Green energy in monstrous May


By Andy Winfield


May is monstrous, in a good way. An unstoppable surge of green enveloping everything, gunnera leaves fighting their way from the earth like zombies and the croziers of tree ferns unwinding like the kraken from sea water. This beast like energy is on our side, scaring away spring and winter back to the past where it now belongs, the power of nature is never felt more intensely. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “there is potent blood in modest May”.


Walking through the streets and parks of Bristol in May is baffling; how did everything become green so quickly? It seems to happen overnight. This wonderful natural redecorating has pleased humans throughout history, indeed the name green originates from old german gruoni, to grow. In Latin too viridis is closely related to virere, to grow. This green colour that surrounds us and lifts us in May, is, to the plant, an unwanted and useless distraction; the chlorophyll that efficiently converts light into energy for the plant only uses the long wavelengths of red light and the short wavelengths of blue light. Green is surplus to requirements and thrown out, it’s a waste product as far as the plant is concerned. So, when a plant is green it means that the mini factories in its leaves are in high production, creating energy for itself and churning out excess green light through leaves as well as pumping oxygen through its little stomata chimneys.

Hawthorn blossom.

After the blossom on bare stems and bulbs of spring, May gives us the green leafy accompaniment to compliment flower.  Peonies nestled in a bed of leaves and hawthorn firing a volley of blooms along thorny fresh stems. Hawthorn also gives us the nod to go out without our coat on; “Ne’re cast a clout til May be out”, refers to the blossom of the hawthorn, or mayflower. It’s in full flower as I write this and the rain is tumbling down, so I think in this instance I’ll ignore the tree’s advice.

The empty shell of dragonfly nymphs.

Dandelions, buttercups, and daisies are carpeting lawns keeping bees in work; Iris and bogbean stretching out of the water of the pool will provide a workstation for dragonfly nymphs to build a new them. For years they live under the surface of the water before crawling out to these stems; there they hang on overnight until early morning when the aerobatic dragonfly display team burst out of themselves leaving the old them behind, still hanging on the stem.

It all happens in May; so, I hope all is well with you all and you can enjoy this marvellous month. Tickets to visit the Garden are on sale here; keep you eyes on our website for the gradual opening of areas as the restrictions recede.

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