Snowdrops Galore


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: – 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.


It was winter-time; the air was cold, the wind was sharp, but within the closed doors it was warm and comfortable, and within the closed door lay the flower; it lay in the bulb under the snow-covered earth.

One day rain fell. The drops penetrated through the snowy covering down into the earth, and touched the flower-bulb, and talked of the bright world above. Soon the Sunbeam pierced its way through the snow to the root, and within the root there was a stirring.

“Come in,” said the flower.
“I cannot,” said the Sunbeam. “I am not strong enough to unlock the door! When the summer comes I shall be strong!”
“When will it be summer?” asked the Flower, and she repeated this question each time a new sunbeam made its way down to her. But the summer was yet far distant. The snow still lay upon the ground, and there was a coat of ice on the water every night.

“What a long time it takes! what a long time it takes!” said the Flower. “I feel a stirring and striving within me; I must stretch myself, I must unlock the door, I must get out, and must nod a good morning to the summer, and what a happy time that will be!”
And the Flower stirred and stretched itself within the thin rind which the water had softened from without, and the snow and the earth had warmed, and the Sunbeam had knocked at; and it shot forth under the snow with a greenish-white blossom on a green stalk, with narrow thick leaves, which seemed to want to protect it. The snow was cold, but was pierced by the Sunbeam, therefore it was easy to get through it, and now the Sunbeam came with greater strength than before.

“Welcome, welcome!” sang and sounded every ray, and the Flower lifted itself up over the snow into the brighter world. The Sunbeams caressed and kissed it, so that it opened altogether, white as snow, and ornamented with green stripes. It bent its head in joy and humility.

– From ‘The Snowdrop’ by Hans Christian Andersen, 1963