Spring flowers

  • Spring flowers
    23.02.2011 14:52


    The UK is entering a very mild few days before it turns chilly again through the weekend and, then colder next week.

    There will be a period of strong winds and heavy rain in the north, particularly across north and west Scotland on Thursday night and early Friday, but that will not stop the temperature rising into double figures almost everywhere.

    Elsewhere there will be a lot of cloud around and some drizzle here and there, especially in the west and far south, with some hill fog, too. However, some eastern areas could see a bit of sunshine breaking through, especially on Thursday afternoon, as could a few other districts in the lee of high ground.

    In such regions the temperature might rise as high as 15 or 16 degrees Celsius, far above the February average. The month of February looks like it will end up with averaged temperatures about 2.5 degrees above normal, milder than January and much milder than the frigid and snowy December.

    This means that the winter as a whole from December 1 to February 28 will be about 1 degree colder than normal, a lot less cold than the temperatures in December might have threatened.

    A bald average such as that will not really tell the winter’s highly contrasting tale, though, brushing over the coldest December for 120 years and the abnormally mild February that disguises it.

    These high temperatures should ensure a rapid burgeoning of spring flowers, with daffodils already jauntily nodding their jonquil trumpets along some roadsides and others itching to burst forth.

    Crocuses have already been on display as well but as usual one of the very first flowers to appear was the snowdrop (galanthus nivalis). It was pushing forth as early as January, carpeting gardens and woodlands through February and into March.

    The snowdrop of course gets its name not only because of its pure white colour but also because it can fearlessly push through the snows of winter, the sight of its spear-like leaves reminding us that half the season is over.

    Despite its delicate appearance, the snowdrop is a hardy flower, and needs to be because it is so often flattened by February frosts. Undaunted, however, it springs back up until it is time to make way for the likes of the daffodil and the bluebell later in spring.

    There are many cultivated varieties of snowdrop, and according to the Woodland Trust it was not recorded as a wild flower in the UK until 1770, possibly an "escaped” garden variety. However, the snowdrop grows wild on the European continent as far north as Brittany, and some of those in the UK might be native, especially in southwest England.

    Aside from his more famous celebration of the daffodil, the poet William Wordsworth also revealed his admiration for the snowdrop in his poem “To a Snowdrop”, more eloquently summing up the clumsy prose you have just read:

    Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
    But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
    Thy front-- as if such presence could offend!
    Who guards thy slender stalk while, day by day,
    Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, way-lay
    The rising sun, and on the plains descend?
    Accept the greeting that befits a friend
    Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
    Shall soon behold this border thickly set
    With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
    On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
    Yet will I not thy gentle grace forget
    Chaste Snow-drop, vent'rous harbinger of Spring,
    And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

    By: Stephen Davenport