We have three apple blossom trees at the side of our house, planted long ago. They spend much of the year largely ignored, used only as somewhere to hang the bird feeders. But in late Spring they are suddenly, fleetingly, beautiful, and standing under the branches on a clear, bright day looking through the delicate papery blossoms to a china blue sky above confirms that longer, lighter, warmer days are here.
Beside the apple trees grows a plump and blowsy Rhododendron. Unlike the fragile apple blossoms, which will shortly be drifting on the breeze like confetti at a Spring wedding, the flowers of the hardy 'Rhoddy' last well into the Summer.
Rhododendrons have grown everywhere I have lived in Scotland, except the Western Isles (too windy I suspect) and I have a lasting affection for them. They are a non-native shrub, and as such are unblushingly tenacious, but I don't mind that atall. Along the damp west coast, in sheltered areas where our Scottish climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream, they form a spectacular element of many woodland gardens.
As children, we used their tight, unopened buds as boiled sweets in our games of outdoor 'shop'.Truth be known, I had no idea what boiled sweets actually were, but my Aunt, at a mere 7 years older than me, was a font of all knowledge, horticultural and otherwise, and she did.
Now too old for games of shops, I prefer to pick a sprig or two and put them in a jug to brighten up the kitchen table.