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Verging On Vernal

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
It is supposed that all poets like to write about flowers, even bad ones  - flowers that is, not poets.
As Saturday's Dead Good Blog prepares to celebrate the indisputable arrival of Spring (after a couple of false starts it feels as though we're verging on vernal now), I figured a botanical-themed piece would be apt.
Accordingly, this week I give you my favorite - and least favorite - flowering plants. I know, contain your excitement! It's a bit like those 'nominate' fads that work their way around Facebook from time to time - e.g. nominate your favorite film by just putting up a picture of the poster, or your favorite album or book by just posting its cover. I always thought it was, if not a pointless exercise, at best a bit of a frustrating experience. I would always want to tell people why I love the examples I've chosen and to understand in turn what it is that they find so compelling about their own choices.
So here first of all is my favorite flower - and I'll just let you enjoy it for a lingering moment before I explain why...
Verging On Vernal
This is primula vialii, more commonly known by a variety of names including Vial's primrose,  orchid primula, red-hot-poker primrose and Chinese pagoda primrose. It is a rosette-forming herbaceous perennial hailing originally from south-west China where it used to thrive in the wet meadowlands of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces - though sadly it is now a rare find in the wild and is classified as an endangered species. (The plant's Latin botanical name was bestowed in honor of Paul Vial, a French missionary priest and scholar who lived and worked in Yunnan province at the end of the 19th century and who is credited with bringing the first specimens of this lovely primula back to Europe.)
Primula vialii is a very striking plant, as I hope you'll agree. Its leaves are typical of the primrose family, lance-shaped and hairy, but its distinctive blooms have an appearance unlike any other in the genus, a beautiful conical spike on top of a stout stalk, with hundreds of lilac corollas opening out from red buds. It is best grown in clumps in a border or cottage garden in a relatively moist (but well-drained) or shady position, grows to a height of about 40cm and flowers through June and July. This lovely plant was granted the RHS Order of Merit in 1993.
I think the reason I like it so much is because of the shape of the blooms and the vibrant and unusual - almost garish - combination of colours, both of which put me in mind of those rocket lollipops on sticks which were popular in my youth. (Maybe they still are?) I intend to be planting some out in my own back garden over the Easter holidays.
Just as Vial's primrose is a herbaceous hero, so another oriental plant must rank as the villain of the piece. I nominate as my fleur du mal  reynoutria japonica - better known as Japanese knotweed (though also called monkeyweed, Hancock's curse and donkey rhubarb)...
Verging On Vernal
It is quite the last thing anyone wants to see springing up in their garden. It can grow to a height of 4 metres and has been classified by the World Conservation Union as one of the most invasive species on the planet. Brought to Europe even earlier than Vial's primrose in the mid-19th century, it was originally favoured by Victorian gardeners for its bamboo-like appearance (though it is not a bamboo) - but it broke out of its cultivated confines and started to spread in the wild via a rapid-growing underground root system. There are now parts of the UK where it is endemic and attempts are being made to stop its spread, even eradicate it. That can entail bringing in heavy plant (no pun intended) to excavate and destroy the root system. The mere existence of Japanese knotweed in an area can send house-prices tumbling. It is a horror loved only by bees! Avoid at all costs and report it if you see it.
Finally, today's poem isn't about my favorite (or even least favourite) bloom, but rather it tries to capture that almost giddy sense of nature exploding into Spring at this time of year along the reaches of my local river, the rippling Wyre...
Wyre Sprung
Sweetened by showers,
hawthorn and campion
into confusions of joy;
bluebells and daffodils ring out,
blossoms float
on wind-tide resuscitation,
the blanched rime of sickness
thrown off in a flash,
in this flush of timely fresh fever
as quick-coursing Spring
along the banks of the Wyre.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy warm days, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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