I have been reading about snowdrops in their infinite variety. There they are in white and green, (rarely a touch of gold) and all on a plant where a giant might reach 20cm. They are out there in their thousands.
The botanists have them spatchcocked:
Scape semi-erect 17cm. Outer segments 22mm. Inner segments clasping, apex not flared; sinus equilateral
Snowdrops are cult plants. There are a number of other cult plants but we tend to view them on our terms. Primula auricula forms can sit within an ‘auricula theatre’ conveniently sited at eye level. There are halls filled with Gladiolia and the heads of dahlias. If you wish to see snowdrops you really need the great outside. Sited pretty much at ground level and flowering when the ground is either frozen or sodden and unsuited to ‘lying down on’ they are a marketing miracle. Look what has to be overcome:
- They are small, of limited colours, have major design constraints, are absent for three quarters of the year.
Will we be tempted to meddle? In future could we peer up into a giant snowdrop? Will there be ‘colour breaks’ not the blue rose but the black snowdrop? Should we give them names that reflect our environment: Macadam black / Misted Neon / Polished Concrete / Hot Lips?
Or will we remain content to let snowdrops take us into their world? The world of dead leaves, bare branches, faded grass, lichen-rich gravestones and a biting wind. With, at best, the pale blue of a winter’s sky and lucid sunlight.
Next year there will be snowdrop pilgrimages to country churchyards or manor houses. You can see the glint of parked cars that line the lanes from a distance, with people wrapped up and trekking to see them. And what you see are endless clumps of white flowers with their heads bent. Perfect in the smooth whiteness of their skin; the exquisite lines of their petals. If you remove your gloves, fumbling as the cold bites, stoop, and, with gross fingers tilt the bowed head you see the mystery within.
There is such sweetness in the world.
Susan A. Tindall