I imagine he wore a fedora. One passed on or left accidentally by some traveler. His wife, the cook, the kitchen manager asked him to do it. Her kitchen, 100 yards from the house, revolved around a roaring fire. Like other outbuildings on the farm, it’s a practical, white, box of a building designed to do its job. She said, through the fatback and smoke kitchen air ‘Git out there and plant these flowers all the way ‘round.’
He took off his hat to bend, to squat to dig for her.
Also, bone white and designed to do a job, these flower bulbs outlasted them all. The kitchen rotted, the fedora frayed, the man and his wife had long ago gone back to dust. These bulbs, delighted, delight a century later. Now kitchens live in the house, and electronics turn raw foods into delights but bring no warmth, no roaring fire, no smells of oak trees, and don’t need flowers planted around. But in the field, those little snowdrops still flower in a row, in the rectangular footprint of the old kitchen, but now alone. If you came across them but didn’t know about how kitchens used to be away from the house, you’d wonder why anyone planted a rectangle of bulbs out in the field for only the donkeys and deer to enjoy.
In the deep south, we can grow only one type of snowdrop as a long-lived perennial. It’s called by botanists, Leucojum. Just a few hours up the road, in cooler places, they grow it as well as something entirely different that looks similar. They call this similar bulb snowdrop too but its botanical name is Galanthus. It won’t perennialize here no matter what people from up there tell you.
Southern Snowdrops bring handsome, winter leaves to the garden. In February, white bells top the leaves. Each bell shows a lovely stain, a tiny spot of green ink on the petal. Those flowers keep right on through March. Hundreds of them. You’ll see them on graves, under old bushes, in yards, and even in the roots of old trees. They survive almost anything. You can still plant them too. We planted 1,000 last week in a new garden down on the coast. (we still have a few available on the website click to see)
I sure hope that one day, some child wanders through the garden we just planted, I kind of hope it’s taken back by nature by then and turned back into a marsh, to find these snowdrops on a warm winter day. I hope he wonders about who planted these. Then, a little bit of the spirit, the inspiration, the wisdom, the ghost of that rotund old cook, who made her husband take off his found hat and plant bulbs around the kitchen, will then be kept alive, will then flow through long-gone me, through flowers bulbs and right on into that young gardener who’ll picks a few, or dig a few, and move them onto to where he thinks they’ll look pretty.