Snowdrops

March 20, 2001–My first snowdrops are up. Perhaps you are familiar with the growth pattern of snowdrops. They start out as green points pricking out of the earth. Then you see that the tips of the spears are white. The white tip swells as it points upward. One day the white part drops—it points downward even as the green spear is still upright. Finally the white bud opens into a little bell of blossom. I have two snowdrops whose buds have dropped but haven’t opened. One of the anxieties of a bean counter personality like mine is I never know what counts as blooming for a snowdrop—is it when it drops, or when it unfurls? Around here, there can often be a week or more between the two events. Meanwhile, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to make the first bloom entry of the garden year in my garden notebook, and I obsessively check my precocious snowdrops two or more times a day, waiting for an unfurling. Bloom! Hurry up and bloom!
These were not the first snowdrops I planted. My first ones were ordered through the mail and planted on the north side of the driveway (which gets southern exposure). They always come up before the crocuses on the south side of the driveway, but these original snowdrops are not even breaking ground yet.
The next snowdrops I got were given to me in a clump by a friend, who discovered a huge colony of them growing in a neglected field. That is the best way to plant them—when they’re done blooming but still green. At least that’s what I’ve been told, and these snowdrops have certainly multiplied faster than any of the others. I have also read (but don’t ask me where) that the old-fashioned snowdrops were a different strain that was especially vigorous and is no longer available. So if you get the opportunity to dig some snowdrops from an older garden, don’t pass it up. Anyway, I planted them along the path to the secret garden, and they are still under snow.
Finally, I followed my own advice and looked around in late winter to see where the snow melted first. One spot was on the west side of the concrete pad that forms the base for the steps to the house. Not only do we walk past here every day, but it is also visible from the house. My two precocious snowdrops are located here, and my eyes are good enough that I can check their progress from the house. But, of course, I don’t. At least on any day with a hint of mildness I feel compelled to walk out the kitchen door and inspect my snowdrops for any sign that they might perhaps be unfurling sometime that day. On rainy, or even (sigh) snowy days, I am content to eye them from the window. On those kinds of days snowdrops never make any progress anyway, but it never hurts to check.