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 are 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.
Snowdrops seem to be “spreaders”, i.e. new plants appear where there were none and in time form clumps.
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.
There is a flourishing colony of these cheery blue flowers just below the main gate.
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. In the spring of 2019 they made a particularly lovely show.
There are 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 more natural looking areas of daffodils.
I am told reliably that in fact these bright blue star-like flowers which brighten a corner at the top of
the park are scillas. Scillas and chionodoxas are the same family and I have yet to understand the precise difference. (I am not a botanist). They seem to self-seed and appear to be spreading along the nearby bank.
I also discovered last year a group of scillas with the anemones in the Lime Avenue. They are very similar, close botanically, to the chionodoxas, as I said and 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 seemed to survive in spite of being close to a point where people walk across the grass. This spring, however, the group near the top gate did not perform well
but the group further over near to where the top path curves round to go downhill did much better.
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.
The sharp eyed will find many others, some very small, in the Park.
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.
This year I came upon a plant I don’t thing I had ever seen before near the fence with Brookes, presumably a stray from the grounds of the Hall. It is a Mediterranean plantknown as Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). It has a burrowing badger as a near neighbour. I hope it will be back next year!
I spotted this near the primroses in the Spring: a white violet…
Later, this plant (above): its 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?) (Cardamine pratensis).
You will find many more treasures. SL 13 – 3 – 18; updated 17-5-19