A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Snowdrop
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop, has reliably early white drop like flowers with a green dot or spot. Several garden cultivars exist, some with larger flowers than the species, some with double flowers, as well as some later flowering varieties. Snowdrops are one of the earliest spring bulbs often flowering in early January. At a height of 4 - 8 inches (10-20cm) they shows off best in clumps, naturalized under deciduous trees or shrubs. You can see in the second scan of my garden snowdrops the detail that from afar looks like a green spot. After having lived in Mexico for so many years I cannot get used to this lovely plant that needs winter cold in order to faithfully come back every year. If I were to associate this beautiful little pure white flower with someone I know in Vancouver I would assert that Ballet BC's Simone Orlando is as close as anybody gets to being as beautiful as a snowdrop.

By Thomas Paine

To the Editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, 1775.

I have given your very modest “Snow Drop” what, I think, Shakespeare calls “a local habitation and a name;” that is, I have made a poet of him, and have sent him to take possession of a page in your next Magazine: here he comes, disputing with a critic about the propriety of a prologue.

Enter Critic and SnowDrop.


Prologues to magazines!—the man is mad,
No magazine a prologue ever had;
But let us hear what new and mighty things
Your wonder working magic fancy brings.


Bit by the muse in an unlucky hour,
I’ve left myself at home, and turn’d a flower,
And thus disguised came forth to tell my tale,
A plain white Snow Drop gathered from the vale:
I come to sing that summer is at hand,
The summer time of wit you’ll understand;
And that this garden of our Magazine
Will soon exhibit such a pleasing scene,
That even critics shall admire the show
If their good grace will give us time to grow;
Beneath the surface of the parent earth
We’ve various seeds just struggling into birth;
Plants, fruits, and flowers, and all the smiling race,
That can the orchard or the garden grace;
Our numbers, Sir, so fast and endless are,
That when in full complexion we appear,
Each eye, each hand, shall pluck what suits its taste,
And every palate shall enjoy a feast;
The Rose and Lily shall address the fair,
And whisper sweetly out, “My dears,
take care”; With sterling worth,
the Plant of Sense shall rise,
And teach the curious to philosophize;
The keen eyed wit shall claim the Scented Briar,
And sober cits the Solid Grain admire;
While generous Juices sparkling from the Vine,
Shall warm the audience until they cry—divine!
And when the scenes of one gay month are o’er,
Shall clap their hands, and shout—encore, encore!


All this is mighty fine! but prithee, when
The frost returns, how fight you then your men?


I’ll tell you, Sir: we’ll garnish out the scenes
With stately rows of hardy Evergreens,
Trees that will bear the frost, and deck their tops
With everlasting flowers, like diamond drops;
We’ll draw, and paint, and carve, with so much skill,
That wondering wits shall cry,—diviner still!


Better, and better, yet! but now suppose,
Some critic wight, in mighty verse or prose,
Should draw his gray goose weapon, dipt in gall,
And mow ye down, Plants, Flowers, Trees, and all.


Why, then we’ll die like Flowers of sweet Perfume,
And yield a fragrance even in the tomb!

Addendum: Courtesy of my wife Rosemary. "Alex the snowdrops are not the ordinary ones. They are Galanthus elwesii : The flowers are much larger, appearing on 25cm (10in) stems, with two green marks on the inner segment of the petals and a honey fragrance. This species originates from Turkey."


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