The greek name for snowdrops is Galanthus. At the moment there are more than 300 known species. Most commonly known is Nivalis. Carpets of wild snowdrop Nivalis can be seen throughout the UK in January and February.
Snowdrops are nearly always found in abbey ruins and graveyards. Norman monks planted them as a symbol of purity but also used them for medicine. Often aconite, petasites and mistletoe can be found alongside snowdrops – they are all attributed with strong healing properties.
I had the privilege to visit a private garden in New Arlesford last week, once holding the national collection of snowdrops. I missed the best of the flower display but there were still more cluster breaking through the soil. I learned that some snowdrop species flower as early as Autumn, others not until March. Snowdrops can be found throughout northern and central Europe, Italy (Sicily), Greece, Turkey, Crimea, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, the Caucasus region, Jordan, Iran and Syria.
Collectors pay top prices for rare bulbs. Thompson & Morgan (Ipswich based seed company) just acquired the world’s most expensive snowdrop in an auction for £725. Galanthus woronowii ‘Elisabeth Harrison’ is a variety with very unusual golden yellow ovary and yellow petal markings. A Galanthus ‘Green Tear’ sold for £360 last year. Who would have thought collecting snowdrops can be so expensive? And we are talking 1 (in words: ONE) tiny bulb.
Two avid collectors were visiting the garden as the same time as me. Between them and the host horticultural names were flying back and forth and all I could contribute was the odd ‘What a dainty flower’ or ‘What different leaves’ and ‘My, that one is tall’. I am not a snowdrop buff – or any type of plant buff for that matter – but I appreciate flora and garden design in all its variety.
For a stunning carpet display in my ‘neighbourhood’ Welford Park in Berkshire was highly recommended to me. From researching the National Trust website it sounds like Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire is the place to go. Of the over 300 varieties, 20 were discovered on site. The 114 acres of gardens with its meandering paths, avenues of trees and a collection of classical statues are dotted with carpets of snowdrops. Sounds like good photo opportunities to me.
For more information on great snowdrop displays in the UK check out these websites:
www.healegarden.co.uk – unfortunately due to warm and wet weather their snowdrop walk will not be open in 2016. Official opening on March 3rd for spring bulb displays.