Spring is my favourite season in the area of Slovakia I live in, in the west. After a grey winter, nothing sparks hope like new growth and warming temperatures. In the Malé Karpaty, spring comes on in full force. Of course, spring can lie too – this year, after a few weeks of warmth, winter returned for another few weeks.
These photos were taken within a space of about two weeks, at the end of March/beginning of April. I know, it’s May now. It takes me a while.
March showers start off the March flowers. And leaves. I don’t actually know what the first flowering bush is – anybody?
The first flower out is the delicate snowdrop, snežienka in Slovak. Once endangered, snowdrops are often picked for International Woman’s Day. Sometimes, you can find them carpeting the ground.
After the snowdrop comes the chocholačka dutá, fumewort or bird-in-a-bush. Some kind of Corydalis although I couldn’t tell you which. I can’t find out anything about it other than the name, but it grows like crazy here, carpeting the forest floor. The flowers have a strong sweet smell. The flowers are usually purple, but can also be white.
It’s hard to see below, but another flower is the lungwort flower, Pulmonaria. It has blue and pink flowers together on one plant, fuzzy almost prickly leaves with whitish dots. As the name suggests, this plant has been used to treat respiratory illnesses. As a child, lungwort grew in my grandmother’s garden; I never imagined that it grew somewhere wild or that it had medicinal properties.
Foraging bounty – lungwort, ramsons, violets, and wild onion (more like chives).
Speaking of ramsons…wild bear garlic carpets the forest floor in the spring in Slovakia. A relative of ramps in North America, these tasty plants are like garlic in a leaf. I just ate the last of my fermented ramsons buds (sooo good, especially with buckwheat) and love it in pesto (recipe). Here are more photos of ramson carpets and recipes.
And the birds. The birds come back and their song fills the forest.
On the hill behind my town is a feral cherry orchard. Cherry trees aren’t wild here, but they’ve gone feral, nobody takes care of them, so that counts, right? In spring the hill is covered with white blooms that are breathtaking. I took pictures last year too.
I came here at sunrise, hoping to get the early morning rays through the blossoms. The problem is that the sky is so hazy early in the morning that the sun is rather high before any direct light comes through. I had the same problem last year. I stayed until seven, when the ringing church bells sent me running home to make breakfast for kids before school. Just one more picture…
Notice the line of white bushes in the fields above.
A trail is being laid from flagstones up the hill, which leads to a village (mostly underground) from the Iron Age. Say what??? Some digging has begun again after 20 some years but it’s kind of ho-hum here. Iron Age village, no biggie. What the what – that is crazy amazing in my books!
The manual workers are largely Roma, and I was surprised how tentative they were. It was like they were expecting me to look down my nose at them. When one gave me a little smile, and I smiled back, his face suddenly relaxed and he gave a big smile. Perhaps it was just the early morning though – going for a run near the construction site in spandex isn’t quite as innocent.
Do you remember that line of white bushes in the field? That’s ringloty bushes, although I missed the peak in the photo. All around the area are wild (feral?) Mirabelle plum bushes, yellow and red varieties. Mirabelle plums are a small juicy plum, with a rather large pit and thick skin. They mostly drop to the ground around here, a travesty for someone who comes from a cold climate where the few fruit trees that survive produce pretty tart fruit.
Snowing plum blossoms.
Another white flowering bush is the blackthorn or sloe, Latin Prunus spinosa. With large thorns, the fruit is called trnka in Slovak because of its trpka or acrid taste. Much like choke cherries, eating a fresh astringent sloe will dry out your mouth. After the first frost, the small blue fruit become sweet. In the spring, they can grow in dense hedges with a profusion of white blossoms.
Up the hill from our place, by the Iron Age settlement, what I think are blackthorn bushes line the top of the cliffs.
I basically walk around in the spring exclaiming over nature.
Lesser Celendine, which also grows in carpets. Considered a noxious weed in the US.
Hairy cinquefoil, I think.
Some kind of spurge, perhaps cypress spurge
Can’t find a name for this one. Anyone? Thanks to a reader, this has been identified as Aurinia saxatilis, tarica skalná in Slovak.
Purple wood spurge?
Wild onion, basically wild chives
Wild thyme, which always makes me think of the Scottish song my family sang, “And we’ll all go together, to pick wild mountain thyme, all along the blooming heather, will you go lassie, go?” The leaves have a strong heady fragrance, and is particularly healing for coughs.
The following are photos I couldn’t not include, but as this post is getting rather long, I’ll stop with the commentary.
Which flower or photo is your favourite?
North-east facing, south-west facing