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January Snowdrops

January Snowdrops

[Editor’s note: This story was originally published January 30th, 2010]

The snowdrops are beginning to bloom this week. They are not native to the Pacific Northwest. A cursory search on the Internet traces them to Asia Minor and they were garden favorites in Britain and Ireland before they appeared in the new world.

Here on the farm, snowdrops are thriving and spreading. My mother or grandmother planted them in the front yard flower beds, but lately, patches of snowdrops have been popping up in semi-shaded areas of heavy leafmold at edge of the woods and in the windbreaks. The patches began as little clumps, but the largest is now is close to twenty feet across. I suspect the proliferation stems from the absence of dairy cows snuffling and trampling over the delicate snowdrop beds, but that is only a guess.

Tree invaded by ivy

New species scare me. My grandmother planted English ivy and now it threatens to choke the natives out. A couple years ago, it nearly strangled one of the evergreens in the yard with vines that grew as thick as a man’s arm.  We cut the vines with axe and chain saw and pulled the ivy up that surrounded the base of the tree with the tractor. Dead vines still wrap the tree, but each year the tree grows a little healthier and the damage less apparent.

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I hope the snowdrops are not invaders. January needs reminders that spring is not far away. This is an el Nino year and January has been warm, the temperature occasionally making it into the sixties, and I believe we have not seen a single snowflake. Still, the sun seldom shines, and when it does, the landscape is muddy and muted. The holidays are past and spring is still remote.

January Lilac Buds

The snowdrops are thriving and even the lilacs are beginning to bud. There is still a chance of a bitter Northeaster, but the chance diminishes every day. The good comes with the bad. Warmth comes hand in hand with foggy overcast nights and the young astronomers have not had a single clear night for the telescope since Christmas.

Copyright (c) Marvin Waschke. All rights reserved. 
Marvin Waschke
Marvin Waschke

Waschke is a Ferndale native who grew up in a farmhouse on the farm his great-grandfather’s family homesteaded. As a software architect, Waschke worked on IT management projects for close to 30 years. He has authored 3 books on computer technology including “Personal Cybersecurity” (available at the Ferndale Public Library) which addresses problems faced by individuals in a computing realm that is becoming increasing hostile to users. Waschke currently serves on the board of trustees of the Whatcom County Library System.


  1. Margaret Gallman January 30, 2021

    My grandmother brought snowdrop bulbs from England in the early 1900s, so I’m not surprised that they are non-native. They are my favorite reminder that Spring is on the way. Thank goodness they aren’t invasive like the tree-choking ivy and are easy to care for. Thank you for the article re-run!

  2. Norine K Amend January 30, 2021

    Your mood in this article struck home with me this morning. I see the same ‘confused’ growing season and feel like one more part of life is out of control these days. However, I will happily enjoy any flower in bloom and all the birds that are here, in season or not!

  3. Marv Waschke January 30, 2021

    Margaret, Noreen– I noticed snowdrop two days ago in a spot I walk by every day. They seem to spring up overnight. I saw a forsythia in bloom in a sheltered spot this December, and now the blossoms are gone. I hope they reappear. My mother’s favorite sign of spring was the Johnny Jump Ups, miniature pansies that show up in March. She would go out in the woods on her birthday, which was in March, and bring home tiny bright yellow bouquets to put on the kitchen windowsill to look at while she washed dishes.
    Your comments have inspired me to write an early spring post for this year. Next time the sun comes out, I’ll grab my camera and hunt for buds and blossoms. I noticed the Indian Plum (my grandpa called it hardhack) is showing some green. Look for a post at if My Ferndale News does not pick it up.
    Best, Marv

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