On the first of February we reached the halfway mark between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In Pagan ritual the day is named Imbolc and, appropriately, I have a snowdrop of that name to mark the day here. This midway point is certainly something you can feel. In the shift in the light as darkness finally loosens its grip on the afternoons and in the new life stirring. In the woods the nosing wild garlic and in the garden, where first flowers are gathering in number in these mild, damp days.
At this midpoint, we mark the moment by gathering what has graced the garden so far for the mantlepiece, windowsills and bedside tables. We are at peak snowdrop at the moment, a week earlier than last year, but curiously there is less for the posies than a year ago when the freezes were harder. Last year’s cool summer and the endless wet we experienced until just recently must have had their influence, but regardless, we have surely turned a corner.
In the last two days the Crocus tomassinianus have begun to spear the banks, with the white form at the front of the house to keep it from crossing with the true form that has silvery backs and a lavender interior, which we grow in the bulb banks at the back. Every year I challenge my memory map and switch back and forth across the banks to see if they have begun to naturalise. With progress being slow, I continue to dream of the sheets you see when they are truly happy and focus in on the detail of the few.
These things take time and, in light of the fact that this is still just a young garden, whilst I am happy to wait for the joy in a naturalised bank of bulbs, we focus our attention upon the now and not the future. The posies intensify these first signs of life and their scarcity just now by bringing the detail close. In a posy you might stumble upon an association you have not yet tried. Might the pale, winter aconites be good if I could get them to naturalise under the winter honeysuckle? The power of two being complemented by a mingling of violets that are smattering now, but will soon be holding their own as the aconites go over. Could the Ipheion be teamed more closely with the Algerian Iris? They certainly like the same open ground and opportunity to bask in sunshine.
Every year I note the feeling of progressive plenty as the garden matures and affords free picking for the posies. The wintersweet, which I have planted by the studio, is now big enough to perfume the milking barn yard and not just provide for the moment you step outside into its sweet ambush by the door. Indoors a sprig is enough to scent a room and it is a good feeling now to be able to gather from the branches without fretting that you are diminishing the plant. Plenty in these pared back days is surely worth aspiring to and by gathering the posies we see that our journey in that direction is sure and true and that at last, it has begun.
Flowers in main image: Ipheion uniflorum ‘Charlotte Bishop’, Crocus tomassinianus, Galanthus ‘Fieldgate Prelude’, Viola odorata, Anemone coronaria ‘Mr. Fokker’, Iris ‘Spot On’, Galanthus ‘Limetree’, Ipheion uniflorum ‘Froyle Mill’, Galanthus ‘Greenfinch’
Words: Dan Pearson | Flowers & photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 3 February 2024