Whilst out driving this week we passed some snowdrops growing in clumps along a country lane. It was dark, but they glowed white as the car's headlights lit them up. They made me think of spring, but soon afterwards we passed through a hailstorm that left the road covered in tiny icy spheres and I was reminded that they are a winter flower, rather than a spring one. In our garden they are blooming in a strawberry patch under the apple tree.
They are such a neat, compact little flower, and so very white. I'm not generally a fan of white flowers, preferring the richness of colours, but when I see snow white things in nature like white feathers or fur, I am always amazed at the reflective brightness of white.
Their leaves have a touch of blue about them, and I remember trying to find exactly the right colour when I painted one a few years ago (you can read about my attempts at botanical painting in this post). The ones I painted are more open, and perhaps a different variety, looking at the way they have opened up to reveal frilly green inner petals.
Wordsworth described their whiteness in his poem 'To A Snowdrop':
"Lone flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far"
He also highlights the toughness of these tiny flowers. The poet Ted Hughes took this a step further, and imagined them to be made of metal:
"Now is the globe shrunk tight
Brutal as the stars of this month,
Her pale head heavy as metal"
It's tempting to see the snowdrop as a delicate little flower, fragile and tiny, but in truth they are very resilient, fighting their way up through frozen soil and withstanding battering rain, hail and snow in the depths of January.
They are inspiring, always welcome and a sign that life is thriving in winter, even on the coldest day, and for that I am very fond of them.