Guest Post: The Snowdrop ~ Harbinger of Spring

Can there possibly be any signs of Spring with current temperatures what they are?! Even here today in South Carolina we are at 28 degrees [warming up to maybe 53…I live in Hope]! So I happily welcome Pam Braak, NAFCH Treasurer and Tarrant County (TX) Master Gardener, with her thoughts on Chawton House and the Snowdrop:

Chawton House

The Snowdrop ~ Harbinger of Spring

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I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

Sing, robin, sing:

I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.

–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), from “The First Spring Day”

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Chawton House recently announced their participation in the National Garden Scheme’s Snowdrop Sunday, with an event on February 6.  The National Garden Scheme in the UK brings joy to this Texas gardener — and envy that I cannot participate without a transatlantic flight.  I wondered about the snowdrop mania in the UK and if there exists an analogous passion for them in the U.S.

We have Garden Conservancy Open Days in the U.S. but that cannot compare to the immense number of gardens that the NGS organizes each year. Privately owned gardens open each year to visitors, with admission fees donated to health-related charities. In 2020 there were over 3,700 gardens due to open. Imagine the choices!  For the Snowdrop Festival in February, 100 gardens are participating, including Chawton House.

George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme, says: “Following the restrictions of 2020 and 2021 there has never been a greater need to start the new year with the beautiful freshness of the first blooms of spring. But garden visiting at this time of year is not just for galanthophiles who are looking to discover a rare variety of snowdrop in gardens they may never otherwise find. Snowdrops are the perfect antidote to the winter blues and spending the afternoon at one of our 100 Snowdrop Festival gardens is the ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy some spectacular scenes at an otherwise gloomy time of year.”

Common Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis

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“Snowdrops: theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration

– in the very teeth of winter”

Louise Beebe Wilde (1878-1938), American gardening writer

Snowdrops enjoy a cult following in the UK where aficionados are known as galanthophiles. No doubt these enthusiasts will be spotted around the Chawton House gardens getting down on their knees and even lying on their bellies to enjoy and photograph these late-winter wonders. Galanthophiles are collectors of much more than common snowdrops. The lure of collecting the 2,500 plus varieties is quite a draw. Galanthophiles look for snowdrops in old gardens, but there are plenty for sale, some at phenomenal prices. Per “Fun facts about Snowdrops – National Garden Scheme” , a single Galanthus plicatus “Golden Fleece” sold for £1,390 on eBay in 2015!  Akin to the tulip craze in seventeenth-century Holland.

There are a plethora of festivals and tours in the UK celebrating the snowdrop. For instance, in Dorset the citizens of Shaftesbury have planted more than 200,000 snowdrop bulbs since 2017 and have an annual festival. Stateside, I did find the Galanthus Gala in Downingtown, PA but I do not think our fondness approaches UK levels. [Here is their facebook page with a virtual event in 2021, nothing yet for 2022 on there.]

Snowdrops are easy to grow, tough, and often push through the snow to bloom. You can find several varieties for sale online in the U.S., but I doubt you’ll locate 2,500 varieties. They are recommended in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7, growing best in partial sun and partial shade. In the southern zone where I live, the bulbs may decline over time; this is a plant that is most likely best suited to cooler climates. In the meantime, I content myself with growing a relative, summer snowflakes Leucojum aestivum, which bloom in February, contrary to their name.  In my garden, I must be content to just dream of swaths of snowdrops.

Various varieties of Galanthus

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Thank you Pam for bringing us a little joy into our climate-stressed, virus-ridden world – I think even Jane Austen would be smiling! [Does she mention snowdrops anywhere??]

For more information on Chawton House, their current exhibition on Botanical Women, and their other interesting goings-on, please visit ChawtonHouse.org. You can also help with their ongoing efforts for their Library and estate by becoming a Friend – donate whatever you can on the North American Friends of Chawton House donation page – we appreciate your support!

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Jane Austen on 7 March 7 1814, from London to Cassandra in Chawton:

Monday Here’s a day! – The Ground covered with snow!  What is to become of us? – We were to have walked out early to near Shops, & had the Carriage for the more distant. – Mr. Richard Snow* is dreadfuly fond of us.  I dare say he has stretched himself out at Chawton too.

Ltr. 98, 5-8 March 1814, p. 270 [Le Faye, 4th ed.]

The Brighton Mail, Sunday, December 25th 1836 (R. Havell)
[F. Gordon Roe, Sporting Prints of the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries.  NY: Payson & Clarke, 1927.]
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, 246 years ago! 

To quote her father George Austen in a letter to his sister Mrs. Walter on Dec 17, 1775:

“You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassey certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and sends her love to you and my brother…” (Austen Papers, 32-3)

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In celebration of Austen’s birthday, JASNA has published it’s Persuasions On-Line vol. 42, No. 1, which features a selection of the AGM presentations on Jane Austen and the Arts, the theme of the 2021 JASNA AGM in Chicago. You can view the Table of Contents here – all essays are fully accessible: https://jasna.org/publications-2/persuasions-online/vol-42-no-1/

It is also a perfect time to donate to Chawton House, via the North American Friends of Chawton House: Please visit the website at https://www.nafch.org/ and read about their endeavors. Anyone who donates $150 or more will be sent NAFCH’s 2nd annual limited-edition bobblehead “Creative Jane” (while supplies last), though any amount is gratefully received!:

You can donate here: https://www.nafch.org/give-join

What better way to honor Jane Austen on her birthday than to give a little something in support of the “Great House” she visited often:

‘Let me thank you again and again’

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice (1813)

2021, Jane Austen in Vermont

Let’s Go Shopping!! Auction to Support Chawton House!

Please visit this Auction site to see what’s on offer from the North American Friends of Chawton House   – their annual auction that coincides with the JASNA AGM (just completed): https://www.nafch.org/agm-2021-auction

The auction goes until this Friday October 22, 2021 at 12:00 pm EDT

1. Late nineteenth-century, wooden writing slope with mother-of-pearl detail.  English. When closed: 8½ x 12 x 4¾ inches. (Est. $250)

2. Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, in Richard Bentley’s “Standard Novels and Romances” series (London, 1846).  In original trade binding, stamped with “2/6” on spine.  Extremely rare. (Est. $650-1000)

3. Antique gold chainmail coin purse.  3¼ inches. Edwardian, circa 1902.  (Est. $100-250+)

4. Victorian sterling silver jewelry dish, with another of silver plate in a later design (c. 1920s).  Each are 2 ¾ inch diameter. Victorian, circa 1890s.  (Est. $50+)

5. Two 14K gold miniature portrait pendants, with diamond chips.  3 cm and 2½ cm.  Early 20th century.  English. ($100-120 for the pair)

6. Two costume jewelry pendants of painted ladies.  4½ cm and 2½ cm.  Timeless.  ($50 for the pair)

7. Late 18th century silver-mounted horn & tortoise snuff box. Top lid is 3.5 cm x 7.5 cm. Marked on the bottom with a tag from over a decade ago, at last purchase: $260.

8. Champleve enamel, bronze carriage clock with decorated panels. 19th century, French.  18 cm high. ($400)

9. Artist book, by Linda Dennery: R. W. Chapman, Jane Austen: A Critical Bibliography (Oxford, 1953). ($500)

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Visit and bid! These amazing items can be yours at the click of a button – all to support Chawton House!

Thank You!

©2021 Jane Austen in Vermont

“Celebrity Jane” Wants YOU! Help Support Chawton House!


Like all museums around the world, Chawton House has had to close its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic – and like all of those places that so many of us love and visit regularly, Chawton House is dependent upon visitor fees, those now sadly lost. In order to remain on track and continue to offer its grand historic house and gardens to visit, a place to study early women writers, a place for exhibitions and lectures, a place to have tea!, Chawton House needs your support.

Their Emergency Appeal runs from April 20, 2020 through June 20, 2020:

  “Donate today to help make sure Chawton House keeps going through closure, stages a vibrant digital programme to inspire and entertain thousands of people staying at home, and re-open to welcome visitors later in 2020.”

You can read more here, where you will find the list of donation perks: https://chawtonhouse.org/covid-19-appeal/

You can follow the daily updates and what’s on offer:

Missing shopping?  Be sure to visit their new online shop (Bonnets to die for!): https://chawtonhouse.org/shop/

Watch for online exhibitions and talks: already they have launched Man Up! – about women who stepped into a man’s world (think dueling, gambling, soldiering, acting, pirating!) – a podcast is also available – https://chawtonhouse.org/the-library/library-collections/man-up-online-exhibition/introduction/

Coming up is their Lockdown Literary Festival planned for May 15-17, 2020.

And great news is the soon-to-be relaunch of the Chawton House newsletter, The Female Spectator. Stay tuned for that!

AND, you can participate in their online Forums: the Poetry Challenge and their Reading Group.

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For all our North American Friends of Chawton House, we too have a special initiative to spur on support: our very own Celebrity Jane! A must-have limited edition bobble-head of our dear Jane in full Rock & Roll garb, for anyone who donates $250 or more and while supplies last.

You can donate here: https://www.nafch.org/give-join

For your donation of $250 or more, the USPS will happily deliver Celebrity Jane to your door – and we’d like to ask that you send us a picture (or two or more!) of CJ in your house, in your garden, on your bookshelves, playing with your dog (or cat), participating in your latest Zoom gathering, really anything you can think of that shows CJ as part of your daily life (if only she could cook!)

Trooper loves Celebrity Jane (and NO! I am not a PUG!)

[Please email your photos to Kerri Spennicchia, a.k.a. CJ’s publicist on the NAFCH executive Board: spennke [at] gmail.com] – [additional photos on our facebook page and the website].

You can follow us on social media as well, where we are showcasing CJ in all manner of places and situations, with hearty thanks to our generous donors: Be part of the story!

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Start your collection today! If “Celebrity Jane 2020” proves popular, then you may expect another limited edition “Bobble-head Jane” in 2021 and beyond.  Hopefully our special limited-edition Janes will prove such outrageously popular collectibles that this leads to an annual fundraiser/giveaway campaign.

We thank you for your support! Chawton House is a very special place – let’s keep it that way…

(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mellichamp painting of Chawton House, c1740; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, 243 years ago!  To quote her father in his letter to his sister Mrs. Walter on Dec 17, 1775:

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassey certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and sends her love to you and my brother… (Austen Papers, 32-3)

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In celebration of Austen’s birthday, we at the North American Friends of Chawton House Library announce the launching of the new website at https://www.nafch.org/. Please visit, read about our endeavors on the behalf of Chawton House, and by all means Donate – what better way to honor Jane Austen on her birthday than to give a little something in support of the “Great House” she visited often:

‘Let me thank you again and again’

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice (1813)

2018, Jane Austen in Vermont