Sunday, 8 January 2012

Perverse Plants

Snowdrops are usually the first flowers in January.   Their luminous white carpet emanating light, just as the days start to lengthen.

Not this year!  As you can see, just a few flowers are beginning to show above the grass. 

And the winter jasmine, a flame of colour during the dull winter months is barely flickering this year.

So why is the japonica covered in vibrant red blossom, glistening ‘like coral’?   March is the month for japonica: March when, ‘The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers’, as Henry Reed describes the intense activity of bees in spring.   I planted the japonica in homage to his poem, Naming of Parts.

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
          And to-day we have naming of parts.

There are two voices in the poem: that of the NCO instructing recruits on the parts of a rifle; and the thoughts of the recruit who is distracted by the signs of spring outside. It is a wonderful poem of contrapuntal images and emotions.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
          They call it easing the Spring.

The japonica is trained against the wall of the room that was the parlour, when the medieval hall was first built, and is now the room in Toad Hall where we sit with our friends.  There is a radiator on the other side of the two-brick thick wall.  Perhaps the japonica is benefiting from the heat we are losing.  I wish we could ensure that the bees would be around to go ’backwards and forwards’ to pollinate the flowers.

I have quoted only two verses of the poem.  The complete poem can be found at: where you can hear Frank Duncan and Henry Reed reading Naming of Parts.

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