Plant of the month – Snowdrop

The Snowdrop braves the cold weather of late winter, pushing dainty white flowers through the earth to herald the onset of spring.

Gently nodding white bells often tinged with green, are displayed above clumps of blue green sword like foliage in Late winter.  Growing to about 10cm in height, they are a welcome sign that the colder days are numbered and spring lies just round the corner.

Woodland snowdrops

Woodlands play host to swathes of naturalised Snowdrops

Snowdrops belong to the Amarylis family and grow from small bulbs in winter and early spring.  The botanical name for Snowdrop is Galanthus, derived from the Greek; Gala (milk) and anthos (flower).

People who have a keen interest in Snowdrops and may even grow many varieties are called Galanthophiles.

There are thought to be more than 200 varieties of Snowdrop and many specialist growers and gardeners are actively seeking out old varieties of this well loved garden flower.

A native of Europe, Snowdrops are thought to have been introduced to the UK around the 16th Century.

Snowdrops naturalise well by forming “offset bulbs” and can often be seen in large white swathes in old gardens and undisturbed areas such as graveyards. In fact, growers suspect that some of the old varieties will be found in graveyards, where they were actively planted by family members in the Victorian period.

Many snowdrop species are endangered and all wild snowdrops are protected under law, which means that they must never be picked or lifted from their wild or existing habitat.

Growing snowdrops

Snowdrops are best planted in “the green” when the flowers have died down, foliage is still evident and root growth established.  Although snowdrop bulbs are available from suppliers, these tend to have a limited success rate.

Specialist Galanthus growers will have named varieties that they sell as clumps in the green.  Some of these may also be available via mail order.

Snowdrop walks

To see Snowdrops in all their glory, take yourself on a snowdrop walk.  A few stately homes and woodlands around the UK have some amazing displays, unique varieties and often a nursery, where you can buy some to take home.

Help find old snowdrops

It is not known just how many Snowdrop species are still in existence and if you have an old garden or have been given Snowdrops by friends or family, there is a chance that you may unknowingly have a rare variety of this delicate and beautiful flower.  If so, then specialist collectors would love to hear from you.

You can use the comments section below to send us pictures of your snowdrops, so that we can try to get them identified.  Please take a close up picture of the plant as well as one looking into the centre of the flower, as they are identified by the different and sometimes complex green markings on their petals.

More information – lists some great places to see snowdrops in the UK.

RHS – Find out more about Snowdrops and how to grow them

International Bulb Society – List of Galanthus varieties.

Alpine Garden Society – More information of different Snowdrop varieties.

Wildlife and Countryside Act – Find out more about protected plants and animals in the UK.

Where to buy snowdrops

Cambo Snowdrops in Scotland have over 300 different varieties available for sale in the green.

Broadleigh Bulbs – Extensive list of snowdrops available in “the green”.

Monksilver Nursery – Mail order website for Snowdrops, Snowflakes and primroses.

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