Tag Archives: snowdrops

Kelburn Castle: 2017’s first spring flowers

Tristram and I drove down to Kelburn Castle, and it was baltic, with rain almost sleet as we left but we headed from Hamilton towards Largs and occasionally the clouds would break to reveal patches of blue sky. Some sunshine, though lighting the world up far from us. The wind was freezing, even among the trees. Ice lined the puddles of water, though water flowed and rivuleted everywhere down the burn as we climbed it.

Kelburn

It was astounding to see these amazing snowdrops:

Kelburn

Thousands of them. Like these, adorning the banks, among these enormous, ancient trees.

Kelburn

As we walked back to the car park, we passed this last, lone utterly mad daffodil.

Kelburn

In the walled garden there were some beautiful rhododendrons blooming as well — I love walled gardens, what wonderful places they are in this climate! Yet I don’t feel I can count them really.

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Day 3: Snowdrops

I discovered today that I prefer battling nettles and following their long roots across the earth’s surface to actually planting bulbs. Even snowdrops. It worries me that I prefer destruction, but of course I was happy to do both.

God, I am tired. This physical work every day is no joke even though it hasn’t felt too much at any one point and I have enjoyed it immensely. I honestly almost took a nap this afternoon, wishing I could sleep through dinner and right through until tomorrow morning. I nodded off through a book and dinner was amazing.

Every meal is amazing, the best thing about hard work.

Today I worked clearing out a lovely old overgrown herb bed, now nettles and primroses and masses of snowdrops that needed rescuing. I love snowdrops, I remember the days I just went to other people’s gardens to stare at them. The RHS on snowdrops:

Plant freshly-lifted snowdrops when the foliage is just dying back in late spring. If it is not possible to plant in late spring, buying just after flowering when the leaves are still green, (‘in the green’) is the next best way of establishing snowdrops.

I dug out bulbs and green leaves and replanted them in the bank I’ve been weeding the past two days. Still not done. The snowdrops have already flowered of course, before my arrival, so the picture you see here is from a previous snowdrop extravaganza.

It does prove that you should establish snowdrops, they are so lovely. One of the things I love most about this farm is the extra effort taken to brighten the lane alongside us, and to leave this place more beautiful than when they found it. Practical willow and bulbs upon bulbs, so lovely.

Snowdrops…They work their way down and down into the soil helped by the actions of worms, their bulbs were so much deeper than I expected. They had worked their way into crevices and under the edges of the wall’s stones. In places they clustered in great and beautifully-removable clumps, in others I found lone bulbs choked by nettles.

Nettles are truly amazing, and digging them out along with the bulbs I have begun to plot the rest of this novel I have started that is going nowhere fast. I thought gardening might work to shake things loose and it has, though I wasn’t able to stay awake last night to think about things the way I need to. Tonight isn’t looking much more likely.

The middle of the day involved a beautiful drive through countryside, a stop at the most wonderful roadside stopover I have ever seen, run by farmers and containing a farm store where we dropped off juice and stayed for cake that tasted just as good as it looks.

A special goal in my life is to seek out places that sell cake that tastes as good as it looks. I find most cake disappointing, and how heartbreaking is that?

We had a quick run around Stroud, a wonderful old industrial town I hope to get back to, and picked up another new wwoofer and her son just arrived from Japan.

A good day, and I learned the best trick for helping a fire get going that I have ever seen…and a complete aside, BBC2 radio has had a programme on country music on that played some songs from the latest Mary Chapin Carpenter album along along with Loretta Lynn, the Steeldrivers and even 6 Days on the Road (though unaccountably no Johnny Cash and no East Bound and Down). They are now playing PYT by Michael Jackson, and suddenly Arizona doesn’t seem so far away.

I’ll end with snowdrops as I started. From wikipedia — this amazing description of leaves and new words. I love the idea of explicative leaves.

An important feature which helps to distinguish between species (and to help to determine the parentage of hybrids) is their “vernation” (the arrangement of the emerging leaves relative to each other). This can be “applanate”, “supervolute” or “explicative”. In applanate vernation the two leaf blades are pressed flat to each other within the bud and as they emerge; explicative leaves are also pressed flat against each other, but the edges of the leaves are folded back or sometimes rolled; in supervolute plants one leaf is tightly clasped around the other within the bud and generally remains at the point where the leaves emerge from the soil.[4]

Snowdrop Days

The best thing that can be said about February is that it is full of snowdrops.

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

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.

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

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.

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

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:

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

And the ways of putting them on display.

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

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:

Snowdrops, St Anne's

And my love for snowdrops doesn’t diminish my love for other early bulbs — I missed crocuses! But I loved these tiny lilies:

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

And this tiny plant:

Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden

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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