In the USA, tomorrow is the start of Festival of Camellias month. I’ve only just heard of it, but sounds cool to me. In the UK, I think February should be Festival of Crocuses month.
After a prolonged spell of downpours, showers, drizzle, raining cats and dogs, and deluges, it’s back this week to warnings of ‘icy patches on untreated roads and pavements.’
February tends to be like that. December is the build-up to Christmas, the short days brightened by the holiday mood and festive lights and decorations. January is the hangover month that seems to drag on and drearily on.
Then, just as you are starting to ponder which first early potatoes to plant this year*, February reminds you: it is still very much winter.
However. Slowly, the days are getting longer. And nature is preparing for spring.
Snowdrops (Galanthus) aren’t that common my way, for some reason. I planted 50 bulbs a few years ago that came to nothing. I’m not sure if it was the soil, the weather that first year, or something ate them.
But, I have some in tubs, and there is a garden on my regular dog-walk route with a small drift of them in the lawn. And they’ve been flowering for a couple of weeks now. It’s lovely to see them, but they are, well, white, which is a winter colour.
Step forward the humble crocus
I was a little luckier with crocuses (I planted 50 at the same time) – though for some reason, it seems to be only the yellow ones that push their way through the sodden or frozen soil each February.
They are still only a few with buds on at the moment, but they’re telling me they’ll all be out in flower before long – a sight to gladden the heart at the forecast promises a ‘high’ of 5ºC tomorrow.
There doesn’t seem to be a crocus festival (online), even in the Netherlands, where they are really big on bulbs, to the point of gardens like Keukenhof being a tourist attraction in April.
It’s a shame. Because despite being just a few inches tall, crocuses shine like little rays of sunshine amid winter’s gloom.
Bulbs – hope and rebirth as winter drags on
Elsewhere in my front garden, in pots and tubs, strong green shoots are pushing up, ready to produce a very small host of golden daffodils.
My gardens may not be ideal for bulbs, but that doesn’t stop me appreciating how amazing they are. ‘Hibernating’ beneath the ground, unseen, for months, then waking and slowly stretching up through the earth, producing buds, then flowers, then all that dying off… back to the bulb, still alive, biding its time for the next growing season.
Back to camellias
Meanwhile, an ‘inherited’ (from previous owners of the house) camellia glows on a sunny day, big fat buds promising to burst out soon in showy red blooms.
It’s a blousy, ‘look at me’ plant that survives tucked away at the edge of what was, when I moved in, a lawn.
The fact the lawn is now a nicely maturing mix of shrubs means the camellia sits unnoticed most of the year. But those same shrubs also protect it from the cold north winds of winter in a way a swathe of grass could not.
And first early potatoes
Language of flowers
Crocus (spring) = youthful gladness
Snowdrop = hope
Camellia = excellence/loveliness