Whatever your thoughts are of the Turkish-born Roman soldier, St George, and his connection with England, there is one thing certain: on and around his saint’s day, 23 April, England is ablaze with dandelions. And whatever your thoughts are of the humble dandelion, and your frustration with it in your lawn, there’s no doubting the value these sturdy flowers have to our wildlife.
At Sun Rising, we are now in the midst of dandelion season. The beautiful sunshine yellow of the cowslips that cover the meadow has suddenly been paled by the pools of molten gold that are dandelions in full flower. And while the bees have been enjoying crawling up into the little yellow bell flowers of the cowslips, now they are awash in the pollen of the dandelions. If you’re careful, you can sit and watch the bees, their legs and faces completely covered in it. It isn’t just the honey bees: look out for the many bumblebees. The orange-tailed mining bee is especially common at the moment.
They may look rather abundant, but dandelions seldom compete with the wildflowers we are striving to nurture in the meadows. Instead, they establish where grasses are poor, and little else is growing. You’ll find them making the most of paths we’ve mown, little corridors where they have more available sunlight. If you’re looking in the right direction, you’ll also see that their flowers revealing the lines of the ridge and furrow: on the old ridges, where the grasses are poorer, there being less topsoil and moisture, they flourish.
If you have a tortoise who is particularly fond of them, come and take him/her a handful. If you’d like to make dandelion wine, you’re welcome to take some too. But watch out for the bees, and you’ll need to be quick. It won’t be long before their flowers are over, their ‘clocks’ soft white in the spring light, the little seeds drifting across the grass, reminding us of the quiet passing of time …