The Subtle Splendour of Snowdrops in Springtime

Admired for their subtle splendour, Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), are small flowering bulbs originating from Eastern Europe and Russia. Nowadays, this ornamental plant is naturalized around the world.

A precursor to spring, the snowdrop is one of the earliest flowers blooming in our gardens. A welcome sight to many after a long, cold winter, including me.

As an early flowering plant, snowdrops are an important early spring food source for pollinators.

According to lore, snowdrops were once held sacred as flowers representing virginity during medieval times, which may account for their naturalized state near convents and monastic buildings.

“A flow’r that first in this sweet garden smiled,
To virgins sacred, and the Snowdrop styled.”Thomas Tickell

Peasants in some parts of England considered it unlucky to take a sprig into a house. Single flowers were harbingers of impending death, so I wonder if a bouquet would have been a safer bet?! In any case, this flower was viewed as a death-token by peasants who looked at it like it was a shrouded corpse. I suppose there’s no accounting for taste!

However, knowing that the whole plant is toxic, bulb included, perhaps some poor medieval soul took a bulb inside, ate it thinking it was a shallot, and promptly met their maker. My own speculation, but perhaps that’s how folklore surrounding all sorts of morbidity begins . In this case and others, we’ll not likely ever know!

In any case, right now, snowdrops are blooming in many parts of Europe and the British Isles. I won’t likely see them popping up in my garden for another six weeks or so, but until then, I’ll live vicariously, viewing photos on social media from people across the pond or in the lower U.S. states, where spring is ready to roll!

– Anticipation seems to be the mainstay of many a gardener!

Sharing some spring #daffodils on #WordlessWednesday

Along with beauty and scent, Hyacinth flowers offer us myth and folklore, too!

Several weeks ago we hosted a wonderful family gathering at our home. Because of this, we were the lucky recipients of beautifully potted, forced hyacinths.

A Hyacinth, aka Hyacinthus, are bulbous, perennial plants, native to the eastern Mediterranean from the south of Turkey to northern Israel.

Here in Canada, we plant these hardy bulbs in the fall.  Come springtime, they grow to a height of 6-8 inches, appearing in our gardens after the snow and (hopefully) any frost has gone.

The Hyacinth was so popular in the 18th century that more than 2,000 cultivars were grown in the Netherlands, its chief commercial producer.

I enjoyed the heady aroma of these spectacular spring flowers very much over the course of the following week. When heading upstairs to our kitchen where the flowers were on display, I could smell them before seeing them. Admittedly, I could get used to that!

After such a long winter, (hopefully behind us now, but with today’s weather, that’s questionable), it was a pure feeling of joy to experience the sight of those blooms and their exquisite perfume.

‘The Death of Hyacinth’ by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. – Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Public Domain

These lovely, highly scented Hyacinths earned their name to honour a youth, accidentally killed by his friend and lover, the Greek god Apollo.

Homer wrote that the flowers appeared when the drops of blood from this fallen fellow met the ground.

Many floral enthusiasts like me are curious about botanical symbolism and the history behind flower names.

Any legendary correlations, little known details, quips, lore and tales about the natural world, linking all of it together, are usually a delight to discover!

I suspect any plant one could name, be it flower or tree, has a yarn spinning behind it!

With relation to the natural world, classical literature linked flowers to the gods via epic poems and tales that Homer, Ovid and others have spun, explaining beauty and the creation of so many botanical species.

Others fairy tales include life lessons that even today point out human frailties. Our contemporary society can still learn from these relatable plots as we still manage to trip over our own egos from time to time, not unlike the characters from many a fable.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder to this day we still offer floral tributes honouring people in our lives, marking every event from birth to death, and everything in between, or just because!

As you can see, cats aren’t immune to botanical beauties either. Even my cat Luna likes to stop and smell the flowers!

Have a good weekend, and Happy Gardening!