A few days into May my husband and I took one of our usual evening walks around the fields and woodlands near our home. We were headed to check a sunny bank that last year had a nice population of early purple orchids, Orchis mascula.
Well, the usual site had a good few flower spikes, but when we ventured off our track a bit we found the motherlode:
It is hard to put into words our excitement at this scene. Wild British orchid have always captivated me with their strange and complex beauty, ephemeral nature, choosiness of their growing sites, and in some cases, their rarity. I am not alone in my admiration—in the last few years several popular books have been written about the quest to see British orchids growing in the wild.
This particular site, photographed on May 3, is a west-facing grassy bank growing between an old coppice woodland and a newly planted woodland site. The bluebells were just wrapping up their show, and could still be seen among the orchids. The dogs mercury, Mercurialis perennis, along with the orchids, told me the site had been undisturbed for some time. Also growing with the orchids were brambles and foxgloves.
We spent a long time sitting amongst the orchids, just enjoying their beauty as the sun set. I wanted to wait until the sun popped below a thick bank of clouds, hoping it would illuminate the orchids for a sunny shot. Thankfully I married a patient man who loves few things more than spending the evening with me in a field of beautiful and unusual native plants. Orchid season has begun.