Today we celebrate a star from the silent film age, whose best movie featured a blind woman selling flowers.
We'll also learn about Candlemas - the ancient celebration of the quickening of the year. Candlemas is associated with the snowdrop, candles, and predicting just how much longer winter will last….
We hear a passage about a wonderful mini-farm - an inspiring example of the Nature Principle at home.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that teaches how to propagate almost 400 plants - and if you get it, I see many baby plants in your future...
And then we’ll wrap things up with a little story about the Snowdrop Fairy.
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February 2, 1914
On this day, the English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer Charlie Chaplin made his film debut in Making a Living.
With regard to his enormous catalog of work, Charlie’s onscreen persona, The Tramp, is considered iconic, and it brought him wealth and fame.
In 1931, Charlie created the silent film that Roger Ebert regarded as his best: City Lights. In the film, Charlie, as The Tramp, falls in love with a blind flower girl.
And here’s some incredible movie trivia about City Lights: The scene where The Tramp bought a flower from the blind girl had 342 takes. Charlie could not figure out how to convey a key plot point: the blind woman needed to know that The Tramp - who didn’t speak - was wealthy.
So, until he got it just right, the actress, Virginia Cherrill, had to say, "Flower Sir?” 342 times.
February 2, 2021
Today is Candlemas - a celebration of the quickening of the year.
While today we might say we’re half-way between Christmas and spring, this Celtic tradition honored the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and was a forerunner to Groundhog Day. Like Groundhog Day, Candlemas was all about predicting when winter would come to an end.
This is why there are so many verses for Candlemas:
If Candlemas Day be mild and gay
Go saddle your horses, and buy them hay
But if Candlemas Day be stormy and black,
It carries the winter away on its back.
If Candlemas be fair and clear,
there'll be two winters in the year.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Then Winter will not come again
As for the garden, in the middle ages, your Christmas greenery could be left up until Candlemas - but then it needed to come down.
And in England, the Snowdrop blooms in February, and this is reflected in the common names “Fair Maid of February” and “Candlemas Bells.”
Hence the verse:
The snowdrop, in purest white array,
First rears it head on Candlemas Day.
And, if you were tempted to bring some cut snowdrops in the House before Candlemas, you probably wouldn’t have - because that was considered bad luck.
And it should be noted that snowdrops are stronger than we give them credit for; they contain a natural antifreeze, which helps them survive in freezing weather.
Over the centuries, the forecast of Candlemas was shared differently across Europe.
In France and England, a bear would tell the forecast, and the Germans look to the badger for signs of spring. When German immigrants in Pennsylvania were looking to maintain the custom, they turned to the groundhog - a creature (unlike the badger) that was relatively easy to find and easy to catch.
In the United States, the first Groundhog Day was celebrated in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania, on this day in 1887.
Today the mother of all Groundhog Celebrations is held in Punxsutawney with the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil the star attraction.
If you’re looking to celebrate Candlemas, you can always light a candle in your garden tonight and invite spring and the sunshine back into your life.
The yard surrounding Karen Harwell’s home is only six hundred square feet, yet it harbors ducks, a beehive, eighteen semi-dwarf fruit trees, an organic vegetable garden, calming places to sit and read and think, and neighborhood teenagers. The teens visit summer, the dog, and sit in the rabbit hutch, hold the baby rabbits, and conduct that archaic form of social networking: talk.
“I wake up in the morning and I throw on my vest over my nightgown and then summer and I head out the front door and we just walk around the garden noticing things. It’s just a wonderful way to start the day,” Harwell said, as she escorted me around her minifarm.
— Richard Louv, American author and Audubon Medal Winner, The Nature Principle, The Nature Principle at Home
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2018, and the subtitle is A Practical Guide to Propagating Your Own Flowers, Foliage Plants, Trees, Shrubs, Climbers, Wet-Loving Plants, Bog and Water Plants, Vegetables and Herbs.
In this book, Richard gives us a masterclass in propagation. In addition to covering seed planting basics, Richard shows the proper way to take cuttings, so you don’t hurt the parent plant and have a cutting that gives you the best chance at propagation success. Then Richard guides you through dividing plants as well as layering and grafting methods. Best of all, everything is thoroughly explained with step-by-step instructions and photographs. The directory of 375 plants includes growing tips for each species.
This book is 256 pages of a propagation masterclass with sound advice, beautiful photography, and best of all, these propagation skills can be put to use right away in your garden this year.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today I thought I’d end the show with a little whimsy. The English illustrator Cicely Mary Barker painted a flower fairy for the fair maids of February, the snowdrops, and she called it the Snowdrop Fairy.
Cicely loved wildflowers, but she didn't believe in fairies. In the foreword to Flower Fairies of the Wayside, Barker wrote:
"I have drawn all the plants and flowers carefully, from real ones, but I have never seen a fairy..."
Today, Cicely is remembered for her depictions of fairies and flowers. In Cicely's fabulous fantasy world, every flower was granted its particular Fairy to protect it from harm. Cicely would draw the flowers and the fairies and then write poetry about them.
There’s a lovely website called Flower Fairies, which has organized Cicely’s fairies by season. For winter, there are fairies for these plants: Snowdrop, Groundsel, Dead Nettle, Shepherd's Purse Spindle Berry Old Man's Beard, Yew, Lords-and-Ladies, Holly, Blackthorne, Pine Tree, Box Tree, Rush Grass And Cotton Grass, The Plane Tree, Burdock, Winter Jasmine, The Hazel-Catkin, Totter Grass, Winter Aconite, And The Christmas Tree.
In any case, here’s what Cicely wrote about the Snowdrop Fairy.
Deep sleeps the Winter,
Cold, wet, and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.
Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!
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