So far the pattern of summer has been a few days of sunshine followed by many more of rain. It is still warm and humid, but overcast. Nevermind, we have flowers in the Shaw Library garden. And when rain gives way to fantastic light, they look luxuriant! They bring a rare perfect summer afternoon to LSE.
I planted these cornflowers just after Easter. They reached full height some weeks ago and they’ve been busy converting energy from limited sunlight ever since. Now we can see what they’ve been doing with all that stored energy, transforming it into inflorescence. If I had a garden (I live in a flat) I’d fill it with cornflowers. I’d intersperse with other wild flowers of course, poppys and cowslips and tall grasses, but the dominant colour would be cornflower blue. In a slight breeze, if you’re close enough, you can actually see small clouds of pollen momentarily hang in the air whenever a winged insect drops by. The slenderest touch and nature quivers into action.
The cornflower is a weed of grain crops, hence it’s name, but it has declined throughout Europe due to herbicides and being mown down by agricultural machinery. It is now so rare it’s protected and virtually extinct in the wild in Britain.
Other inflorescence currently on show in the Shaw Garden include fennel and onion flower.
Onion flower is not a single flower, but a densely clustered head of many flowers that sit atop a very tall sturdy stem. The hanging leaf is also not a leaf but a papery bract that had encased the flowers while the nectar was being brewed. The growing flower head eventually bulged large enough to split the bract open and it soon fell away. All those little flowers, like all alliums, contain strongsmelling oils to attract bees and butterflies.
This drowsy drone found the smell so irresistible, he didn’t mind me getting right up close for a face-to-face inspection. As he ambered across the flower head, getting his fill of sweetness, the ovaries and stamens, which are dominant, ie, protrude from the fused petals, brush together and fertilisation happens.
No flowers here, yet, but this indomitable wellspring of green is some Kale. Ever-green, ever-growing, packed full of iron, it will be ready soon!