Winter can be a depressing time with the sun set low on the horizon, short daylight hours, freezing temperatures and rain, sleet and snow. It is not surprising that we all look for the very first signs of the spring to come.
Well, it is now a month after the winter solstice and the daylight hours are indeed getting longer, but in January the day on day change is very small, hardly noticeable.
So we need to look for other indicators of warmer days ahead.
Now in Devon, with its generally mild climate especially in coastal areas, we have often seen snowdrops flowering around Christmas. But not this year. We have looked each day and no sign at all. The Japanese winter flowering cherries are in bloom, as are the winter forsythias and the red-flowered Japanese quince, but no sign of the snowdrops.
Until this week…Suddenly, as if by magic, snowdrops are appearing everywhere, their green-white flowers thrusting up from the frozen soil. The botanical name of the common snowdrop is “Galanthus Nivalis” from the Greek words for ‘milk’ and ‘flower’. There are some twenty different varieties of snowdrop growing around the country.
Most of us think of the snowdrop as a native species, but it is not. While it is native to continental Europe from the Pyrenees to Poland, it is believed to have been introduced to Britain. Some have argued that it was introduced by the Romans, but experts tell us that it may only have been brought into Britain extensively some three hundred years ago.
But whatever their history, these beautiful little white flowers, bowing their heads gracefully in the worst of the winter weather, are very welcome as harbingers of the spring to come. And, over the weeks ahead, they will be joined by daffodils and primroses and all the other flowers that make spring so very special.