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Spring Flowers At Bow

February 19, 2017
by the gentle author

Seduced by promises of an early spring, I decided to return to Bow Cemetery to see if the bulbs were showing yet. Already I have some snowdrops, hellebores and a few primroses in flower in my Spitalfields garden, but at Bow I was welcomed by thousands of crocuses of every colour and variety spangling the graveyard with their gleaming flowers. Beaten and bowed, grey-faced and sneezing, coughing and shivering, the harsh winter has taken it out of me, but seeing these sprouting bulbs in such profusion restored my hope that benign weather will come before too long.

Some of my earliest crayon drawings are of snowdrops, and the annual miracle of bulbs erupting out of the barren earth never ceases to touch my heart – an emotionalism amplified in a cemetery to see life spring abundant and graceful in the landscape of death. The numberless dead of East London – the poor buried for the most part in unmarked communal graves – are coming back to us as perfect tiny flowers of white, purple and yellow, and the sober background of grey tombs and stones serves to emphasis the curious delicate life of these vibrant blooms, glowing in the sunshine.

Here within the shelter of the old walls, the bulbs are further ahead than elsewhere the East End and I arrived at Bow Cemetery just as the snowdrops were coming to an end, the crocuses were in full flower and the daffodils were beginning. Thus a sequence of flowers is set in motion, with bulbs continuing through until April when the bluebells will come leading us through to the acceleration of summer growth, blanketing the cemetery in lush foliage again.

As before, I found myself alone in the vast cemetery save a few Magpies, Crows and some errant squirrels, chasing each other around. Walking further into the woodland, I found yellow winter aconites gleaming bright against the grey tombstones and, crouching down, I discovered wild Violets in flower too. Beneath an intense blue sky, to the chorus of birdsong echoing among the trees, spring was making a showing.

Stepping into a clearing, I came upon a Red Admiral butterfly basking upon a broken tombstone, as if to draw my attention to the text upon it, “Sadly Missed,” commenting upon this precious day of sunshine. Butterflies are rare in the city in any season, but to see a Red Admiral, which is a sight of high summer, in February is extraordinary. My first assumption was that I was witnessing the single day in the tenuous life of this vulnerable creature, but in fact the hardy Red Admiral is one of the last to be seen before the onset of frost and can emerge from months of hibernation to enjoy single days of sunlight. Such is the solemn poetry of a lone butterfly in winter.

The spring bulbs are awakening from their winter sleep.

Snowdrops

Crocuses

Dwarf Iris

Winter Aconites

Daffodils will be in flower next week.

A single Red Admiral butterfly, out of season in mid-February - “sadly missed”

Find out more at Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

You may also like to read about

The Variety Artistes of Abney Park Cemetery

At St Pancras Old Churchyard

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Robert permalink
    February 19, 2017

    So uplifting seeing a winter break to reveal that spring is coming in the form of new shoots from bulbs. I shall take a stroll on Monday to see it.

  2. February 19, 2017

    GA thanks for bringing the first signs of Spring to us today. Your global reach will be welcomed by all out there. We all need that magical lift at this time, low ebb factor at the end of winter. The butterfly is making its first foray of the year after hibernating in the grave yard all winter- well spotted. So go to Kew Gardens for the big Spring bulb show, done that its breath-taking. Poet John

  3. February 19, 2017

    Thank you for this. Your annual photos of the arrival of spring flowers in Bow are almost as important as the arrival of the flowers themselves.

  4. February 19, 2017

    These old cemeteries, teaming with life are such an important part of nature in the city and elsewhere. Spring is on its way!

  5. February 19, 2017

    Its a pleasure to start every day with the hope and optimism of this blog. Here in the Hudson Valley, we will have to wait a very long time until we have sightings of flowers……It makes me enjoy these photos even more. In our small rural town we have the Freeground Cemetery where many of the old tilting head stones are weather-worn; the inscriptions muffled and lost.
    But one particular one stands proud, engraved with the name of Captain Elliot, who survived the Revolutionary War and came home to finish out his days here.

  6. Beth permalink
    February 19, 2017

    Thank you for the lovely gift of Spring!

  7. Carolyn Badcock permalink
    February 20, 2017

    Always to be remembered…… A thing of beauty is a joy forever!! Aah…thanks, gentle author……..

  8. February 20, 2017

    A happy Springtime to you all!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  9. pauline taylor permalink
    February 20, 2017

    Thank you GA, there is a special magic about the appearance of spring bulbs and it is particularly important in the setting of churchyards, I guess it has something to do with the fact that even in the blackest of times life goes on.

  10. March 2, 2017

    Dear GA….lovely blog. Not dissimilar in spirit to Bertie”s blog last week with the Cotswold snowdrops. Graveyards are wonderful for people who died a long time ago. I couldnt contemplate someone close I loved being in one and proving beyond all doubt that they really are dead. We are heading for a dearth of such places with fewer and fewer burials. And must hold onto these wonderful places.

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