Each night the evening persists for a little longer. I'm tramping home at speed, having lingered too long at a friend's, and the gardens are teeming with flowers. Something sweet is on the breeze; a little too early for jasmine, but a similar scent. It's probably Weigela or Viburnum. The specimen, standard, and high interest shrubs are coming into their own right now, spilling over the walls in old Cowley village, discreetly screening main-road houses, peeking over the side-road fences. May is laburnum, wisteria, rhododendron; all the prestige flowering shrubs and climbers peeking out through trees which are fancy, variegated, flushed with red toxins where the growth is fresh and new. In the gloom, the last of the tulips are lit by the first of the solar lights coming on. They're almost gone for the year, and in the intake of breath before the geraniums and honeywort arrive to take up the strain, weeds struggle up fast, bloom to clock in days. The faster growers (Marguerite, Euphorbia, Fennel) are already making their play for dominance; up in the trees, a vigourous round-leaved variegated ivy is doing the same thing on grand scale. Beneath the smothering green-and-gold scales of its leaves, a laburnum gamely pokes out a few golden waterfalls of blossom. Here and there a garden shows the distinct signs of a spring tidy-up - bare soil punctuated with smart bedding plants; petunias in fashionable colours, bellis, pansies, verbena... and the earliest of the fuschias, some of which barely stopped flowering this winter. Then there are the lilacs, of course; British and Californian, purple to the pinks of the rhododendrons (which are late this year, or in the case of my plant, completely non-flowering) and the dark stars of large-flowering clematis taking over from the fairy falls of alpine varieties, now gone to puffball seeds. As night pulls tighter, colours fade, except for around the streetlamps, where the trees flush green and bright with candles of blossom.
A week later, and I am walking uphill to the library. In seven days, plants have thrust up from every crack and crevice, and have moved from nodding gently over fences to thrusting excitedly through them. Spring is shading into summer with imperceptible speed; and the plants' need to grow is unstoppable.
Above: low light lilacs, heeeeeeere's weigela!, intrepid snapdragon #1, adventitious mullein, intrepid snapdragon #2, sweet chestnut candles around a street-light.