Signs of spring: blooking blossom, by Mark O'Sullivan

Spring is here and that means flowers. Not just the wildflowers that fill our woods and parklands, but beautiful blossom on many of Frodsham’s trees and shrubs. There’s a surprising number of species that live here, brightening up the hedgerows and filling the air with their gorgeous scent. Here’s just a few you can see out and about in our town.

Gorse, seems to be in flower all year round. This spiky shrub can be seen in our woodlands its yellow flowers shining no matter what the weather.

Gorse bush

Did you know that the hazel tree, producer of hazel nuts and catkins also flowers? In March it produces tiny, exquisite flowers that need careful searching for. They are worth looking for as, close up, they’re amazing things; almost like tiny red fingers reaching out of a pod. Hazel can be found almost anywhere there are trees so why not search for this elusive flower?

Blackthorn is next to flower. In winter these small trees look stark; black branches lined with two-inch thorns, forbidding to look at and painful to encounter unexpectedly. In spring, however, they are transformed into dazzling white bushes of blossom. Where they occur in number, they can look spectacular, lining leafy roads and motorways alike.

Hazel flower

Hawthorn flowers later than blackthorn but is, perhaps, even more spectacular. This tree is similar to blackthorn, with smaller thorns (they’re still sharp, though!) and brown rather than blackish wood. The leaves grow first followed by bright white flowers giving a superb contrast between the two. They have a strong scent, too, that can be enjoyed whilst admiring the shrub’s beauty. Hawthorn appears almost everywhere so will be very visible at the end of April.

Our woodlands are greening up but contain a few flowering specimens, too. Crab apples, with their gnarled, twisted trunks and branches, can fade into the background in winter. In spring, however, they can burst into life; thousands of white flowers seemingly covering the entire tree. At this time of year, the crab apples stick out like a sore thumb. There are several in and around Hob Hey Wood. Can you find any?

Crab apple

Competing with the crab apple, and present in Hob Hey Wood is the wild cherry. When these flower they look spectacular being covered in thousands of pinkish-white blossoms, harbingers of the cherries to follow. The new plantation at the northern end of Hob Hey contains many of these trees and will soon be very obvious to the visitor.

Field maple is another flowering tree, but much more subtle that the crab apple and wild cherry. Its yellow flowers look almost leaf-like and needs to be searched for. Again, the plantation at the north of Hob Hey contains many of these.

Non-native it may be, but the horse chestnut is arguably one of our most impressive trees. Standing huge and tall, this tree looks imposing at any time. In May, however, it produces huge flower spikes that stand tall and proud amongst its branches. These are unmistakable and there are many in Frodsham to be seen as we walk or drive along.

Horse chestnut

Cultivated plants are often more spectacular than their wild cousins and so it’s the case with fruit trees. Our community orchards will soon be filled with blossom; large white, or pinkish white blooms fill the orchard and the scent can be worth searching for, too. Our community orchards are a fantastic resource for the people in Frodsham during autumn, giving bountiful (and free) fruit but I think they look even better when in bloom in spring.

I think I’ve saved the best until last. Cultivated cherry trees, grown for their spectacular blossom, outshine all other trees in spring. Carpeted in white, pink-white, or pink blooms they look amazing where they can be found. In Japan, they host cherry blossom festivals and people come from far afield to see the trees in bloom. Although we don’t have the trees on this scale in Frodsham, you can have your own ‘hanami’ festival in our town. Many gardens contain these trees for us to marvel at. My own favourites are at St Lawrence churchyard. Here the white and pink blossom has a superb backdrop with the magnificent 12th Century sandstone church creating an irresistible photographic target in spring.

Apple blossom
Cherry blossom

The blossom is transient, of course. In a few short weeks, the flowers will be gone and our woods and parks will be a uniform green. Why not get out into our green spaces now and see what you can see?

With thanks to Mark for another fantastic blog piece and all the wonderful photos!

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