24 June 2015
A Pinkishness of Hope
Guardian Country Diary, Wenlock Edge
by Paul Evans, first published in
The Guardian 24 June 2015
A Pinkishness of Hope
I was drawn across the field to a flash of pink: common spotted orchids. They were common for that moment around the summer solstice and I’d spotted them in the place where I’d seen a large colony last year, the soggy bottom of a field of limestone quarry spoil.
The size and shape of the patch had changed. The most dense group of orchid flowers of last June was now almost gone. The stems were withered and twisted, and some flowers looked singed and were tiny; they appeared to have been in contact with herbicide or killed off by toxins.
Maybe something had affected the fungus in the soil on which the orchids depended, or ozone or a puddle of frost had hit them just as they were growing up. The many bee orchids which flowered in the same place last year were missing altogether.
However, there were more dazzling pink pyramidal orchids in the mix, and even a splendid, but late, early purple orchid. A range of colours between those two extremes ran through this colony of common spotted orchids.
The patch had shifted north and was maybe 30% larger than last June’s, now covering an area 10 paces wide. The dark reptilian spots on their leaves varied but the diversity of colours and markings in the flowers was extraordinary. From bisque through to misty rose and fuchsia, the strangely lobed petals with their cryptic loop, wiggle and spot marks in thistly script, were telling a story. So too was the atmosphere the orchid colony produced.
It could have been a fragrance but it felt more like a mood: hazy, dreamy midsummer; the kind of hedonist, spirited innocence that goes with pink. Once I’d got into this colour mood I saw it everywhere: in the meadow grass flowers, the nettle flowers, the fringe around daisies, the field maple leaves, the hogweed buds, campion and dog roses.
I had never felt this flowering pulse as strongly. Perhaps it was the light, temperature and humidity of this strange season, but the pinkishness of hope and romance had infiltrated the summer solstice.