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Sunday, 1 March 2020

New Month Old Post: Blessed By Snowdrops

(first posted 6th March, 2018)

Snowdrops on grave

When my dad could no longer manage his three-bedroomed house, he moved, as many do, to a modest bungalow. At the back was a postage stamp of a lawn bounded by an ancient high wall that sheltered masses of snowdrops. For thirteen Februaries, he delighted in the sweeping drifts of brilliant white flowers that danced defiantly in the winter winds as they lived into yet another year.

But he was also troubled by them. Come summer, when the leaves had died down, hundreds of tiny bulbs heaved themselves out of the ground and rolled across the lawn, trying to put down roots, as if to migrate away from the darkness of the wall towards the light and warmth of the house. At every visit I was asked to “go push those snowdrops back in”, and had to spend half an hour or so collecting them up and poking holes to replant them. By the next visit there would always be more trying to escape. When we finally sold the bungalow, I gathered a couple of pots full and took them home. We still call them Grandpa’s snowdrops.

In the cemetery where he now lies, planting on the graves is against the rules. It is pointless to try; the grass between the rows of headstones is mown at regular intervals, and any permanent flowers would be brutally hacked down. Even snowdrops, despite flowering well before the first mowing, would never store up future reserves, and weaken, and disappear. So I took a chance and planted a clump close to the headstone, too near for the mower to catch, in deep so they couldn’t get out. 

I went early the next year to check on their luck, but it was seemingly too early. I went again the following year, but it was too late for any leaves to be left. Around every headstone, an ugly margin of dark bare earth hinted at how they dealt with the places the mower could not reach. A later visit confirmed it as I caught the chemical smell of weedkiller drifting in the breeze from an operative with a tank on his back and a long wand. I made irregular visits over the years, but never saw any sign of snowdrops.

This year I happened to make the long drive in mid-February. There, to my surprise, still defiant against the headstone ten years after I planted them, was a triumphant line of delicate milk-white petals heralding hope for the coming spring, …

… along with an inquisitive squirrel who wanted to be in the picture (a transmigrated soul perhaps).

Snowdrops and squirrel on grave


27 comments:

  1. I hate those weedkiller spraying regimes - not jut in cemeteries or on school grounds but also on suburban verges. I keep the verge outside our house nice and tidy but every so often council sub-contractors come along with weedkiller and ruin all my good work. I am amazed that those snowdrop bulbs were so tenacious that they could bide their time for ten years. Marvellous!

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  2. It seems rather a harsh rule, but how wonderful to see those hardy little snowdrops surviving despite all the attempts to discourage them. Hope the squirrel doesn't dig them up and eat the bulbs!

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    1. Oops. Just noticed that this was an old post!

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    2. I really must go see if they're still there but it may now be too late to catch them this year.

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  3. How lovely that the defiant little snowdrops are there! This story warms my heart.

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    1. I picked it to repost because it's one of my favourites. I was quite surprised to see the snowdrops still flowering.

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  4. This is a lovely story! If they were there two years ago I bet they are coming up each year now. Maybe it took so long for the first blooming because you wisely planted them deeper than usual. They grow special for your Dad each year. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Can't be sure whether or not they had bloomed earlier - I hadn't been for two or three years and even then possibly at the wrong time. But I had lost all hope for them.

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  5. Oh, we wicked, wicked rule breakers. I planted hundreds of crocus around my brother's grave, way back in 1976. Some still bloom. They're a little more cavalier about grass cutting there. It's nice to know your dad still has some of his snow drops.
    r

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    1. Yes, silly rules are there to be broken. Snowdrops and crocuses are probably ok because they are small come up early. I doubt daffodils or tulips would do so well.

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  6. Lovely to see the snowdrops at the cemetery. Reading this post made me smile.

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  7. The provocative little snowdrops there are so cute! This story made me feel good!!!

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    1. This is an ad but I'll leave it because I like your pictures.

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  8. This was a lovely read. I didn't yet know your blog when you originally posted this, so: Thank you for reposting.

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    1. Thank you. "New month old posts" are for those who missed them first time round.

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  9. Snowdrops brighten up miserable weather.

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  10. I like how the snowdrops triumphed against great odds.

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    1. Hi Terra. Thanks for visiting. I felt there was a kind of analogy between my dad and the snowdrops.

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  11. Replies
    1. Thanks. I had to be quick to catch the squirrel in the picture.

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  12. A good story, I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thank you. It was satisfying to write it too.

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