Image: snow drops by taleweavering
Aunt Sally grew snowdrops. And she grew them well.
She was the only person in our street who could grow such things.
It was doubly amazing as we lived at the time in tropical climes and snowdrops like and need a bit of a chill in the air.
Most people didn’t take a lot of interest in Aunt Sally’s garden as it was for the most part overgrown and unruly which was in keeping with the rapid growth of most things in the tropics.
Say what you like about Aunt Sally but she could garden. I asked her once how she was able to grow the non-exotic in exotic situations.
She looked at me sideways and beckoned me closer, looked around as if expecting to be seen and said: “Me neighbour was a witch.’
Now there was never any doubt that Aunt Sally was odd.
She was a tall wizen woman with scraggily grey hair from years of not brushing and a face that most likely saw a mirror as a last resort. She wore a long black shift and always had her working boots on, all day every day. She was the loveliest person, always kind and gentle and wanting to tell you stories about family and her garden. She used to tell me there was magic in her garden and I believed it.
Anyone who could grow snow drops had to have some kind of gift.
She maintained that her neighbour had given her the plant many years ago and along with the plant a small bottle of liquid fertilizer to ‘keep it going’ as she described it to me.
As you can see from the image above she kept it going pretty well over the years.
I asked her one-day about her neighbor. When I knew Aunt Sally the houses on either side of her had been knocked down and new modern town houses were both sides of her.
“Oh,” said Aunt Sally, “She moved down south said the humidity here played havoc with her potions. One day she came in and said ‘Sally I’m moving on, down south, but I want you to have this plant to remember me.’ and that’s how I came to have the snowdrops.”
But I know Aunt Sally suspected her neighbour left her more than snowdrops. I say this as she’d sometimes say not to go to the back corner of the garden after dark as there was something unpleasant down there. The back corner was where their two properties met. I know if I went near the place the rotten smell that hit you would drive you away.
But for all I could see the corner was like every other part of the garden. Densely overgrown with shrubs and lantana vine, which grew in weed proportions in the climate.
I ventured down there one night and again the horrible smell confronted me. But determined to discover what was causing it I pushed on. I pushed my through the undergrowth all the time untangling myself from the vines to find the most amazing sight.
In the middle of the back corner where the fences met was an orchid in flower. The plant was quite large and the small flower brilliant hidden all this time by the protective smell coming from inside the plant.
I took a photo on my phone and made my way back to my Aunt’s house. I wanted to find out what it was and after some searching if discovered it was Bulbophyllum nocturnum a very rare night flowering orchid.
After I showed Aunty we surmised that her neighbour had planted it there knowing it would be protected from prying eyes by its location and smell.
Aunty had a chuckle over my discovery. It was she said so like her old neighbour to do something like that knowing the plant would be safe in her garden.
“That Miss Marble,” she said, “I must tell you about her sometime.”