CrrriticShut Up And Dig

And then—finally—there was one

Beatriz Moisset10 comments704 views
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When we bought our house twenty-three years ago, what I knew about gardening would not have filled a seed packet. I did know early spring flowers were an antidote for winter blahs, so I planted a big sack of snowdrops under the sugar maple. The blooms would be visible from the house, from the driveway, on every walk to the mailbox. I tucked dozens of bulbs the requisite number of inches below the grass. And then, chipmunks dug up every single one.
The genus is Galanthus: milk-flowered. Not native, but exquisite: dainty white blossoms nodding on arched necks. Their timing is exquisite, too, because they bloom in late winter—the species name for the common snowdrop, nivalis, means snowy. And, ideally, they reappear year after year.

But they did not appear for me. No snowdrops bloomed the next spring, nor the next, nor ever.

Until now. Until today, when one white flower suddenly resurrected itself at the foot of the tree. My guess is that a surfeited chipmunk must have let fall a fragment too small even for a six-inch long rodent to fool with. And every year, that one crumb must have grown. It grew, and grew. Until it grew up.

Ladies and gentlemen, this right here is a flower twenty-three years in the making, and if a chipmunk so much as LOOKS at it, I will invite my friend to bring her pellet gun and come sit a spell on the porch. Not that I really want a drift of snowdrops in the yard anymore. I’m no longer interested in exotic bulbs. Tree buds, yard weeds, birds, anthills, and other native habitat clues tell me spring is coming. I don’t need a European bloom as a signal.

But this particular bloom spent the last twenty-three years in furious restoration work. Talk about perennial. Hidden beneath our footsteps and the footsteps of two kids birthed in the interim—one already nearly done with college—this thing impossibly, inexorably repaired itself. In secret, from nibbled speck to final form, it rebuilt to specification and to full reproductive trim. What a boring yet amazing time-lapse documentary this would make. Should copyright law permit, it could include the Fellowship of the Ring film clip of Gandalf explaining to Frodo in the best understatement ever: “I was . . . delayed.”

My snowdrop was delayed, but not by an evil wizard. By me. I put it there, I let it become lunch. I feel I owe it something. The least I can do is keep an eye on it now.

I hope violence will not be necessary. I hope so much time has elapsed since local chipmunks tasted snowdrops that they will not recognize the new flower as food. Eastern chipmunks reach sexual maturity after one year, which means the current family underneath my porch could be the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchipmunks of the original snowdrop snackers.

Perhaps there arose a generation who knew not snowdrops. And perhaps this generation will leave my single snowdrop the hell alone.

Posted by

Joanna Brichetto

on March 1, 2016 at 11:49 am, in the category Guest Rants, It’s the Plants, Darling.


  1. I love this. On my 2 properties I have found volunteer daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths, iris, and snowdrops in various places, none of which I planted. It’s like Christmas every time a new one pops up. So Joanna, you may have left a legacy!

  2. Thanks, Anne! Don’t you love wondering about those mystery bulbs: who planted them and when? I recently tried to find out how long daffodils could possibly live, and no one seems to know for sure. One source said, “possibly forever.” I hope my Snowdrop ages so well!

  3. Daffodils will certainly last for decades, or, at least, their progeny will. There are whole hillsides covered with them in my area (mountains of NC); they’re a good indicator where a house used to be. They self seed and spread in a marvelous fashion

  4. My yard is an old one — the house dates back to 1810 or so — but it sadly lacked early plants, except for a couple of sad lilacs, when I first moved in. But the first early spring there, a big loose drift (about 4 by 8 yards) of Crocus thomasiniana showed up in March, and then in April, one single blue scilla in the middle of the scruffy lawn. It still pops up now, 7 years later, just the one, just as welcome.

  5. Just fyi Gakanthus is best transplanted fresh right after they bloom. Gey them from a neighbor. It is not uncommon at all for fall planted, purchased bulbs to fail to grow. So find a patch this spring and ask the person if you can have some. I did this years ago and they have spread like crazy.

  6. I have an ace team of chipmunks and squirrels living in my garden. If one should expire, there’s a multitude waiting to move in from the woods. Crocus and tulips haven’t a chance here, but (knock on wood) my snowdrops remain uneaten.

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