blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
We have what you would call a difficult garden. Parts of it are shady and wet, almost swamp-like, while other areas are dry as a bone. I like to refer to one particular terraced flower bed as Death Valley Meets The Bermuda Triangle. No matter how much we watered and fertilized and fussed, most anything we planted there seemed to immediately die a crispy brown death or gradually get sucked down into the bowels of the earth never to be seen again.
A couple of months ago, tired of pouring money into a hopeless project, we had a brilliant idea. Why not fill the two upper tiers of the bed with container plants that can be moved around at will, and leave the lower level for the few little green things that will actually grow there?
As luck would have it, one of the flowers that seems to do well there is one of my very favourites - the Leontopodium alpinum, more commonly known as Edelweiss (or Edelweiß if you happen to have a ß on your keyboard).
The Edelweiss is a well-known alpine flower related to the sunflower. The German name Edelweiß is a combination of the words 'noble' and 'white'. The Latin name Leontopodium means 'lion's paw'.
Tiny white hairs covering the silvery leaflets surrounding the yellow flower heads give the plant a wooly appearance.
I did have some plants several years ago but they disappeared after a while, much to my dismay. I had thought that the damn flower bed was the culprit but I have since learn that the Bermuda Triangle was not to blame. Apparently the Edelweiss is a short-lived perennial that eventually does die off and need replacing. Who knew?
What's so attractive about these fuzzy blooms, you ask? Well, for me the Edelweiss is not about looks or fragrance or longevity, it's about the sentimental value the flower holds for me.
When I was a child I used to love looking through the family photo albums. Along with the pictures I remember the dried Edelweiss flowers that were pressed between the pages. Flowers that my Austrian grandfather had climbed all the way up a mountain to get for us. Once in a while we'd get another one in the mail and off it would go into the album for safekeeping. My mother also had a beautiful Edelweiss pendant necklace, made from a real flower and strung on a black velvet ribbon. I got to wear that necklace on special occasions.
Nowadays you can buy Edelweiss plants at any German garden centre, as I did. And looky here, you can even buy them from a company in British Columbia that grows them in the Rocky Mountains. However the Edelweiss still remains an endangered species and is protected in many European countries with the request to hikers not to pick any flowers they may find in the wild.
Contrary to popular belief, the Edelweiss is not the offical flower of Austria. It is, in fact, the inofficial flower of Switzerland, although the Austrians do use the Edelweiss on their 2 euro cent coins.
So I plant Edelweiss in my garden to remind me of my grandparents and of my dad's Austrian heritage. When he left his home country to start a new life in Canada, he still had his roots in mind.
This post shows a picture of my parents' first house, and below you can see what the family homestead from the mid 60's to the early 90's looked like. I think it has a certain alpine flair to it, especially since my parents insisted on having it built on a rock! The house itself was white with brown trim and a red tile roof.
When the house was sold, the new owners painted it pink and put in lots of glass and chrome. Eeep. I don't even want to think about it.
And now we come to everyone's all time favourite movie - The Sound of Music. Well, maybe not everyone's. Ask an Austrian about it and he'll most likely say "Heh??" And if you try to imply that the song "Edelweiss" sung in the film must be Austria's national anthem, you better be prepared for some funny looks.
I do like that song very much, though, national anthem or not.
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow
May you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Bless my homeland forever
But really, to get the full effect you need to watch this video of a very handsome Christopher Plummer singing to his many well-behaved film children and a cute-as-a-button Julie Andrews.