Overshadowed today by the activities of a particular furry critter who is said to dislike his shadow so much that the mere sight of it causes him to sequester himself for several wintry weeks, it may be forgotten that this day has import for reasons of celebration, shadows or no. Today is Candlemas, a "cross quarter" day that is a marker half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is the day the Catholic church blesses the candles that will be used throughout the church year.
Those exquisite harbingers of spring, Snowdrops, are also known as Candlemas Bells. Hope abounding. Here on the farm we are waiting to see what bulbs will come from the ground now covered in deep snow, this being our first winter and spring. If there are no snowdrops, rest assured I will be planting some. Little else can cheer quite like the sight of the first flowers of the new year.
Happily we have our own little harbingers of spring inside on our kitchen window sill.
In past years I took the trouble to plant hyacinth bulbs in bulb pots and tried to find them the perfect place in the house to chill in the dark for several weeks. The best place at my city house turned out to be the refrigerator. I've read that some people keep their old frig in the basement just for this purpose! One year I had set my bulbs in their little bag inside of a brown paper bag in the back of the frig and forgot about them. When I discovered them pushed way to the back just about this time of year, (must have been some cleaning blitz) I thought I had blown it. With nothing to lose I tried setting them on water in bulb vases and wouldn't you know, they bloomed just fine. Now I purposely tuck a bag of bulbs in the back of the frig in late autumn and take them out one a week to have continuous bloom February into March. The sweet little lady here was actually on the closeout bin right after Halloween with 5 identical sisters.
Next to her on the sill are some of the last of our paperwhites for the winter. They have been lovely, and so long lasting. They really seem to prefer the cool window ledge.
Crowded in among all these are my pussy willow cuttings. Happily they are sprouting now, and should be ready to be potted up for eventual planting in the ground here. Their "mother" is a lovely bush in my city garden whose origin is an example of life's marvelous serendipity.
My very good friend Barb, a former teaching colleague and my intrepid garden center shopping buddy, is my partner every year at the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show. One year, several years ago now, I bought a bundle of pussy willow branches about 4 1/2 feet long from a vender at the show. I carried them from the show, on an extremely windy day in Chicago, from Navy Pier into the city for lunch. Not an easy task as this Saturday was Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade. Well a few eyebrows were raised when I whisked into the restaurant willows in hand. From there we walked (struggled) even farther to the Art Institute. Barb had tickets for us to see a major exhibition. I had to check my pussy willows into the cloak room! I would venture to guess that may have been a first. They eventually made it back to my city house, and eventually grew into a marvelously full shrub, which I delight in trimming each year for many creative uses. Here is one of the results from her offerings to me last year.
And now for the serendipity. Those original pussy willow branches came from Soldier's Grove, Wisconsin, a town only 15 minutes from the farm! The pussy willows have come home.
Whatever you find yourself doing today, shoveling out from what Chicago newscasters are calling snowmageddon, eating popcorn and watching Groundhog Day, or reading your favorite blogs, a mug of tea at hand, celebrate that we are half way from the darkest night of the year to the first day of spring. The days are getting longer, yes, but light a few candles tonight and think warm thoughts on the days ahead.