Tag Archives: early spring garden

The Form of Spring

This is the last day of what Dickinson called, “The Month of Proclomation”—March. It is cold, cloudy and windy.

As I wait on my garden and turn toward writing my own poetry, I’m wondering about form. There is beauty in form.

In Spokane, we have the most amazing garden to demonstrate this beauty at Manito Park; it’s called Duncan Garden. Each year the flowers are arranged in different patterns to achieve a completely new and fresh experience. There are an infinite amount of possibilities for the Landscape Architect to choose from.

And yet, it never feels stilted or controlled. Within the form of the garden, whose basic measurements are the same from year to year, a whole new experience will explode out, and it will stimulate all of our senses. People will drive to see it, Seniors will take their pictures there, weddings will be attended, picnickers will gravitate, symphonies will be performed, and my husband and I will take our yearly photo together at its steps. How can you quantify the infinite ways it will speak to people and influence the world?

This is how I think of form in poetry and music. First, we have to know our flowers. In writing, it’s our words. In music, it’s our notes. Then we have to think how one will compliment another and how it will flow as the walker or reader or listener moves through it. This would be our syntax and our rhythm. Do we alliterate with a row of Peonies? Do we hyperbolize with Brown Eyed Susans? Do we trill with daffodils?

Gardening is every bit a novel with its character’s stories: Some live, some perish, some struggle, some thrive. It’s every bit music as the energy from its color and textures and smells, and don’t forget the birds it attracts, sing out and ticker around us.

Emily Dickinson used form in poetry. Her earliest poems were very traditional as she learned the art. Later, when she’d mastered form and matured, her poems broke out and experimented–pushed boundaries. It’s her later work I love.

Emily (1047)

The Opening and the Close
Of Being, are alike
Or differ, if they do,
As Bloom upon a Stalk.

That from an equal Seed
Unto an equal Bud
Go parallel, perfected
In that they have decayed.

And, in honor of April coming, our old Emily fave–so full of romance and hope:

Spring comes on the World—
I sight the Aprils—
Hueless to me until thou come
As, till the Bee
Blossoms stand negative
Touched to Conditions
By a Hum.

Here is a poem by Longfellow, The Rainy Day, that both illustrates form and the actual feeling of the early spring weather we’re experiencing today. I think it’s very appropriate. The form here is aa, bb,a—a quintilla? A limerick? A quatrain with a dangling line? A sort of villanelle? The five time repetition of dark and dreary. The repetition of weary and mouldering. Is this poem making fun of its obsession?

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.


Snowdrops in Spring

New feet within my garden go–
New fingers stir the sod-
A Troubadour opon the Elm
Betrays the solitude

New Children play opon the green-
New Weary sleep below-
And still the pensive Spring returns-
And still the punctual snow!

Emily Dickinson (79)

March 25, ’09
Degrees 40’s
Yesterday we had snow.

My books arrived and, oh my goodnes, I LOVE them. I’m just getting started, and have read the “Early Spring” section of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens by Marta McDowell. We’ll follow along with her on this blog the early Spring plantings of Emily. If you’d like to add other poems of hers (or others) that you think might refer to the flower we’re highlighting, please do so in the comments–we’d love to read them.

Today’s flower, in Early Spring, is the Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). They were the first flowers to bloom in the garden. They are a bulb flower. Here is a picture:


Information from theplantexpert.com as follows:

“The major benefit of planting Garden Snowdrops is their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses do, and will often poke through a covering of snow. In the South, snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

A snowdrop plant looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem. This accounts for the Latin name Galanthus which means “milk-white flowers”.

Since they are small, you probably need to plant a large number to make a dramatic effect. However, in a rock garden, or planted among other early-blooming plants like Snow Crocuses, an odd number of snowdrops here and there can be just as effective.

Under the right circumstances (see Notes) snowdrops will naturalize very well, and a planting of them can last a lifetime. They are well worth the investment. As an added benefit, snowdrops (like other members of the Amaryllis family) are normally avoided by deer and rodents.

Flowering time: Very early spring

Plant height: 4 – 6″ (10 – 15 cm), although some cultivated varieties grow up to 10″ (25 cm) tall

Minimum planting depth: 3″ (8 cm)

Hardiness zones: Suitable for zones 2 – 9, although they do best in zones 4 – 7

Colours: Clear milk white, usually with emerald green tipped inner segments

Shape/form: A single, nodding, bell-like flower, about 1″ long with 3 lobes, and shorter inner segments, hanging from a stiff, slender, leafless stalk; 2 – 3 very narrow leaves grow from the base of the plant

Alternate names: Common Snowdrop, Milk Flower

Latin name: Galanthus nivalis

Notes: Good for rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, at the fronts of borders or in front of flowering shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths

Prefers moist, humus-rich soils, sun-dappled shade, and cooler climates, as in zones 4 – 7

Naturalizes both by self-seeding and bulb offsets

Example varieties: Garden Snowdrop (white), Flore Pleno (double white flowers), Viridapicis (green markings on tips of both outer and inner petal segments), Sam Arnott (larger flowers, with distinct heart-shaped green markings), Atkins Snowdrop (taller than most, with long, shapely petals)”

Have you planted Snowdrops in your garden? Will you this year? What is your exprerience or memories of them?