Snowstorms and a study in scarlet
March is often a season of contrasts here. A day of mild sunshine and birdsong can lull you into thinking spring is imminent, only for the evening to sweep in with gales, sleet or snow. Guess what the past few days have brought?
The snow looks rather benign in this photo, but in fact, for three days last week, it was accompanied by fierce winds whipping it across the fields so fast that it could barely settle. Then on Friday night it got a bit more serious.
March gales and the growing strength of the spring sunshine ensure that the snow doesn’t lie for long, even when we awake to a landscape dusted with white. Nevertheless, there is a slightly sinking sense of déjà vu at this time of year, when we see snow again. It’s been snow season here since November, for goodness’ sake! Snow in March and even April is pretty common in Scotland, but six-month winters are not. Still, if this is climate change, I suppose we might have to get used to them. So yesterday we made the most of it and spent the morning tobogganing and snowman-building. Again.
In mid-winter, the snow was brightened by crimson rose hips and the scarlet berries of holly and yew. All of these are long gone now. After relatively mild weather recently, we have instead the first flowers of the year braving the snow. The snowdrops, strong in their meekness, carry on regardless of all that is thrown at them:
and the first hardy pansies are beginning to flower in the urns outside the front door.
Our real show-stopper at the moment, though, is a rhododendron. Rhodies do well in Scotland and we have many varieties here, all but one of which flower in May and June. The exception is Rhododendron barbatum, an absolute beauty that invariably flowers here in March. It began coming into bloom last week, just before the snowstorms began.
I apologise if the the colours in this photo look cheesily bright! After the quiet tones of early spring in Scotland, this bright red is like a trumpet blast in your ear. Nothing artificial here: this really is what nature gave us on Wednesday morning, along with the first fresh snow dusting. By yesterday morning it all looked rather different, so we paid another visit to the rhodie to see how it was faring in the continuing snow.
I’m not someone who gets very excited about rhododendrons, but even I can see that this variety is an absolute beauty, which looks even more exquisite when snow is resting on its scarlet blossoms.
Since it is a native of the Himalayas, I am hopeful that a couple of days of snow will not bother it.
Were I a poet, I would write a haiku to these scarlet blooms in the snow; fleeting beauty that is already in the past, as the snow has largely melted today. As it is – ooh, shall we have one more picture? Enjoy!