Skip to content

Spring Bulbs At Bow Cemetery

February 25, 2022
by the gentle author

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far to my crowd-funder to launch a COMMUNITY TOURISM PROJECT in Spitalfields as a BETTER ALTERNATIVE to the serial killer tours that monetise misogyny. We have raised two-thirds of our target now, so please help by spreading the word.




Map of The Gentle Author’s Tour of Spitalfields designed by Adam Dant


Already I have some snowdrops and hellebores in flower in Spitalfields, 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 winter has taken it out of me, but feeling the warmth of the sun and 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 spring 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 emphasise the curious delicate life of these vibrant blooms, glowing in the sunshine.

Here within the shelter of the old walls, the spring 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 persuasive 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.

It may be a month yet before it is officially spring, but we are at the beginning now, and I offer you my pictures as evidence, should you require inducement to believe it.

The spring bulbs are awakening from their winter sleep.



Dwarf Iris

Winter Aconites

Daffodils will be in flower next week.

A single Red Admiral butterfly, out of season in 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

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Sue Stamp permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Dear Gentle Author,
    Thank you so very much for your beautiful, poetic and hopeful post today which has lifted the spirits back up a little after hearing the very depressing news about Ukraine. Thank you. Sue

  2. Kay Parrish permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Memories of daffodils in Maxeys!

  3. Mary permalink
    February 25, 2022

    I love this post, it is a wonderful reminder that whatever is happening in the human world the natural world carries on. It came two years ago just as we realised that we were facing a pandemic that none of us knew we would survive, and here today on the brink of what may escalate to a World War.
    I am looking forward to seeing it next year and know that I am still here.

  4. Ann V permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Thank you GA for this beautiful post today. I love the contrast between the gravestones of those who have passed long ago, and the beauty and freshness of the flowering bulbs, promising new life. Just what we need right now as the world is in turmoil.

  5. February 25, 2022

    As I write this, it is snowing outside — hopefully for the last time. The special photos from special viewpoints are just what I need now: I’m also looking forward to spring! (I would have given the butterfly all my attention too!).

    Love & Peace

  6. Helen Breen permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for the lovely pics and the reassurance that spring is on the way. Much needed today as we are in the midst of a 12 inch snowfall here and the world is mourning the devastating events in Ukraine.

    Somehow, you always come through…

  7. February 25, 2022

    Oh my goodness how I loved this blog, I love them all, of course, but this one brought such lovely contrasts. Old graves and Spring flowers. Reality and hope.

  8. Andy Strowman permalink
    February 25, 2022

    A tonic for the soul.

  9. Cherub permalink
    February 25, 2022

    How lovely these flowers are, we were out walking in Basel before dark one evening this week and my husband remarked on the beauty of the early spring flowers here. Perhaps a symbol of hope in these deeply troubling times we again face.
    I am travelling back to my home in Scotland next week for the first time in 2 years, looking forward to the spring flowers there and the magnificent long seafront I have missed so much during covid.

  10. Mary permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Happy to see the flowers blooming at the cemetery–my grandmother is buried there. Attended her funeral as a child in 1960. She lived just around the corner at the back of of the cemetery.

  11. J.R. permalink
    February 25, 2022

    Thank you for this moment of beauty and tranquility in these turbulent days —

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS