FLOWERS IN THE PARK
One of the charms of Headington Hill Park are the flowers growing seemingly naturally, not in flower beds as in a formal park, in various places around the park. They are mostly spring flowers and mostly unexpected, not native. They are in roughly seasonal order in this article.
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
In January there are crowds of snowdrops in the lower part of the park, in the Lime Avenue and across the grass from the path, by the stream. If you look, however, there other clumps in the park, particularly at the top. Near the top gate each year some rather taller snowdrops, with wider leaves, growing in ones and twos in a small area, give joy.They have been known to flower even in December and seem to cope with the ivy and other invaders which they have to deal with.
Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis)
Well before the snowdrops have disappeared, the winter aconites appear. The bright yellow flowers surrounded by a bright green ruff are a particular delight on winter days. They like very specific conditions: damp, shady woodland. They form clumps when they are in a place they like. There is a small but flourishing colony on the western side of the park and although it is not far from the path, many people miss it but are delighted when I lead them to see them.
The native form also pops up near the anemone blanda.
Some years ago (perhaps 40!) I remember clumps of crocus, yellow, mauve and white, at the top of the park. These seem depleted, not giving such a show. However they seem to have generated a large number of small crocus, mostly mauve, over a larger area at the top of the park. I am afraid I can’t give them a botanical name as I don’t know what form of crocus they are.
There a number of clumps of daffodils. In the lower park, two circular plantings light up the spring. But walk round and you will find more, some quite extensive areas of daffodils.
These bright blue star-like flowers brighten a corner at the top on the park.
They unfortunately had some fitness equipment erected over them but it was removed when the Friends pointed this out. They seem to have recovered and they self-seed and appear to be spreading along the nearby bank.
I also discovered this year a group of scillas with the anemones in the Lime Avenue. They are very similar – I think, close botanically, to the chionodoxas, so I stand ready to correction from an expert.
Primroses (primula vulgaris)
There is a small clump growing at the base of a tree opposite the entrance to the dairy and I have seen a single plant elsewhere. I am not aware of colonies but primroses do self-seed and thus spread. Let’s hope they do.
You will see bluebells in the Park but hybrids, not the native variety.
Snakeshead fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)
You will need sharp eyes to spot these. There is a small area not far from the top gate where they seem to survive in spite of being close to a point where people walk across the grass.
There are one or two further over and there were some under the fifth tree in the lime in the Avenue counting from the bottom gate a few years ago. They seem to have been strimmed or overtaken by the rampant cow parsley. Cherish the ones you spot! They were chosen some time ago as the flower of Oxfordshire.
Once summer gets under way, the Park is home to many wild flowers. Note the bluebells in this group.
Cyclamen (cyclamen hederifolium)
In the autumn a clump of cyclamen flourishes to the left of the main gate to delight passersby on Headington Hill. There are a few scattered plants near the gate to Marston Road opposite the Islamic Centre. Cyclamen self-seed, so we must hope they will spread.
I spotted this near the primroses in the Spring: a white violet…
Later, this plant It’s English name is Lady’s Smock or also Cuckoo Flower because it blooms at the time the cuckoo arrives. (Have you heard a cuckoo in England in recent years?) Latin name: Cardamine pratensis.
You will find many more treasures.
SL 13 – 3 – 18 – 18.7.18