The best thing that can be said about February is that it is full of snowdrops.
I love the name. I grew up loving them as simply a wonderful exquisite thing that grew in a country far away, loved them without ever having seen them because mum loved them. Now I am lucky enough to see them every year, gladdening the end of winter alongside the crocuses and anticipating the great drifts of daffodils and tulip flames that are coming soon.
I have also been reading so much about the Chelsea Physic Garden:
This walled Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants and it became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world.
Though I am as interested in its tangled history with greed and empire as with the love of plants, and the hope of easing the human condition through their medicinal properties.
So I was pretty excited about snowdrop days at the garden. The rest of the garden looks as any English garden does at the end of winter, bare ground and spindly twigs and battered perennials waiting to spring back to life.
It highlights the beauty of the flowers brave enough to emerge in all of their variety:
And the ways of putting them on display.
It was bitter cold, wind biting, hands frozen around the camera. Yet these beauties are not natural to this island, come originally from Turkey and Southern Europe where 19 varieties grow wild. As another transplant from a warmer clime, I marvel at them…though perhaps the hills and mountains they grew on stretched higher than mine.
They were first recorded growing in London in the early 1600s, but probably that the Romans brought them, naturalised them here. The gift of an earlier empire. Now there are over a 1000 cultivars, a myriad of variations to celebrate.
In 2012 the most expensive Galanthus bulb sold for £275. Somehow missing the point of the flower’s beauty and the way that it indiscriminately makes almost every park and garden more beautiful for everyone and anyone. These are my first snowdrop sighting of the year in the graveyard of Hawksmoor’s St Anne’s in Limehouse:
And my love for snowdrops doesn’t diminish my love for other early bulbs — I missed crocuses! But I loved these tiny lilies:
And this tiny plant:
I’ve realised writing this that I was terribly slack about getting the various cultivar’s names…the product, I think, of not having a garden to plant anything in forcing me to enjoy flowers simply for what they are.
Snowdrop days only run until Sunday, so if you are going to go (and it’s £9.50 mind), go now.
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