The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

The small mercy of snowdrops and other survivors


Click for larger imageMassive snow melt and rising rivers have come with the big thaw, now that our deep snowfall has turned liquid. Watching our local river rise 5 feet, it made me think about how snow locks up water the way trees lock up carbon dioxide. Gardening hard, as I’ve done the last few seasons, has done this to me — make me watch every aspect of the changing seasons and think about what it might mean for my garden. My poor, pummelled garden, now free of that heavy snow but looking squashed, like a flower flattened between the pages of an encyclopedia.

Which is why I felt my mouth fall open today when I saw a single snowdrop — Galanthus elwesii — white and perfect and definitely alive. I took a walk around and checked on the other signs of life which have been thrilling me out of all proportion to their size. A tuft of striped crocus leaves, 2 inches high? A few battered narcissus leaves breaking through the soil? I’ll take it — it’s January, and my standards and expectations for the garden are at their lowest.

The desk where I write gets sun for two hours in summer, and much less in winter when the sun can’t be bothered to rise very high. This time last year I wrote this poem during one of the sun’s rare appearances at my desk. Do you ever get poetic about your garden? If so, I’d love to hear some.


The winter sun doesn’t mean it;
it cracks an eye over sodden ground –
the damp remains of brightest days,
the ceaseless hunt of birds,
the lilacs’ empty grasp –
and is unmoved.

It cannot be enough.
But braver things are in the earth
and they rise, swords first,
to take back the day
and call forth the legions
that come after.

posted under Bulbs, Gardening
13 Comments to

“The small mercy of snowdrops and other survivors”

  1. On January 22nd, 2010 at 12:52 am jim groble Says:

    Your garden pic from the side bar is wonderful.

  2. On January 22nd, 2010 at 2:07 am Teresa O Says:

    Greetings from Ohio,

    Even though I can be quite romantic about gardening, I’m a bad poet, but you’re poem is a powerful testament to the courage of plants that break through the earth every spring. Snowdrops are such hearty little plants and unafraid to break through a crust of snow. Here’s to warmer days and blooming flowers, may spring come sooner than expected!

  3. On January 22nd, 2010 at 4:13 am Meredith Says:

    Your poem moved me. I don’t write poetry about my garden experiences, more likely to muse aloud in prose, but I’d certainly be interested in reading more of yours. That photo of the snowdrop is so pristine and perfect, I felt like I was holding my breath with you as we spotted it during your narrative. 🙂

  4. On January 22nd, 2010 at 4:29 am Grace Says:

    I became a self-proclaimed weather nerd and plant nerd virtually simultaneously. The two are so closely connected. There are a couple of books on the subject but I can’t recall them at present.

    Every little flower helps. Nice poem.

  5. On January 22nd, 2010 at 8:37 am Tweets that mention The Stopwatch Gardener » Blog Archive » The small mercy of snowdrops and other survivors -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sheila Averbuch, Sheila Averbuch. Sheila Averbuch said: @isewcute I too am massively excited to have seen my first snowdrop! And I'm in Scotland…so a minor miracle, really. […]

  6. On January 22nd, 2010 at 9:42 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Grace, hooray, so it’s not just me! If I find myself buying a barometer and a rain gauge, then, I won’t worry.

  7. On January 22nd, 2010 at 9:43 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Meredith – thank you very much for your kind words; I wasn’t sure if this poem was cringey or good. I may post a few more – you have been warned.

  8. On January 22nd, 2010 at 9:45 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Teresa: what’s it like in Ohio just now? I’m shamefully ignorant. We are spoiled with mild winters — thank you, Gulf stream – and everyone is reeling as we had an actual winter with actual snow. Our snowdrops have had to work much harder this year; definitely they are earning their keep. Thank you very much for the kind word about the poem.

  9. On January 22nd, 2010 at 9:46 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    thank you for that, Jim — actually, that picture in the sidebar is supposed to be a gallery you can click to see a slideshow of my top 100 images of the garden, but the slideshow is broken. Fortunately it broke on a nice picture. It shows my main border in midsummer; I’ve struggled to make those alarming red flowers match with the pinks — I think it’s only the whites delphiniums that make it not be shocking.

  10. On January 22nd, 2010 at 7:09 pm Carolflowerhill Says:

    Lovely poem and your prose too a joy to read all. I am with you in finding the little stirrings of new life so uplifting! It is pure magic to me to see these blades rising and unfurling into the light. I am happy to have found your blog here at blotanical. ;>)

  11. On January 22nd, 2010 at 9:06 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Carol, that is very very kind of you, thanks. What I love about Blotanical is it connects us like-minded garden addicts together, so we know we’re not alone in our sentiments.

  12. On January 23rd, 2010 at 7:22 pm Helen at Toronto Gardens Says:

    A lovely poem. And congratulations on your snowdrop. Mine haven’t appeared yet, although they have done, as early as January sometimes, even in Toronto. Your blog header “the small mercy of snowdrops and other survivors” has to be one of my favourites. A delightful turn of phrase.

  13. On January 24th, 2010 at 7:47 am The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Helen thanks so much for leaving your kind comment. I spotted one other emerging snowdrop yesterday, just a baby, but definitely coming forth. We’re feeling very sorry for ourselves in this extra-wintry winter, but Toronto knows all about that.

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