June is the month of Midsummer, of long evenings and sun, flowers and picnics. It’s also my birthday this month, so of course there will be cake!
All of spring builds towards June, the mid point of our calendars, the longest day and shortest night, the pinnacle of growth and canopy. The oak leaves are filled with tannins now; dark and dust-filmed. The frothy effervescence of the lane sides has taken on a heavier breath and the first hint of hay-hues creep into the fields.
Go gently on the heaths and hedge boundaries. Adders bask, and the roe deer doe has her twin kids hidden, dappled in the shade. Brambles begin to bloom, picked over by fledgling goldfinches.
It’s the wild dog roses I love the best – find them where the elder flowers and the May blossom fades, arching stems of thorns and sweet pink petalled kisses against the sky. Mark the spot to look for robins pincushion, and scarlet hips later in the year.
The June flower which takes the crown of most folklore rich, has to be the foxglove. The spires of pink bells, each dappled and spotted inside, with deep throats, hold a perilous secret. Foxgloves or ‘Digitalis’ to give them their correct botanical name, are a source of the chemical digitoxin, used in heart medicine but quite capable of fatal consequences if misused and disrespected.
Lurking in the shadow of the hedge-bank, slender and silent save for the vibrations of bees, foxgloves and their potent powers have long been associated with fairy folk. Some say the spots inside the flowers are handprints of fairies climbing inside, others that fairies would give the bells to foxes to (magically) wear on their paws to silence their steps as they raided the chicken coop. The true origins of the name foxglove is lost in time, but other versions in different cultures refer to “good womens’ bells” and yet more references to the fey.
All in all, in garden and in field, the month of June is one of fullness; ripe red strawberries dripping with juice, billowing roses with fragrance divine, the sun’s intensity matching the glare of the kestrel perched on the wires. We are at half moon, it too will wax to fullness within the month.
My June To-do List
- Take evening strolls around the village, note which cottages bear the best roses, which barn the swallows choose to nest in.
- Eat ripe strawberries, freshly picked.
- Watch for the first peas appearing in the allotment crop, pick and eat straight from the pod.
- Make birthday cake – lemon drizzle or raspberries and cream?
- Keep a dish of water topped up, for garden visitors such as hedgehogs and birds
- Stay up late on Midsummers night, celebrate the sun
- Hang bunting, light lanterns
- Keep watering the garden, do a rain dance
- Add fresh herbs to salads