Once, many years ago, when I was a very new gardener in my early 20s, I dug up some of the snowdrops that proliferated in a local park and, proud of my thriftiness, planted them in my garden. Some time later, my grandmother came to visit and tut-tutted in horror at the onion weed I was carefully nurturing and allowing to spread.
Thankfully, I now know the difference in appearance between onion weed and snowdrops, although I’m not entirely clear why one is a weed and the other a flower when they are so similar in appearance.
In honour of the patch of snowdrops flowering beneath the front porch of my latest house, here is William Wordsworth’s poem about snowdrops, which he calls the ‘venturous harbinger of Spring’.
To a Snowdrop
LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing 10
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!