|G. 'Bertram Anderson'|
|G. 'Alison Hilary'|
|G. 'Eliot Hodgkin'|
There is something terrifying about studying the very small in great detail. In order to appreciate the minuscule differences between snowdrops, you have to become very small yourself, observe them on their own terms, and reduce yourself, in your mind, to their size. Something like nausea accompanies the disparities of scale that become apparent when you do this. If the broad plane representing the possibilities of human knowledge weren't already intimidatingly vast, imagine how much bigger it all must seem from a snowdrop's perspective. The 500 cultivars of snowdrop, each with its own name, its own characteristics and its own beauty, give an idea of the dizzying wealth of detail to be found below most people's perspective. Zoom in on one tiny facet of human knowledge, and we find a fractal universe of equal complexity buried inside it, confounding any bold hope of gaining a comprehensive grasp of even a small part of the world around us. Even our most celebrated polymaths seem ignorant fools when viewed against this backdrop.
|G. plicatus 'Sophie North'|
But I cannot help but admire the enthusiast who has the patience and humility to submit to one specialism. Even the self-absorbed geek, whose encyclopedic knowledge of a fictional universe robs them of social skills in the real one, has an integrity about the way they acquire knowledge, which I lack. Short-sightedness is a natural human characteristic. So is arrogance.
At the exit, the Chelsea Physic Garden were selling individual snowdrops in pots for prices ranging from £3 to £30 for the rarer specimens. We learned that a single bulb had last year changed hands for £350. But over the river, for free in Battersea Park, we saw hundreds of them growing in swathes.
|G. 'Mrs Thompson'|