Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Crocus: In Poetry & Symbol

I had 200 hits last week on my 2009 blog post about the Crocus, which makes me think there must be a lot of interest in this flower in early spring, but little information. And why not, its emergence signals the end of Winter and the ushering in of Spring–something, that by March, we’re all yearning for. For that reason, I want to dedicate a whole post to it–the poetry surrounding it, both Emily Dickinson’s and others, and the symbology associated with it. I’ll call this, Crocus Day at Emily Dickinson’s Garden.

First, it appears in the book, The Poetry of Flowers as the symbol of “Smiles”. Here is the poem which accompanies it by Miss H. F. Gould:

Down in my solitude under the snow,
Where nothing cheering can reach me;
Here, without light to see how to grow,
I’ll trust to nature to teach me.

I will not despair–nor be idle, nor frown,
Locked in so gloomy a dwelling;
My leaves shall run up, and my roots shall run down,
While the bud in my bosom is swelling.

Soon as the frost will get out of my bed,
From this cold dungeon to free me,
I will peer up with my little bright head,
And all will be joyful to see me.

Then from my heart will young petals diverge,
As rays of the sun from their focus;
I from the darkness of earth shall emerge,
A happy and beautiful Crocus!

Many, perhaps, from so simple a flower,
This little lesson may borrow,
Patient today, through its gloomiest hour,
We come out the brighter tomorrow.

From this poem, I would associate the Crocus with hope.

Emily Dickinson’s poem:

The feet of people walking home
With gayer sandals go-
The Crocus-till she rises
The Vassal of the snow-
The lips at Hallelujah
Long years of practise bore
Till bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.

Pearls are the Diver’s farthings
Extorted from the sea-
Pinions-the Seraph’s wagon
Pedestrian once-as we-
Night is the morning’s Canvas
Death, but our rapt attention
To Immortality.

My figures fail to tel me
How far the Village lies-
Whose peasants are the Angels-
Whose Cantons dot the skies-
My Classics veil their faces-
My faith that Dark adores-
Which from its solemn abbeys
Such resurrection pours.

Emily Dickinson, 1858–#7

And, Louise Gluck, my favorite modern poet who often evokes the imagery of flowers in her work:


There was an apple tree in the yard —
this would have been
forty years ago — behind,
only meadows. Drifts
of crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor’s yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from the tennis courts —
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.

— Louise Gluck

And another Gluck poem from her book, The House on Marshland:

For Jane Myers

Sap rises from the sodden ditch
and glues two green ears to the dead
birchtwig.  Perilous beauty–
and already Jane is digging out
her colored tennis shoes,
one mauve, one yellow, like large crocuses.

And by the landromat
the Bartletts in their tidy yard–

as though it were not
wearying, wearying

to hear in the bushes
the mild harping of the breeze,
the daffodils flocking and honking–

Look how the bluet falls apart, mud
pockets the seed.
Months, years, then the dull blade of the wind.
It is spring! We are going to die!

And now April raises up her plaque of flowers
and the heart
expands to admit its adversary.

Gluck’s work is the closest modern day comparison I know to Emily Dickinson’s, especially her book, The Wild Iris.  I want to highlight many of her poems throughout Spring and Summer. I have another reference book, Spiritual Gardening, which says the crocus is a symbol of spiritual renewal, a longing and theme of Gluck’s.

If you know of any mention of the crocus in literature, please add to this post in the comments section.  Or, if you have any thoughts about the crocus and what it means, please feel free to add that as well.

For more poetry and flower meanings, you may want to check out, The Bouquet–a book from Victorian America that focuses on poetic meaning in the garden. Follow this link.

Or this one–Emblems and Poetry of Flowers

In my opinion, the best way to become intimite with your garden is to paint it. I took an online watercolor course to help get a start doing this myself. I started a flower watercolor journal. This wonderful book of watercolor instruction can help you do that, too. It takes you step by step through the techniques of watercolor and the actual painting of many common flowers. Each flower is accompanied by poetry.

click here for details.


First Day of Spring and First Flowers: Crocus & Snowdrops

The first day of Spring was a few days ago and it went unnoticed, I’m sad to say, on this blog.

I think today we should celebrate Snowdrops and Crocus–the earliest of bloomers; yet, almost the only types of flowers I have not had the privilege of planting. I went to a local store a few weeks ago to get bulbs, but they didn’t have Snowdrops and they had sold out of Crocus. My husband’s daughter, however, had beautiful Crocus and Snowdrops in her garden when we drove to see them yesterday.

The Crocus:

The feet of people walking home
With gayer sandals go-
The Crocus-till she rises
The Vassal of the snow-

Emily Dickinson (further reading click link to my blog post about The Crocus)

Interesting note: The Greek word “krokos” means “saffron”.

My goal: Get Crocus and Snowdrops in 2010. In fact, I’ll make a list of plants I want to acquire so that I won’t forget at the end of the growing season.

I’ve seen a lot of poems referring to crocus as the first flower of spring, but isn’t the snowdrop the first flower of spring? So, those poems should read, Ah, the crocus, second flower... Check out the weekend gardener for confirmation of this fact and a list of the earliest blooming flowers.

Now, to what is growing in my garden–the mid-Spring bloomers: tulips and daffodils.

The beginning of Columbine’s return–a good memory for me now.

I believe these are the beginnings of my chives, but at this point, I would be very much afraid to “taste” that theory.


Leopard’s Bane


What I’m getting ready to plant:

I have a very large rock planter in front of the house that I didn’t get to last year.

I’m getting ready to plant it as soon as we get the top soil brought in and mixed with the wonderful, aged cow manure we got from our neighbor the other day.

This will be a colorful assortment of flowers arranged around, what I think may be a quaking aspen. I’m not positive, though, about the tree choice. Here are some of the bulbs–peony, echinacea, lilies, clematis:

And some hollyhock seeds my dad gave me at the end of last year. I’m not sure how I’ll start them.

Maybe like my son did. These are his flowers and herbs he grew in school and gave to me a couple of weeks ago with the request: please keep them alive. So far, so good.

Any crocus in your part of the world? Snowdrops? Any plants from last year coming to life?

Happy Spring gardening adventures!

Tulips in Early March?

Remember Emily’s poem, These are the Days When Birds Come Back? Well, apparently, because of our early spring, these are also the days when the tulips push up.

Confession: I didn’t plant any crocus last year! I went back over my entries this morning (in this blog–wow, memory lane!!) and I did not plant crocus. After reading Jennifer’s blog, I was starting to seriously wonder if the voles had eaten my underground garden, but apparently, I just didn’t plant a big enough one!

I’m on a quest–I want crocus and snowdrops. I will not be deterred this year. How did I let it slip by?? How did I forget to order the bulbs?

Here is Emily’s poem about tulips as I sit and contemplate the early spring and the possibility of flowers on this foggy, 54 degree day in Zone 6. The Royal Star Magnolia is budding, the Sand Cherry is developing fine little tips, and the tulips push up from the ground:

She slept beneath a tree-
Remembered but by me.
I touched her cradle mute-
She recognized the foot-
Put on her Carmine suit
And see!

(15) The early years of Emily’s life