The Hand of a Hidden Gardener

Narcissus, backed by bluebonnets and coreopsis – Rockport City Cemetery

Wildflowers are the primary spring attraction at the Rockport City Cemetery, but there can be surprises.

Any non-wild flowers there usually are non-living as well: made of plastic or silk. This year, a few non-native but entirely alive flowers suggested the work of a human hand. They added a different kind of beauty to the scene, and may have been planted in memory of a family member or friend who was especially fond of them.

Bud of Leucojum aestivum, or summer snowflake

I was delighted to find examples of Leucojum aestivum, the so-called summer snowflake. I’ve often seen photos of the flower from England or our northeastern states, but until this trip, I’d seen only one actual flower: an apparent escapee from a garden at a nearby historic plantation.

The small, graceful flowers are delightful. I was especially taken with the shape of the stamens, which looked to me like bits of tubular pasta. The flowers are pollinated by bees, and a closer look at the pollen scattered about on the inside of this flower suggests that it’s been visited by at least one very busy bee.

A little online exploration revealed that these plants will naturalize very well in parts of our state. If we can’t have snow, at least we can have snowflakes.


Comments always are welcome..
Click any image for greater size and more detail.
For a great look at snowdrops, see this post from Pete Hillman.

61 thoughts on “The Hand of a Hidden Gardener

  1. I lack snow and snowflakes–I’ve never had luck with these in my garden. I’m not sure what that says about me, as they’re ridiculously easy to grow, but there it is. Great shots–as always.

    1. What I know about gardening can be summed up as “not much,” so I can’t help you there. I was under the impression that they don’t thrive here generally, since the first one I’d ever seen was at the Varner Hogg plantation in West Columbia; I assumed the gardeners there had planted them. I didn’t come across another until my visit to the Rockport cemetery. I certainly was surprised to see the Automatic Gardener say they do well in her garden — there’s always a surprise!

  2. Those snowflakes are beautiful, although there’s no comparison between them and a fresh-fallen snow, particularly on Christmas Eve! Best of all is what they signify, coming Spring!!

    1. Probably because of their small, white, downward-facing flowers, they remind me of lily-of-the-valley, which I grew up with in Iowa. You’re right that fresh-fallen snow is a treat of its own, but I must say that photos I’ve seen of great “drifts” of these flowers covering the ground are impressive. One advantage of these harbingers of spring is that they don’t need to be shoveled!

    1. So much for my assumption that the snowflakes don’t do well in our area. The ones in Rockport seem to have been in synch with yours; they were mostly finished with their bloom, too. I was lucky to find a few flowers still in bloom.

    1. I’ve always admired the snowflakes and snowdrops when others have posted their photos of them, so it was especially pleasing to find some “real” ones of my own. They’re as cute as can be; I can’t help imagining little garden fairies painting those tiny green spots on them.

    1. I still can’t get over those stamens. There’s an even closer (if less pasta-like) view of them here. I was pleased to capture the green spot on the style, too. Those little details can be amazing.

      I had a lot of fun working with the backgrounds. Even the curve of the out-of-focus stem in the third photo was intentional; I liked the way it replicated the curve of the bloom and the spent flowers. Out of curiosity, I went over to your techniques page to see how many of your tips could be illustrated using this series of photos, and came up with eleven. I’ve continued to re-read that list from time to time, and I think it’s helping with composition.

    1. While I was trying to identify this little gem, I discovered that the snowflake and the snowdrop are two different flowers. There’s more information here. This paragraph caught my attention:

      “The green spots are shared with certain other species, but not the added combination of several flowers arising from each spathe, and the petal-like tepals being of nearly the same length, instead of the flower being a little lopsided. If you see similar clusters of flowers bearing green spots but the blossoms’ tepals are of obviously different lengths, probably you have a Snowdrop, genus Galanthus. The names Snowflake and Snowdrop, at least in garden catalogs, normally are applied to different plants.”

      When I did an image search, I saw the difference between the genera, but I also realized that ‘snowdrop’ and ‘snowflake’ often are used interchangeably.

      1. I’ve seen these growing along the outlet creek from Keuka Lake – – I think folks in New York sometimes call them “Summer Snowflakes” even though they bloom in May. It’s unusual for me, to miss anything with a resemblance to food! but now I see the stamens’ resemblance to pasta. Nicely dusted with saffron. Hmm, almost lunchtime!

        1. I saw them listed on some sites as just that: summer snowflakes. Who knows? Maybe some people were confused by the name ‘snowflakes,’ brought out their sleds, and then stood around wondering why they couldn’t make those sleds ‘go’!

    1. I think many of us like to imagine the lives of the people who lie in a cemetery, but it’s nice to find evidence of the people who come to care for their graves, too. This really pleased me.

  3. Sigh, at the sight of that jonquil my mind gave me a whiff of it’s delicious perfume. Daffodils are lovely but it’s the perfumed blooms that go to my heart.
    The last image is gorgeous, and obviously you’ve mastered the art of contortions!

    1. I’ve never come across large enough spreads of these flowers to be able to enjoy the fragrance. In fact, I’m not sure I knew they have a fragrance. The next time I find one, I’ll take a sniff.

      As for contortions, that little flower helped me out by tipping its head upward a bit. It’s a good thing, since I don’t think even my relative flexibility could have gotten me below that bloom.

      1. Daffodils don’t smell, but jonquils do, very much so, so be careful with first whiff. Iris are different, the flag sort have a delicate but delightful aroma.

    1. Not the ones with the equipment to deal with them, anyway. It’s taken me a while to appreciate that different bees pollinate different flowers, and use different techniques. I waited around for a while to see if a bee would visit these, but no luck. Maybe they got all the ‘good stuff’ on their first visit.

      1. Bees, butterflies, moths and a bunch of other insects, Linda, all interested in that sweet nectar! Kids, too, on occasion. As a boy I used to pluck honeysuckle flowers and bite off the end to suck out the nectar. I realize now that the effort was a bit counterproductive when it came to pollination.

        1. I don’t recall that we had honeysuckle, but we had a big, fat clover that would yield sweetness in the same way. Then, I moved to Texas, and learned how to get the nectar from the honeysuckle: so sweet and good. If your honeysuckle was as thick as it is down here, I don’t think too many bees suffered.

    1. I love finding old places where the only thing left is a bit of building — the steps, maybe — and the obvious evidence of former gardens. Narcissus, amaryllis, and daylilies are sure signs, and such a delightful sign of those former gardeners.

    1. I learned that there are both snowdrops and snowflakes, and both common names are sometimes applied to both flowers. Confusing! But a sure sign of these snowflakes is that the green-spotted tepals all are the same length. The snowdrops apparently have one petal that’s longer than the others.

  4. Lovely photographs that really show the graceful beauty of these flowers. I’m just waiting for some of the little multi-headed narcissus flowers to open.

    1. Now I’m anxious for your narcissus to open, too. There’s something about a combination of “little” and “multi-headed” that sounds completely charming!

  5. I hadn’t really thought about cemeteries being fertile ground for the introduction of non native species, but I suppose it’s true, isn’t it? Flowers at graves always reminds me of an anecdote I heard many years ago. Whether it has any origin in truth I am not sure, but here’s how it goes. An Asian chap was observed placing various items at a a grave including cookies. Another person at a nearby grave bringing flowers asked somewhat derisively, “When do you think the deceased is going to come up and eat the cookies? “About the same time as he comes up to smell the flowers” was the quick retort.

    1. What a great story! It brought to mind the custom here of Hispanic families gathering at graves on All Souls’ Day to picnic at the graves of loved ones, and the pouring of libations in cultures like Liberia’s. It’s always fun to see the objects left at gravesites, too. Old cowboy boots, teddy bears, a little collection of china owls: there’s just no predicting what will be found. Those bits of life-on-earth certainly give a glimpse into the nature of the people being remembered.

  6. Many flowers have colored “targets” on their petals that are only visible in ultraviolet light. The green markers on the snowflakes make me suspect that species may be one that has them. Oddly enough many pollinating insects can see in the ultraviolet range.

    1. I laughed the first time I saw one of those ultraviolet photos; the invisible parallel lines inside the flower were described as “landing strips.” How perfect. I’m often amazed by how much is going on around us, completely undetectable by unaided human senses.

    1. It was special to see both, since they’re not at all common around here. I see narcissus from time to time in yards, but the snowflake seems to do much better north of Houston than south.

  7. This one comes close to my county but not quite here in Western MA. That explains why I’ve not seen it. Also it appears to be an escapee from gardens and isn’t native to us either. I followed your link before checking with GoBotany and enjoyed clicking to hear the pronunciation. I’ve not seen that before on botanical websites.

    1. I often make use of that Missouri site just for the audio. I’m not at all good at figuring out pronunciations; sometimes I get them right, but I’m just as often wrong, and it really helps to hear someone pronounce the names. After I’ve heard them a few times, I usually can start reading them with the right pronunciation.

      The snowflakes remind me of lily-of-the-valley, which I grew up with. Both seem so demure; they really are charming flower — like your forget-me-nots.

      1. Although Lily of the Valley has a wonderful scent and is a lovely little bell of a flower, they are very invasive. We started with just a few that actually transplanted with something else and they have now carpeted that area. We allow them to keep going as they are nice little plants but not much else thrives there.

    1. Isn’t it, though? I was happy to find one still fresh. There were several others that had begun the downhill slide, but this one still was quite photogenic.

    1. I’m so glad you found me! I started this second blog mostly for my photos. It seemed a shame to be working at improving my photography, not to mention finding so many delights out in the world, without posting photos somewhere.

      I don’t remember any scent at all from the narcissus, but the wind was cranking along fairly stiffly, and I was so concentrated on getting an in-focus image, I might have missed it!

    1. I’ve read about the groups in your country who dedicate themselves to creating wildflower and native grass habitats in the cemeteries; it’s wonderful work, and could serve as a good model for us. You were one of the people I thought about when I came up with the title — it’s such fun to imagine who might have done the work to bring forth such beauty.

  8. I don’t know that I’ve seen these. I looked them up and it appears that our growing zone would be acceptable for them, although a bit borderline. Maybe they just never caught on in the NW.

    1. I’d only seen them in photos from England, and didn’t even realize they were common to gardens in the upper midwest and New England. After I found these, one of my readers, who lives on the other side of Houston (which is to say perhaps 50 miles away) said, “Oh, I have these. They spread like crazy.” So there we are. What we think we know and what is can be two quite different things!

  9. This is a great post. ‘A Hidden Gardener’ is a great way of putting it. It’s also like ‘a will to live’. Are they really accidents?

    1. I’m sure these were planted, partly because they were very near a concrete bench at the side of a plot. I like to imagine that someone’s mother or grandmother or friend liked growing them in her garden, and these were planted in tribute to her. Who knows? They might even have been some of her very own plants, dug up and transplanted to keep her company.

    1. I snagged two boxes of penne pasta at the store this morning — the last two boxes of any sort of pasta: shoved nearly out of sight on an upper shelf. It amused me that these flowers came to mind while I was managing to grab them. Despite the visual similarity, I think the semolina will do better than the stamens as a base for sauce!

      1. I’m glad you found that penne, Linda, enjoy it. And I hope people won’t panic more because of those empty shelves.
        The stamens might not have given you enough sustenance, that is true.

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