The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Wild Things 'n Stuff - Lenten Rose

By Bernice Irving © 1990

Issue: January, 1990

As I sit here looking out the window at 17 inches of new white "stuff" on top of 22 inches of old white "stuff," it's hard to think about spring.

The tree limbs are hanging to the ground with ice and look like castles made out of diamonds and glass.

The birds have lost their manners and can't eat for fighting. We have three feeders in the window and my favorite pastime in the winter is watching the chickadees, purple and gold finches, one wren, tufted titmice, nut hatchers, cardinals and grosbeaks. We also have a covey of ten quail we have been feeding near an old brush pile we left in the yard for that purpose.

The squirrels were a real problem at the feeders until we bought a sack of corn and someone gave us some hickory nuts. Now they have their own menu, but they still can eat a quart of sunflower seed a day - for desert.

It's also hard to think about wildflowers or any other kind of flower at this particular time. I have been humming a tune this morning to a very popular song, "The Rose." There's one verse that says something like this:

"Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the winter snow
Lies a seed that with the sun's warmth
In the spring becomes the rose."

This brings to mind the Lenten Rose, so named for the Lent season in which it blooms. (Mine is buried underneath snow somewhere up near the chestnut rail fence.) Unfortunately, this beautiful and hardy perennial is not widely grown. However, Audrey Harper and I found one species at an old homeplace at the foot of Buffalo Mountain [Floyd County, Virginia]. This one is called "Christmas Rose" and really does bloom in the snow.

The Lenten Rose flowers are dark purple outside and white within. There is also a beautiful pink form. The flowers last for months. The foliage is evergreen and makes a lovely plant for the rock garden.

The plant is not of the rose family, it is called Helleborus, for those interested in botanical information.

All of this beauty of nature just seems to confirm my belief in life everlasting. The seeds buried beneath the soil, dead for a season, will bloom again.