by Heather Elvidge
Following the mild, wet spring, green things have made phenomenal growth. Everything is two or three weeks early and plants seem as though they can’t wait their turn, but must all flower at the same time.
In woods and along hedgerows the delicate flowers of dog roses have been out for a fortnight. Bees are visiting the tall spires of foxgloves, lured into the bells by the “pad print” inside. Fields of barley ripple like lakes as the long silky whiskers bend under the wind. Roadside verges are dotted with ox-eye daisies, red campion, buttercups, and field poppies.
Rowan tree flowers are brown now. Cherries have plump green berries; hawthorns clusters of little green urns. Horse chestnut flowers have shrivelled, revealing small, round seed cases in which conkers will grow. Clusters of winged seeds dangle from the sycamores. Most trees look fresh still, although some have the darker green leaves of high summer.
Butterflies were about earlier than usual, although you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t so many at the moment. That’s because most garden species are between broods. Best to be an egg or a chrysalis now, because June is one of the wettest months.
This is when Atlantic winds roll in, loaded with rainclouds. The European monsoon, also known as the return of the westerlies, is usually confined to June’s first half. In most years the weather has calmed down by solstice time.
According to old lore, St Urban’s Day on May 25 gave us a taste of the summer – luckily the day was a pleasant one, a mixture of sunshine and showers. But we’ll be crossing our fingers on June 15 when another saint tries a spot of forecasting. “If St Vitus’ Day be rainy weather, it’ll rain for thirty days together”. Guess what – that would take us up to St Swithin’s Day.
St John’s Day on June 24 shows the prevailing wind for the following three months. Once we know that, we’ll have a good idea of what’s to come.
June is a good time to see noctilucent clouds, shining high up in our atmosphere at the edge of space. Their electric-blue or white ribbons can only be seen when the sun is just below the horizon. Look to the northwest in the hour after sunset, or the northeast before sunrise.
The summer solstice on June 21 is when the sun reaches its highest point at noon. And when the sun is at its highest the moon is at its lowest, making June the perfect month to see a stunning full moon.
If you’ve ever taken a great photo of a huge moon, only to be disappointed, you’ve experienced the moon illusion.
This trick of the mind has been known about for thousands of years yet there’s still debate about the exact cause.
It’s thought that when the moon is close to the horizon, objects in the foreground make us think it’s bigger than it really is. Also it’s hard for us to judge distances in the sky. But whatever the cause, the effect is still astonishing. If the evening is clear, don’t miss the full moon rising on June 12.