EACH SPRING, in the ancient forests of Britain, we witness one of the miracles of nature with the arrival of the Bluebell. They are always a joy to see growing and never ever disappoint. Our Bluebells, which grow upwards fiercely towards the light on oily green stalks are fine featured flowers and have small delicate, almost ruptured trumpet heads, and with tiny white insides, are individually not actually blue, but a rich violet in colour.
An annual wonder, always growing in the same areas, often in dark awkward places, they sparkle and change colour in the sunlight, while covering the forest floor in rich variations of a violet blue colouring. From becoming a hazy almost a cream white violet in direct patches of sunlight, their colour appears to sink down to a deep blue in shadow, especially where they grow thickly under trees. To the human eye, they technically exist in the middle grey tonal value, but are transformed brightly like all things by the light, although their leaves seem much darker.
And for the traditional artist, those who still work from life, they are a regular friend and glorious subject to paint.
For variety, Bluebells choose to grow in a wide diversity of woodland locations, which also affects the intensity of their colour; sometimes competing in long elegant swathes beside the irrational new green growth of bracken, they may likewise appear alongside its rusty coloured remains from the previous year before; or grow alongside fallen branches or fallen trees, or simply chose to fully carpet the forest floor, from tree to tree, root to root, in a magic splendour and intensity of colour.
Their impact upon the landscape is always spectacular, for they make the trees above them seem larger, more magnificent, all standing tall with their new covering of yellow-green Spring leaves. And Bluebells have this visual effect, by altering the floor colour underneath to a radiant bright cold, thus visually providing a huge natural cold temperature value contrast, to those new hot greens all about, both above and below in the woodland. This is such a striking contrast visually and is a perfect example of how nature always has all of the visual answers, but hides them from us through the seasons, by changing her dress.
Bluebells also have a wonderful scent, which is a unique experience for us as well for it is intoxicating, steely, almost moist, wet and most unlike the strong scent of the soil, or the normal woodland environment; this smell of the Bluebell carries forward to our senses, reminding us too that Summer is almost here.
Earlier this year as I ran by the wood near Jock’s cottage, I watched that mass of dark green bluebell stalks continuing to grow steadily under the trees, amid those pale dried Winter leaves. It was a happy sign and a reminder of painting those flowers in hot bright sunshine, as it pours down through the trees upon an abundance of wild purple, with its deep blue radiance glowing all around our feet.
Copyright Charles Harris 2017