“My own life in the garden has been a particular, and special, aspect of life in general: the activity, the preoccupation, to which I have retreated both in practice and in the mind when everything else permitted. Get out there and dig, weed, prune, plant…. Escape winter by swinging forward into spring, summer: maybe try those climbing French beans this year, what about a new rose, divide the irises, the leucojums are crowded — put some under the quince tree….
“The gardening self becomes a separate persona, waiting to be indulged when possible, and never entirely subdued — always noticing, appreciating, recording…. [Gardening] has this embracing quality in that it colors the way you look at the world: everything that grows, and the way in which it grows, now catches your attention; the gardening eye assesses, queries, is sometimes judgmental…. The physical world has a new eloquence.”
“My favourite form is that known to science as Leucojum vernum, var. Vagneri, but which lies hidden in catalogues and nurseries as carpathicum. Both are larger, more robust forms than ordinary vernum, and strong bulbs give two flowers on each stem, but whereas carpathicum has yellow spots on the tips of the segments, Vagneri has inherited the family emeralds….
“It is an earlier flowering form than vernum, and a delightful plant to grow in bold clumps on the middle slopes of the flatter portions of the rock garden. Plant it deeply and leave it alone, and learn to recognise the shining narrow leaves of its babes, and to respect them until your colony is too large for your own pleasure, and you can give it away to please others.”
It’s been a couple of years since I stumbled across batches of snowflakes to photograph; the last time I caught them in their bloomers was in March 2021 — where they were mixed in with some snowdrops, causing The Photographer a lot of confusion over the differences between snowflakes and snowdrops. I sorted that out in a post at the time — see Snowdrops and Snowflakes, Daffodils and Tulip Leaves — so this year I didn’t have to worry about that, though I did have to remind myself. This year, too, I never saw any snowdrops (only snowflakes) though I may have just missed them.
I did freshly learn that snowflakes come in a spring version (Leucojum vernum) and a summer version (Leucojum aestivum), which grows a good bit taller just to one-up the spring varieties. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them during the summer, and I’m assuming my photos are the spring version since these typically start blooming as we head out of winter. It’s a bit tricky here in the Southeast, though, to think in terms of “blooming season” when identifying plants: in February and March the temperatures swing freely from wintery 30 degrees to summery 70s or 80s in alternating weeks, so there are often surprises that don’t quite align with “this plant blooms in spring” characterizations.
Regarding the second quotation above, you may remember E. A. Bowles as the proprietor of a lunatic asylum for wayward plants (see Winter Shapes: Corkscrew Hazel), but he was equally well-known for his garden writing. His book My Garden in Spring has an entire chapter on snowdrops, where he does what we all do: mixes them in with snowflakes both in his gardens and in his writing about them. I like his writing style — I mean, referring to young plants as “babes” is awesome! — and I thought it was interesting that in a twenty-page chapter devoted to snowdrops, he digressed into a discussion of his favorite varieties not of snowdrops, but snowflakes.
Thanks for reading and taking a look!