Hyde Park arrival of spring

What a difference a couple of weeks makes.

In early April, Hyde Park held a bare, wintery, twiggy outline. Two weeks on and it is quite literally bursting with life and leaf and luminosity.

Such a lush mix of perennials so early in the year in Hyde Park

Such a lush mix of perennials so early in the year in Hyde Park

Elegant cherry blossoms adorn Hyde Park

Elegant cherry blossoms adorn Hyde Park

It struggled to reach double figure temperatures today, but my four layers kept me cosily warm as I embraced my morning walk. Such a contrast to the days of the warm Sydney Harbour coastline and strolling along The Esplanade of Balmoral beach in my shorts.

A grey heron watches over the ducks on the Serpentine

A grey heron watches over proceedings on the Serpentine

But the London Eye, serenely rotating above the tree line of the Park, is my new Harbour Bridge; the Serpentine my new Middle Harbour. And whilst it’s a few extra steps to take after breakfast, I’m surprisingly happy with my new ‘backyard’.

The contrast between mid rise buildings and naturalistic plantings make these scenes all the more appealing

The contrast between mid-rise buildings and naturalistic plantings make these scenes all the more appealing

Hyde Park and its adjoining neighbour, Kensington Gardens, span an area of 625 acres; equivalent to about three quarters of New York’s Central Park (that one’s next on my list). It is quite literally a wonderful breath of fresh air in the midst of what feels to me a very large city and the wide diversity of its spaces, just one of its appeals.

Spring bedding in Hyde Park. Stunning colours and graceful curves give appeal to a style of planting I'm not usually so fond of

Spring bedding in Hyde Park. Stunning colours and graceful curves make it surprisingly appealing

There are naturalistic plantings that feel as though they have been untouched for decades. And at the other extreme, brightly-coloured bedding displays; something I’d usually turn my nose up at, but which have been designed with such flair and maintained with such care that I can’t help but look on appreciably.

I’m amazed how quickly my views on planting have changed.  At this time of year in Australia, I would look at English bloggers’ daffodil photos and think they were sweet, but struggle to really engage with them. Pretty scenes, but scenes I felt I’d seen a million times and ones that weren’t nearly so nice as the ones of mid-summer fullness to come. Too much bare earth still on show and too much brashness in the colours.

This scene reminds me of spring in Mount Wilson, NSW

The colours almost look fake, they are so bright

But being here experiencing it first hand feels incredibly different. I want to eat that bare earth, it looks so dark and friable, nutritious and edible. I’m excited by the sense of anticipation at just what is going to erupt through that bare earth next.

Wallflowers give such a boost of colour at this time of year

Wallflowers give such a boost of colour at this time of year

The ‘brash’ colours don’t look brash, they fit with the bright lime greens of the spring trees and complement the luminous green grass.

There's always an element of surprise in London, like these Household Calvalry Shire horses (with drums!) walking past

There’s always an element of surprise in London; these Household Calvalry Shire horses (with drums!) walked past me today

And the spirit of tradition and history that is always around you in central London, means that more formal, classic plantings have a much greater sense of place here, than in Australia. I am frequently surprised by the sound of police horses’ hooves along my street and Mercedes drivers in chauffeur hats. Many traditions remain in the capital that have long gone elsewhere and traditional plantings in turn still have their place.

There are even hedgerows to be found in Hyde Park

There are even hedgerows to be found in Hyde Park

I’m amazed that I can also see the essence of country hedgerows in central London, alongside a vast array of wildlife. And whilst some areas feel deserted, others are buzzing with activity. Most surprising of all is that I enjoy the buzz. I’m not wishing for peace, quiet and solitude in these areas, I’m uplifted by the smiles and the laughter of thousands of people, of every race imaginable, all experiencing the joy of being in nature. There is a levelling, no matter how diverse the range of backgrounds, in the shared pleasure of this beautiful green space.

There are worse places to be stuck in traffic than Park Lane, on the outskirts of Hyde Park

There are worse places to be stuck in traffic than Park Lane (Hyde Park on the right)

Even beyond the park, the magic continues, with plantings running either side of Park Lane, which marks its eastern boundary. As if the pleasures are so great they spill over; too bountiful and too magnetic to be contained within its fences.

I love these delicate, cream daffodils, especially mixed in with the native bluebells

I love these delicate, cream daffodils, especially mixed in with the native bluebells

And despite the park’s neat rectangular shape, bordered by busy roads and mid-rise buildings, its imposing landmarks – the London Eye and Kensington Palace can be seen at either end – and the bright sun in the vast sky above you, it seems my sense of direction is still as terrible as ever.

The Serpentine Waterfall in Hyde Park

The Serpentine Waterfall in Hyde Park

But for once this weakness is a wonderful blessing, as I quite lose myself amongst the trees; as I do, being met with the feeling of awe in discovering surprise, after surprise, after surprise.

Kensington Palace gardens. A little formal for my liking, but the fountains and resident ducks brought it to life.

Kensington Palace gardens. The fountains and resident ducks seem to bring the formality to life

I think…..it’s good to be back.

This greylag goose asserted his presence quite successfully!

This greylag goose asserted its presence quite successfully!

PS I hope you like my new ‘London’ website. I’ve given it a timely freshen up and rejigged the pages to improve photo size. Please do let me know if you spot anything that hasn’t translated so well; it’s hard to see the wood for the trees sometimes!

13 thoughts on “Hyde Park arrival of spring

  1. Barbara says:

    Ahh Janna, you sound like Mary Lennox let loose in her Secret Garden. I am glad that you are happy to be back home.
    Beautifully written as usual. Just one thing I noticed in the layout. Where your pictures where slightly smaller the text was in a skinny column on the right and at first I did not notice it and thought that some of your writing was missing. However, it might be just me and I will have to pay more attention to find all the words.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Do you know, I haven’t actually read ‘The Secret Garden’? It sounds I should add it to the list. Thanks ever so much for letting me know about the skinny column. It doesn’t do it on my computer, but clearly different size screens show it differently. It both looks horrid and makes it hard on the eyes when it does this, so I will definitely see if I can fix it up; do let me know if I am successful! Thanks also for your kind words: much appreciated, Barbara.

  2. Adriana Fraser says:

    I too have never been enamoured with bedding planting, it is just too brash, too bold and far too structured. I love the naturalistic planting in these parks Janna, especially the bluebells peeping through the hedgerow, it looks so effortless and yes those lovely cream daffodils … I love those too!
    I imagine though after a grey and long winter that of course those spring beds would lift the spirits. That is what is so great about four distinct seasons – each is wonderful at the beginning and just as we tire of it – whoosh – a new season starts along with new hope, new inspiration and new excitement. Gardeners are the luckiest people! Loved this post Janna – parks with ‘zing’.

    P.S. That’s strange I didn’t have the problem Barbara had with the images and skinny columns of writing.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Yes, I definitely like the idea of a garden changing through the seasons. I just do wish the English winter one was decidedly shorter. I woke up to 2 degrees this morning…in May! The nice thing is that the houses here are so beautifully, evenly warm, without the horrid blowy-air thing going on, and on a sunny day the outdoor temperatures don’t matter so much. The weather forecasting is definitely on the pessimistic side, so I’m still waking up pleasantly surprised most days. But still, as you say, seeing all that colour is good for the spirits.

  3. Louise Dutton says:

    Oh what a backyard Janna! Glad you are feeling settled back home. A beautiful park can make you feel different things. Peaceful and quiet spots to contemplate but also those where noise and laughter are abound. Certainly is different to Sydney harbour foreshore! Your photos are beautiful but particularly impressive is that goose!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Isn’t the goose lovely? Jessica (from rustyduck.net, below) and I really have a bit of a goose thing going on! They are just so elegant and graceful and perfect. And yes, I’m very lucky to be so close to the park. When we first started looking at London I could see this very big patch of green on the map and we searched for houses all the way around it!

  4. Steven says:

    It is wonderful to see the colour and freshness of Spring in your new ‘backyard’ Janna. Such vibrancy! I can just imagine how uplifting it would be for everyone emerging from the dullness of winter! And to have a glimpse of what I will get to see soon is getting me a little more excited!!

    • jannaschreier says:

      I am so excited, too! As I walk around the park I contemplate whether it would be best to just send you off to explore on your own, just as I have loved to do, or whether I won’t be able to resist coming with you to show you all my favourite bits! Maybe a bit of each would be best.

      • Steven says:

        I can understand your dilemma! I bit of both may be good because I do think that shared enthusiasm makes for an enjoyable experience. And besides I may just benefit from your ‘best bits’ knowledge so that I make the most of my short time!! 🙂

  5. germac4 says:

    I really enjoyed this post, I’ve always been besotted by the English countryside, and how much more so these wonderful parks in the city. Lovely to see Park Lane with daffodils and bluebells and greenery. Enjoy!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks very much! The only issue is that we just don’t have quite so much rural countryside as there is in Australia; it’s particularly accessible around Canberra. I’ve just been writing about this for a GardenDrum post, in fact. But how lucky I am to have a little piece of it on my doorstep. I’m looking forward to see it evolve through the year.

  6. rusty duck says:

    When I worked in London (long ago!) I used to wander the parks during my lunch break, as did many others. It always struck me how peaceful it was, even though the constant traffic was only ever a few yards away. The planting has moved on, for the better, in the intervening years. It is far more naturalistic now. And of course, I love that last shot 🙂
    p.s. the new theme looks very smart.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Ah, the goose. I took the photo on my iPhone (no zoom lens) and wasn’t sure exactly how close I could get without a) scaring Mr Goosey or b) scaring myself. I had a feeling that a Hyde Park resident wouldn’t be particularly timid and I was right that the latter of those dilemmas was certainly the most relevant! I do have a lot of London parks to get round and am super, super excited about the Open Squares event next month. Two days, 200 squares. How am I going to do it?

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