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Snow and snowdrops. March 4, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. You know those beautiful but cliched photos of blooming snowdrops breaking through the snow? Ha ha, I always thought, where does that happen?

Our friend Ben and I love our snowdrops (Galanthus spp., typically G. nivalis) here at Hawk’s Haven, our cottage home located in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. They—along with the other “little bulbs,” winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis), crocuses, and windflowers (Anemone blanda)—are the first flowers to greet us each spring, a promise that winter is finally over. (Our first hellebore to flower, Helleborus foetidus, is also in bloom as I write, and will soon enough be followed by H. niger and the many-colored H. x hybridus, which bloom with the daffodils here.)

But the snowdrops, with their delicate, pendant, winged white blooms, are always first, reminding me of shy three-winged angels (or fairies, if you’re a fairy fancier) who wish to wrap their wings around themselves so fewer people will notice them as they thunder by. This probably fools some people, but not flower-loving folk like us. Few things are as thrilling to me and OFB as the first snowdrops of the season, longing for spring and flowers as we are.

But this year, as all East Coasters know, winter has been a real bitch. We’ve had colder winters, and plenty of them, but I think our 45 inches of snow (and that’s just so far—we often get our biggest snowstorms in March) has set a record. So, unusually, we still have snow on the ground. And sure enough, yesterday, I’d gone out to fill the birdfeeders and saw that our snowdrops were up and blooming through the snow. True, they’re just 6 inches tall (or less), so the effect is understated. But it’s all the more welcome for that.

Welcome, snowdrops! And welcome spring!!!

         ‘Til next time,



Spring garden blues. April 11, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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And yellows and whites and purples. Spring has sprung here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and Silence Dogood share in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. We have an acre here that we tend and water by hand, so let’s call our general gardening style “informal at best.” Our gardens will never, ever look like “real” gardens—like those of, say, Frances at Faire Garden or Nan at Hayefield.

But in spring, they come close. The beds are carpeted with color, and if you saw them now, you’d be hard-pressed not to gasp with delight. (At least, we do every time we see them.) The blues of Siberian squill and crested iris and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and vinca and grape hyacinths. The yellows of daffodils and ranunculus (buttercups) and crocuses. The purples of Grecian windflowers (Anemone blanda) and glory-of-the-snow (chionodoxa) and crocuses and hellebores. The white of bloodroot and Dutchman’s-breeches and daffodils and crocuses and hellebores and Siberian squill and snowdrops and Grecian windflowers. The breathtaking, awesome, oh-my-God glory of it all. (And mind you, this is before the tulips and columbines and bleeding hearts take off.)

We love each and every bulb, every flower, every new bud or shoot showing signs of life. But at this time of year, we love Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) best. This tiny true-blue-flowered bulb seems to have escaped the taxonomic abuse bestowed on so many of its kind; our friend Ben can’t find any change of name from Scilla sibirica, though cousins have been banished from Scilla to Hyacinthoides and worse.

But what’s in a name? Every year, the little bulbs spread their bounty throughout our beds. And this year, they’re even blooming in the lawn, adding continuity to our garden scheme. A few bloom pure white to remind us that they have a mind of their own, but most are the most gorgeous clear gentian-blue. They press against the pavers of our front path as though some gardening genius planted them. And yes, clearly He did.

“Glory be to God for dappled things,” the poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins exulted. And glory be to God for small things, our friend Ben would like to add. For Siberian squill and all the little, bright, effortless bulbs. Glory hallelujah!