Leaving the garden for a while, the sweet perfumes still permeate the roadside air with blossom covered hawthorn. It reminds me of my last house with the long hawthorn hedge. It helped keep intruders out, provided safe nesting for birds, was a haven for many insects and an absolute pain to trim. Even wielding the hedge cutter, it was virtually impossible to come away unscathed. The sharp thorns were bound to find some soft flesh to puncture or even embed themselves in, defying all attempts to be dug out. So yes, it was a pain to deal with in all senses of the word, but a walk in the evening left the painful memories behind as the sweet scent made it a sheer pleasure. The dainty white or pink flowers appear in May and is the reason for an alternative name of May Tree.
My mother would never allow broom in the house, she said it would bring death! The hawthorn has similar myths attached to it. Although it was said to ‘smell like the great plague’, considering the lack of hygiene in mediaeval times, it’s a wonder anyone noticed a difference. However, there is a chemical in hawthorn blossom, trimethylamine which is also formed in decaying animal tissue. It’s so difficult to associate the sweet-smelling hawthorn with the smell of rotting flesh.
The tree, which may be quite an ornamental addition to a large garden, is the goat willow, Salix caprea. It doesn’t have much going for it as far as humans are concerned, unless you want to use the wood to craft clothes pegs, however, this is a hooligan to me, it overshadows the small greenhouse and drops the catkins to form a carpet around it. They choke the greenhouse guttering and the fluffy, white down of the female catkins sticks to everything. There is still plenty of tree left after I gave it a trim with loppers and secateurs though. Caterpillars of butterflies and moths feast on the leaves, as a result, it is an ideal dining table for the birds. The bees are not forgotten, the can enjoy the pollen and nectar of the catkins.