoda’
Like all the dog’s-tooth violets, this delicate woodlander unfurls it’s dainty  flowers showing that it is not a violet at all, but a member of the lily family. Pagoda is one of the largest flowered varieties, and seems to be one of the easiest to please as it is clumping up nicely in my garden without any special attention. It has started to seed around a bit, so I would like to grow other varieties to see if they will interbreed.

4. Myosotis sylvatica (wood forget-me-not)
I introduced the wood forget-me-not two years ago and it is surviving by self-seeding. In my garden it is very companionable, not swamping anything else, and not coming up everywhere. The colour of the flowers and their perfect form really stands out in close up. Like the other flowers here they deserve careful attention and can be easily overlooked as merely charming.

5. Dicentra eximia (wild bleeding heart)
Despite two years of being crowded by colonies of red campion this Dicentra has hung on and even flourished on neglect. I’ve cleared some of the campions to give it a bit more room this year and am rewarded with dozens of unfurling buds above grey-green ferny foliage.  I have never been sure if I like Bleeding heart – the name is somewhat gruesome and the flowers are odd rather than beautiful, to my eye at least. I’m never quite sure if it looks naturalistic or foreign. But I keep it, because it flowers freely and over a long period. I might even add more.

6. Primula veris (cowslip)
Tiny yellow bells with just a hint of red spotting in their throats hang limply from pale green sepals. All of the stems and buds are covered in a short pile of velvety hairs. Despite being individually small, a full head of cowslips on a strong plant is almost as striking as a clump of daffodils. I love it for being one of the truly wild British natives, but so garden worthy. The cowslips are the most prized denizens of my woodland garden. In some way I built this garden as a home for them. When we moved here in 2006 the front garden’s only redeeming feature was the cherry tree. Beneath it were a motley collection of poorly chosen shrubs, bulbs and perennials, but when spring came, there in the grass were three or four cowslips. When I ripped everything out  I decided to keep just the cherry tree (as woodland canopy). But the cowslips were to me like rare meadow orchids – they had to stay as a matter of duty and reverence. Since then they have multiplied and grown fantastically.

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