As the summer approaches, we have very much been hoping for months of warm sunshine and with a good deal more rain than last year. A visitor yesterday assured me that my hope for rain was in vain: ‘oak before ash, we’re in for a splash, but ash before oak, we’re in for a soak’. Looking around the growing woodland and hedgerows trees, the oak is now coming into leaf. It’ll be another week before the ash leaves unfurl.
The young oak leaves are a beautiful olive green, tinged with reddish brown. They are quite unlike the bright pale yellow of the birch and rose, the crab apple, blackthorn, hawthorn and cherry. In today’s much welcome rain, they seemed to glow with new life and hope.
The accuracy of the rhyme is statistically pretty random, but like many old wives’ tales it does have some basis in fact. The oak and ash respond to the spring in very different ways. The oak comes into leaf according to the rising temperature: with very warm periods in April this year, the oaks are indeed greening first. The ash, on the other hand, comes into leaf with changing light, longer days and more sunshine; as such, it tends to green at more or less the same time each year. It is a little slower than it may be this year, perhaps, because of the recent cloudy days.
Either way, the small trees and shrubs that make up the woodland understorey, the hazel, hawthorn and viburnums, have been soaking up the light through their leaves for a good few weeks. By the time the large trees come fully into leaf, they’ll manage in a little shade.
Of course, many wish for a summer of sunny warm days and mild rainy nights. For those who have to mow the lawn (or the paths at Sun Rising), such a combination is always a recipe for hard work! Let’s hope simply for balance, a gentle English summer.