April 01, 2011

Blackthorn

The hedgerows in my corner of England, growing between fields and along the footpaths and bridleways that criss-cross the landscape very often contain Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).


This native shrub is known by many other ancient names; blackhaw, buckthorn,scrogg, sloe or snag-bush. Traditionally it became associated with bitter subjects - hard winters, witchcraft, war. It has twisted dark branches and fearsome long thorns, its wood was often used for walking sticks and clubs (the shillelagh in Ireland). It was often incorporated into hedges to keep cattle in their fields and still is a protective habitat for shy songbirds, like nightingales, to nest build. It is probably most famous for its inky blue fruits in Autumn that can be picked after the first frosts, to allow the bitter tannins to reduce, and steeped in alcohol for the fiesty winter brew, Sloe gin.

But for me, the beautiful cream blossoms mark the changing seasons, the awakening of the landscape from its bare-branched hibernation. The beauty of the five-petalled flowers, growing as they do, directly from the dark, knarled wood before the leaves appears, seem symbolic of the energy of new life from old. The tight cream buds are like a million dots dancing on the bare branches,




In the lanes around our house, the hedges are smothered with the tiny blooms, almost forming white arches over the narrower footpaths. I love this harbinger of Spring and warmer days ahead.





Have a wonderful weekend, and I hope you have a moment or two to stand tall, breathe deep and 'stand and stare' at some beauty around you.

25 comments:

  1. Ah Feeling better already.

    Now can you send some warm winds our way?

    xo Jane

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  2. Oh Belinda what a lovely shrub...such a dainty bloom...ethereal is the word that springs to mind.

    I can see a few sprigs of this in a simple vase in the home.

    Such beauty, thank you for the images...

    Hostess
    XO

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  3. What a gorgeous shrub. I'll never again hear of English hedgerows without thinking of them like you show them. And who knew... sloe gin! Always wondered what that meant. Happy weekend.

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  4. what a beautiful sign of spring.

    xo
    janet

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  5. So cool with all that white. Now, these don´t look too exotic. I guess we have ( about ) similar looking ones over here, but not for a a very long time yet.
    Beautiful.

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  6. This is a wonderful taster - our froths of beauty have yet to fully burst forth from their prickly black stems - and it is always a gladdening sight. Snag-bush! Haven't heard that name before, but understand it well!

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  7. Spring snow! Happy weekend to you Wildacres too. Ax

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  8. I have indeed snagged many pairs of jodhpurs while riding past a snag-bush! However, as your beautiful photos show it is such a wonderful sight to see the lovely white blooms along the bridlepaths rather than a blanket of snow!
    Enjoy your weekend, Abby x

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  9. Thanks for your comments, I am picking some boughs for the house today, it will be interesting to see how long they last. Bxx

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  10. What a beautiful plant! Your pictures are stunning and your "ode to the blackthorn" marvellous. I feel envious that I'm missing out on so much beauty and I really LOVE white flowers.

    It was so nice to see you'd popped by for a visit. Much appreciated! When I come here, I don't want to leave.., now is no exception. I'm going to scroll back and feast my eyes on those glorious blossoms!

    Have a great weekend!

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  11. Des, your comment on this post and the last are so lovely, I actually feel rather choked! Thanks for your encouragement, and you know i often think wistfully of SA and Zimbabwe too, and the unsurpassable beauty you have there.xx

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  12. Stunning photographs, it all looks so beautiful. I've only ever found one blackthorn bush round here on my travels - plenty of hawthorn but just the one blackthorn (and no sloes either, humph!)

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  13. Beautiful blossom. I do like to make a bit of sloe gin every year. My husband has a blackthorn swagger stick/cane which he carried with him as an officer in his regiment. It's really dark in colour and very knobbly. Now as a surveyor he has little use for it but is keeping it just in case our son decides to follow in his footsteps!

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  14. Hi Belinda,

    The blossoms of the blackthorn look beautiful! It's a joy to be outside at the moment. Not only the mild temperatures make it very attractive, but all the spring flowers and blossoms as well.

    Enjoy your new week!

    Lieve groet, Madelief

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  15. Such an interesting post - living in London I miss the hedgerows!
    I've passed on the Liebster blog award to you.

    Charlotte@Cottage in Totteridge

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  16. The blackthorn blossom is quite stunning this year don't you think Belinda?. I was in blossom heaven last week when the sun was shining ... so very beautiful against a blue sky.

    We are having typical April weather here today - sunshine first thing this morning but now the clouds have rolled in and the petals from my magnolia are falling to the ground in the wind. April IS a tease:-)

    Jeanne
    x

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  17. I'm glad I happened by your blog (via Julia Crossland's), as I think you've just helped me identify a blossom we looked at today. At first we thought it resembled hawthorn but it didn't have the smell and is too early anyway. But the flowers look just like the one's here. I've seen what I think are sloes in the autumn in abundance here, but don't have the courage to pick them in case I'm wrong. So thanks.

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  18. What dreamy photos. I planted a Blackthorn hedge last year, I love the creamy delicate blossom, but I will love my own home made Sloe gin more!

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  19. I LOVE all the blossom around at the moment. We have lots of hawthorn i our garden, which has similar blossom later on. So pretty!!

    Sarahx

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  20. We have lots of blackthorn in our hedges on the farm, but it's not flowering yet. We always make sloe gin and sometimes sloe and apple jelly which is very good with game dishes. I love your photographs - what tremendous blossom!

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  21. I have always wanted to visit when the hedgerows are in their full glory. Amazing!
    Thank you for sharing :)

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  22. Beautiful lore, and beautiful flowers. What a delightfully dichotomous plant.

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  23. Ahh...blossom time is truly beautiful. We have two plum trees, two cherry trees and one {plus two smaller shrubs} greengage tree in our back garden so blossoms aplenty. There is a small woodland walk me and the little lady like to do , very close to our house. We pick alot of blackberries there {ALOT!} in the autumn and I've noticed also what I have believed to be blackthorn. Lots of purple fruits {almost like large blueberries} in the late autumn. I missed out on picking them last year but will definitely do this year. I read somewhere that you can pick them before the first frosts and put them in the freezer. I don't even like gin but LOVE the sound of sloe gin! x

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  24. I am often known to stand and stare, which can get me into a bit of bother (long story) We have oodles of blackthorn in the hedges and I am currently sporting the scars from pinching some spiny lengths to adorn the kitchen table!

    Lovely lovely photos,

    Sarah x

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