Welcome to this weeks ‘In A Vase On Monday’, when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join her challenge to produce a vase for the house from the garden every week.
Yesterday I promised you yet more romance and here it is in the form of the snowdrop. For me snowdrops are the true romantic flower of winter. They display a purity of colour, they can survive against all odds and they inspire a raging passion amongst their lovers the Galanthophile’s. They also have an irresistible delicate honey fragrance when massed under trees on a rare mild afternoon in winter. Passion, purity and fragrance – what could be more romantic!
Whist reading my new Freda Cox book, A Gardeners Guide To Snowdrops, I have learnt some surprising new facts about this beautiful little flower. I had no idea that snowdrops were tainted with superstition, in particular that the Victorians associated them with death saying that they grew closer to the dead than the living and that their flowers resembled shrouds. Snowdrops are also associated with Candlemas Day, which is the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary on 2nd February. Young girls would make snowdrop garlands and carry bunches of snowdrops as symbols of their purity as they processed to church. Victorian girls would also send a few snowdrops to their suitors as a warning if the gentleman became too amorous – I love the way the Victorians used the language of flowers to send coded messages.
Ignoring any superstitions about bringing snowdrops indoors, I have placed the snowdrops that I dug up from the garden into an old silver-plated rose bowl (a recent find of mine at an antique centre in Ely). The bulbs have been covered with spag moss to keep them damp and the arrangement placed in a cool bedroom. I have learnt in previous years that this delicate flower wilts at the first hint of heat.
In such a romantic week as this I thought I would share some poetry with you and spent an hour this morning flicking through my poetry books for something suitable. I was delighted to find the heading ‘Ode to the Snowdrop’ – a poem by Mary Robinson:
The snow-drop, Winter’s timid child,
Awakes to life bedew’d with tears;
And flings around its fragrance mild,
And where no rival flowrets bloom,
Amidst the bare and chilling gloom,
A beauteous gem appears!
After a promising start, this snowdrop has a very unhappy life in the snow and wind and eventually dies and is replaced by its rival, the gaudy crocus! I will leave you to read the rest of this sad poem. Personally I prefer my poetry a little more uplifting and was relieved to find that William Wordsworth also had some words to share on snowdrops in ‘To a Snowdrop’:
Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and its frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!
Snowdrops I am finding are very hard to photograph well. In the garden they are caught by every gust of wind and sit so low it is hard to get close enough to them without actually lying on the wet grass. Even indoors it is hard to get a good focus on their pretty bobbing heads. This little lot have been flowering for a few weeks now and are, I assume, the common Galanthus nivalis. I have a long way to go with Freda’s book though before I can make an attempt to spot the differences between the many varieties.
I am really enjoying the mix of the the grey tones in this bedroom with the silver rose bowl and beautiful snowdrops – a match made in heaven!
Finally I would like to share with you one of my favourite romantic reads – Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. This is a funny and enchanting fairy tale of a story about a drab spinster who unwittingly enters the glamorous world of 1930’s bright young things and ends up finding a romance of her own. I first read this book on a snow day a few years ago. School had been cancelled and we all returned to our cozy beds for a few hours with our books. I devoured this story in a sitting and have returned to it many times since when I need a little light relief. Sitting on top of the book is my own romantic tale – a crystal rose left on my pillow by my husband!
I hope you have enjoyed my whip through the world of the snowdrop. I will be back later this week with a return to reality – jobs to do this week and I have a special one reserved for Valentine’s Day itself! Do pop over to Cathy’s blog and have a look at what she has been getting up to today.