It was the hawthorn that first caught my eye; the leaves of a regular hawthorn, but long scarlet-pink flowers, like miniature fuchsia blossoms, nodding gently over an ageing Oxford sandstone wall. The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments is one of Oxford's museums, but one I've never been inside; it has a feeling of only being half public, in the way of some of the colleges. You can go in there, but are you welcome?
I looked at the incredible red Hawthorn, caught in the evening light and reflected that if the collection was open to the public, and the gate open, then the gardens were surely also open. To me, for example. Right now.
Two deep borders hug the wall, full of plants ancient and exotic, prostrate, tumbling. A harsh spring trim has stripped the winter clutter from the shrubs, and plants are scrambling wildly out of the bare soil. A few flashes of colour light up the shadow behind the wall; blue fluffy caeonothus; a buttercup teeming with pollen beetles.
And then that mysterious shrub. Up close it insists, firmly, bewilderingly, that it is a relative of our native hawthorn, but with flowers like a fuchsia. Identified! It's Ribes Speciosum. I wonder if I can fit one in somewhere?