It is April, the month of becoming. After a windy, grey winter, Dublin is awash with colour. The tentative daffodils, bringing the first promise of Spring, have been joined by bright red tulips and grape hyacinths of vivid blue. Silver birches are sprouting the smallest, greenest leaves, and cherry trees droop under boughs heavy with blossom. These tender petals range from the palest, creamy white to bold and blousy pink, and contrast with the dark bark. Likewise, the apple blossom is opening; deep fuchsia buds unfurl to reveal a few smudged-pink petals and bright yellow stamens. The bees busy themselves, collecting pollen on their downy underbellies.
Shades of yellow seem to dominate the landscape in this early stage of Spring. Bright yellow flowers emerge, confetti-like, on the spiky gorse. These hardy shrubs bloom throughout the year, but after the muted shades of winter, the lemony hues are particularly warm and welcome. The flowers smell of coconut – a surprise for the unsuspecting walker. Elsewhere, the yellow can be found on the variegated leaves of vinca or periwinkle, creeping easily across borders with starry flowers of purple or white. Heavy-headed cowslips, too, are often found in front gardens or mixed in with the daffs and tulips on roadsides. Pale, buttery primroses push up in unsuspecting places, and their garish cousins are a favourite for filling tubs or lining pathways. Forsythia, broom, buttercups… the list goes on.
The trees, our gentle giants, are slower to show their shades. The leaves of the horse chestnut are fragile, hanging limply groundward. Beech trees offer dainty, crinkled foliage in the brightest lime green, or dusky pink in the case of the copper beech. The colour transformation that these trees undergo over the course of the year is wonderful and awesome in the most literal sense. And one of the most stunning trees at this time of year has be the magnolia. Their unassuming, velvety buds belie the beauty within. Elegant petals in pinks and whites adorn the branches and open to reveal a sturdy stamen, which seems representative of the tree’s hardier-than-we-look character.
Spring is my favourite season, and this is my first in Dublin. The lockdown restrictions mean that we can only venture 2km from home for exercise, but this has made me more creative with my run routes. The weather since the restrictions were put in place has been fair – mostly dry, sometimes cloudy, but increasingly mild and sunny. As a result, Spring seems to have come on leaps and bounds in a few short weeks, and every day it feels like new things have emerged since I was last out. I feel so grateful for the weather and to live somewhere so beautiful, where Spring has space to unfold. And while I tend to think of myself as someone who notices nature, and takes a huge amount of joy from small beauties, having a little more time means that I am noticing more.
This week I found bluebells, which seems early. My first alma mater was set in glorious woodland and the bluebells gave me hours of pleasure in late April and early May. But perhaps the bluebells open in Dublin before they do at home. And just this morning I stumbled upon a patch of forget-me-nots, which transported me back home to my parents’ garden, which is full of forget-me-nots, bluebells, and other flowers that I collect for posies come Spring. While I wouldn’t trade my Dublin-home for my Shire-home during the pandemic, I do miss the garden. But having such a wealth of flora on my doorstep definitely keeps the spirits lifted. I am eager to watch the season progress and blend into summer, when hopefully we shall be safe and free to enjoy nature’s gifts with others. Until then, I wish you all good health and happiness. Be kind to yourselves and others; in the words of Sinéad Gleeson, be the goodness.