Thursday, 9 January 2014

When will the Snowdrops appear?

It’s January, and thanks to the mildness of the weather, all sorts of summer flowers, are still bravely trying to brighten the winter dreariness in my little back garden, alongside the Winter Jasmine.

As well as the roses I wrote about last week, there’s the faithful perennial wallflower, Bowles Mauve, that only seems to stop flowering for about a month in early spring. It can get a bit straggly, especially in a garden like mine that has high walls all round so it has to stretch upwards towards the light. But for sheer lasting colour, there's not much to beat it!

There are even a few of the big white Daisies left over from the summer. They look decidedly battered by the gales and sleety rain but it's good to see them even so. 

I read somewhere that their unopened buds can be pickled and eaten as capers – though I don’t recommend trying it without a proper recipe!

My unused path to the garage is covered in fallen apples, ready for the blackbirds who appreciate them when the weather turns really cold, even managing to find them through substantial layers of snow!

I don't know what kind of apples they are as they were planted by the previous owner but they're not particularly nice; so I'm happy to leave most of them for the birds.

Bulbs are beginning to push up through the earth – what energy that must take when the ground is so cold and hard! – a reminder that winter will eventually give way to spring. 

But as yet there are no snowdrops flowering. And that doesn’t surprise me – I always think of snowdrops as a February flower, followed by other bulbs, such as daffodils, from March onwards.

The poets seem to be in agreement that snowdrops put in their appearance in February. Alfred, Lord Tennyson calls them, ‘February Fair-maid’ and here’s another poetic reference, by Hartley Coleridge, that seems to suggest that February is the time when:

‘One month is past, another is begun,
Since merry bells rung out the dying year . . .

. . . The virgin snowdrop like a lambent fire,
Pierces the cold earth with its green-streaked spire.’

Another name for the Snowdrop is ‘Candlemas Bells’, Candlemas being on February 2nd and you can read more about this plucky little flower here

You may need to click on this print to see the snowdrops, just tiny flecks of white in the grass, and I know I painted this riverbank landscape from a photo that I took in February. So that settles it, snowdrops bloom in February.

But no, somewhere someone has decided that they bloom in January!

I had a bit of a shock, a couple of Februaries ago, when I started to think about making a ‘snowdrop’ design, based on a screenprint I'd made years ago, for my daughter’s birthday on February 17th. I knew that there were ‘Birth Month Flowers’ – I’d seen the categories on Greeting Card Universe - and assumed that Snowdrops would feature in February. I used the internet to look up the various birth month flowers and to my amazement found that the snowdrop is the flower assigned to January! 

So, if you’re stuck for an original birthday card for someone born in January, this might fit the bill - 

On the other hand,
 if you are just looking for cards with snowdrops, 
you'll find a whole bunch of them

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