By Dawn Bazely Prince Albert, the father of the Victorian Christmas Prince Albert, who moved to England from Germany, to marry the young Queen Victoria, led the Victorians in inventing much of today’s Christmas aesthetic that dominates Britain and North America. But, the Nativity is celebrated by diverse cultures throughout the world, and is much…
Putting away some specimens in the herbarium last week I noticed a folder labelled Nat. Ord. CLXXIV Amaryllaceae GENUS 8. Galanthus.
Unfortunately pressed flowers rarely keep their natural colours, and snowdrops are no exception – even though their petals are white. The flowers turn brown and the leaves darken too.
Our cultivated collection also includes illustrations. Below is a colour illustraion of ‘Eight kinds of Snowdrops’ from The Garden, dated 23 January 1885:
A short article in The Garden (no date, probably around 1886) by F. W. Burbidge begins, ‘THE GIANT SNOWDROPS. One of the minor miseries of my life is having to live in a garden containing thirty distinct kinds of Snowdrops, and not being able to boast of possessing Galanthus fosteri, the “giantest”, and so far, the most to be desired of them all. Still, I live in hopes, since we are told that, “all things come to those who know how to wait”.’
Burbidge goes on to describe the species and varieties of snowdrop giants in his garden. He concludes, ‘I hope all the readers of these notes who have distinct Snowdrops in their collections … will be so good as to tell us of them, since there are now a good many of us deeply and seriously interested in these pearls of the opening year’.
Another delightful little piece about the average flowering dates of snowdrops (probably dated around 1880 to 1890):
Having looked through our archives, I found one letter from Thomas Whitelegge. It was written to his old friend from The Ashton Linnean Botanical Society, John Whitehead. It is dated March 23, 1885 and shows Whitelegge’s address as 537 Crown St, Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales.
Having discovered last week that Whitelegge had corresponded with Darwin, I was a little disappointed to only find this one letter, however it is such an interesting letter I soon cheered up. Considering Whitelegge left school at 8 years old, his handwriting is remarkably easy to read. Working in the herbarium and doing my History degrees, I have spent many hours transcribing Victorian handwriting so I know how difficult it can be to read. I’ll try and find time to transcribe the letter fully and post it up here, but in the meantime here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite…
“…I think it is now time I gave you some hint as to how I like this country. I like it better every day and never regret coming out here but I have been very fortunate in getting a government billet, which is a fine thing out here there are no broken weeks or paydays although there is some 10 public holidays in each year, and the hours are only school hours 9 to 4 with 1 hour for dinner so that when I leave off I can jump on our steam tramway cars and go mossing and have 3 or 4 hours out before dark. The trams go at such a speed to that is a wonder there is not more accidents then what there is. The cars are double deckers ugly looking things appearing top heavy so that you would think they would topple over…”