Monday 6 May 2024

The Season of White

For me May is one of the most enjoyable times of the year to be out and about in the English countryside. I think of it as the 'Season of White'. This is not strictly true as it is also the time of the year when bluebell woods are at their most impressive. But in the open, uncultivated countryside, at least, white predominates. It is when Cow Parsley lines the verges and Hawthorn, or May Trees, are in full flower. When they are situated together en masse it is strikingly effective. The whiteness of the flowers stands out all the more against the backdrop of fresh greens from the newly emerged leaves of trees and the lush Spring grass. 

There is a muted simplicity in May-time beauty. A very different visual effect from the self-conscious planting of garden borders with their increasingly vivid palette as the year progresses. 

This morning, in the field opposite us, I passed by an unpruned Hawthorn (photograph below) which, was probably at one time long ago part of a field hedge, in full flower (six week's later than Blackthorn). It gave off a familiar pungent scent which I rather like. In the Autumn it will be covered in bright red berries until the birds have had their share.

Here is my poetic eulogy to May.

Cow Parsley 

From my window I can see

A woodland edged with cow parsley.

Frothy blooms, billowing white 

Gleaming bright in the morning light.

Above the hedge, in company,

May trees flower and shine with thee.

Beneath the trees snowdrops rest,

Now white bells of the lily guest.

It needs no Capability,

Nor Jekyll choreography.

No need to visit Sissinghurst

To marvel the white palette burst.

Nature’s abundant elegance

Springs up from unplanned happenstance.

But left to flourish at their will

A pure splendour will surely spill.


  1. Your poem is a clever summary of the delight's of wild, white flowering plant life! Our serviceberry tree is now in bloom, before the leaves come out. Meanwhile the wild pin cherry trees have their leaves and will be next with white blossom. We also have a May flower, white and prolific in the woods. Then there are white Trilliums which will come out in due course. My memories of England include an old saying, "Ne-er cast a clout till May be out". I'm still not sure if it refers to the Hawthorn blossom or the month of May, but I haven't put away my woolies yet!

    1. I prefer to believe that the saying refers to the tree.

    2. I think you are right. Here in Ontario, I suspect the end of the month of May would be more appropriate. We had 25°C the other day, followed by 15°C for two days in a row!

  2. I enjoyed reading this Philip. I thought something similar as we walked back along our lane yesterday after a late afternoon walk through (our still squelchy) bluebell wood. The lane is a froth of white hawthorn, cow parsley, bluebells, red campion and even the odd late primrose and I wondered if a Chelsea Flower Show garden designer was trying to replicate this natural beauty on a show ground site. Increasingly I am letting nature take care of my garden. She already makes a fabulous job of our natural perennial wildflower meadow ‘created’ over the last six years and our wild woodland where yesterday I spotted a Whitethroat singing his heart out. He’s come all the way from Sub-Sahara Africa. Sarah in Sussex

    1. Thank you Sarah. Froth is a good description.