What does March mean to you? There is quite a choice depending where your devotion lies; Wales celebrates St David’s Day on 1 March; then there is Mothering Sunday on the 14th; Northern Ireland celebrate St Patrick’s Day on the 17th and the final part of the quartet is the official start of the British Summer Time on Sunday 28th March.
But don’t be tempted to pull out those summer shorts just yet: ne’re cast a clout ’til May be out, for whilst many of us are now enjoying something of a break from the cold snows of winter, for some the harsh conditions continue unabated and it is likely to be a little while yet before the warm days of summer arrive.
But don’t despair, whilst the cold continues in places, there are very definite signs that spring is finally making an appearance and giving the cold winter the order of the boot.
When you next go out, take a look around and I promise you will not have to look for long or very hard to see a far more welcome sight of white.
I speak of the oh so delicate and beautiful snowdrops that have been making a discreet but very definite appearance on grass verges at the side of roads, in woody glades and neglected borders.
For such a frail and dainty flower, they are surprisingly robust and not only do they manage to push their way through the icy layers of snow, but having thrust their way from the solid earth beneath, they can withstand being buried by fresh snow and below zero temperatures without so much as batting an elegant eyebrow.
You may be surprised to hear there are hundreds of different species and varieties of the Galanthus genus, the only common factor being that they are white. But there are some subtle differences between the breeds and it really is worth getting down on your hands and knees and taking a good look or these differences may escape you.
There are also some interesting names, such as the sweet scented Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’, Heffalump and Comet and most flower in the winter before the Spring Equinox and if you are a fan of the flower, you are part of the club known as galanthophiles.
There have even been poems written about the little flower; William Wordsworth said of the snowdrop:
‘Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend…’
But how has this ubiquitous and stout little flower so admired by poets and gardeners alike come to represent the end of a bitter English winter? In truth the snowdrop is something of a recent foreign import and probably made its way to our shores in around the early 16th century, having been brought home by mercenary soldiers.
There are some spectacular displays of snowdrops at Somerset’s East Lambrook Manor Gardens and even more exciting for the galanthophiles was the discovery of a new species, the Sir Henry B-C named after Sir Henry Boyd-Carpenter who spent much of his childhood at the Manor.
You can also see some magnificent displays at Snowdrop Valley, Exmoor and Kingston Lacey in Dorset.
So for Mothering Sunday, why not treat your mother to a relaxing stroll through one of the many beautiful English country gardens to admire the truly stunning elegance of poetry in motion.