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.