Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fair Maids of February

One month is past, another is begun,
Since merry bells rung out the dying year,
And buds of rarest green began to peer,
As if impatient for a warmer sun;
And though the distant hills are bleak and dun,
The virgin snowdrop like a lambent fire,
Pierces the cold earth with its green-streaked spire
And in dark woods, the wandering little one
May find a primrose.

Hartley Coleridge

I took the photograph of the snow drops in my garden this morning and thought that the words of this poem were perfect for it. One of their country names is 'Fair Maids of February' and they are also known as 'Candlemas Bells'. February 2nd is Imbolc/ Candlemas Day and it marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The old saying about this day is:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
winter will have another flight,
If on Candlemas day it be shower and rain,
winter is gone and will not come again.

There has been a little sunshine but mostly we have had cloud and rain so it looks as though the worst is behind us:) Certainly the days will begin to get noticeably longer now as the Great Wheel slowly turns and we move towards the Spring.

The last line of the poem made me wonder whether there were any primroses visible and to my surprise a search produced the double white flowers of Primula 'Marie Crousse' in a sheltered corner. Not the lovely wild primroses that Coleridge was speaking of but a cheering sight nevertheless.

Close by I caught sight of the first deep pink flower of this Lenten Rose - Helleborus orientalis. It's time I cut back last year's leaf stems so that the flowers can be seen properly, I wasn't expecting to see flowers this early after such a long,cold snowy period.

I took my little camera with me when B Baggins and I went to the woods this morning, I wondered whether there were any signs of Spring visible yet. You have to look carefully but they are certainly there, these are the male hazel catkins still tightly closed. You can really see why they get the country name of lamb's tails.

A few tiny buds of pussy willow sparkling with raindrops.

These are the tiny new leaves of the wild honeysuckle, the woods are full of it and in the early summer when it flowers the scent is wonderful.

Amazingly the bluebells are already pushing through the brown carpet of dead leaves, the more you look the more you can see. Ecclehall Woods are anciant woodland and in late April/early May the woodland floor is a carpet of blue.

I caught sight of these new leaves of the hart's tongue fern as we crossed the river on our way out of the woods, it isn't the greatest photo but I was peering over the top of a high muddy bank and trying not to fall head first into the river. If it hadn't been so muddy and slippery I could have got nearer and got a better shot but there you go - sometimes you just have to do the best you can!

And lastly, came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride;
Drawne of two fishes for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slyde
And swim away: yet had he by his side
His plough and harnesse fit to till the ground,
And tooles to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting Prime did make them burgein round:
So past the twelue Months forth, and their dew places found.
from The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1559)


PAT said...

Thanks so much for this, Rowan! The photos are wonderful and so are the words.

No signs of Spring here, in Northeast Missouri. Waiting patiently...

blackbird said...

Indeed, one month is past and new year's seems far away. My snowdrops are up, my spring blooming clematis has new unfurling leaves and I have seen my first bumblebee of the year. In Seattle, we have just had the warmest January on record.

I haven't noticed any brightening of the morning hours but I am enjoying the extra light at the end of the day.

Moonstone Gardens said...

Hi Rowan,
Isn't it lovely to find the first stirrings of spring in the garden? I also have primroses and hellebores as well as witchhazels and snowdrops.
Yum. Great post!

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

Aahhhh, such healing in nature, nothing more beautiful :)

Von said...

Beautiful post, thank you for this bit of Spring cheer,full of dew and moisture to cheer those of us in the parched other Hemisphere where we await Autumn and the opening rains.
I wonder if the Groundhog has left his shadow as another indicator?

Anonymous said...

Lovely snowdrops Rowan, definitely a good sign.

Thimbleanna said...

Oh, can it be? Those little snowdrops are just beautiful. Everything here is still very frozen -- we won't see any peeks of green for at least another month -- if then! Lovely post, as always Rowan!

Wanda..... said...

You're giving me hope Rowan...I only have the tips of daffodils showing, but there will soon be more to look forward to. Enjoyed the poems and photos!

Unknown said...

Oh Rowan,

It is so good to visit with you and see those delicate and lovely flowered harbingers of spring. Such a treat. The poems fill the spirit and the photos are feasts for the eyes !

How I wonder that probably here in the great northeast of the US that our custom of Groundhog day is an attempt to mask a commemoration of Candlemas.

I think you are blessed to be able to experience an early spring. In my 61 years I can only remember four early springs !

Happy Imbolc ! Janice (NY)

Hildred said...

Thank you so much for this lovely encouragement - spring really is coming. My Lenten Roses are just wee stubs, pushing scarlet through the ground. The snowdrops are so lovely, and a beautiful name for them.

Gracie said...

Thanks so much for sharing your photos Rowan, they are beautiful!
Gracie @

Unknown said...

Nice blog. Always such a warm delight to see flowers in the dead of winter.

LinDragon said...

Lovely,Rowan. I think you are north of me,but your plants are ahead. We are in a frost pocket, and catch all the wind.But all comes in due course. x

Mary said...

Naturally I'm homesick from this beautiful virtual stroll through your garden and the woods - snowdrops, primroses, bluebells!
Thanks for sharing the first peeks of Spring Rowan.

We've been snowed in since last Saturday - no plows come down to our cul-de-sac - but I've throughly enjoyed just watching the changing landscape, watching and photographing the birds who look so beautiful against the white background.

My travel guessing game ends tomorrow and I'll have a winner Friday - hope you stop by and guess which countries my exciting trip will take me to in May!

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Lovely to see signs of spring at last. My snowdrops are showing white, but are not as advanced as yours. Maybe another week will do it!

Rosie said...

What lovely snowdrops - how lucky you are to have them in your garden. Although the weather over the last day or two has been wet and dull it really does feel as if we have turned a corner and that spring is inching in slowly but surely:)

Unknown said...

Hello Rowan,

Super photos and words. You make Spring seem very near but our below freezing temperature today suggests otherwise!

MrsL said...

Your garden is a bit ahead of mine! If it stopped raining I could go out and have a peer about. Gladdens the heart to see the first of the spring flowers, doesn't it?



Morning's Minion said...

Your lovely photos are a lift to winter-eary spirits.
In the chaos of packing for a move I hold to the thought of having a garden again.

Diane said...

Hi Rowan - I always love to see the snowdrops appear in my garden. They are all from my Grandads garden, and as his birthday was at the end of January, they very much remind me of him. I am so glad that we are heading towards spring - lovely photos. xxx
PS Your grandsons would love Cannon Hall Farm - there is lots to see and do, and an excellent playground too.

kate smudges said...

It's wonderful seeing that snowdrops are up somewhere in the world. I haven't visited your blog for ages. What a treat to see that you are still writing it. I'm hoping to get mine up again.

I didn't realise the significance of 02 February. It is heartening to know that the spring equinox is only two months away!

Janet said...

Maybe spring isn't too far away for you. I always enjoy all your photos of flowers and plants....I'm a complete dunce about most of them but I love seeing them anyway.

Julie said...


I am so, so jealous of your early English spring! It will be all white, frozen and dormant here for two months or more. It is still quite cold and we have inches and inches of snow cover. I am trying to appreciate the beauty of winter but it does get old. Seeing these photos was very uplifting to me. Yes, it will arrive here too. Love your new banner with Mr. Bilbo B.

Hugs, Julie

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such a beautiful post. I'm looking for the signs of Spring, but Winter is covering everything here at the moment. No matter, there's a fire in the fireplace!

Anonymous said...

Great photos. I, too, am starting to smell the sweet smell of spring.

Shirl x

Worker Bee said...

You blog is great, really enjoy the photographs. There was just one thing I thought I would point out... of course you may already know this.. but that is a wonderful quote of Chief Seattle in the right bar but the quote is actually surrounding a picture of Sitting Bull. Just thought you might want to know.

Rowan said...

Worker Bee, I confess that I didn't realise that the picture was of Sitting Bull, I saw this on another blog and copied it over as it was the quote that really appealed to me.

Bovey Belle said...

My first few snowdrops are peeping through now, and I have some Anemones coming into flower in the bed in the stable yard.

If you have time, would you like to join in a "My favourite song" meme? I've just posted my favourite on my blog.