Celebrate snowdrop season with five of the best places to see them

With snowdrops heralding the first signs of spring, we’ve got the best places to see these dainty flowers and advice on how to nurture your own.

There’s something about a snowdrop that really lifts your heart. These delicate flowers are traditionally known as the harbingers of spring and can usually be seen from January until March.

You’ll spot them carpeting woodland floors, meadows and gardens and in the UK we absolutely love them – they regularly top the polls as the nation’s favourite spring flower.

So we’re celebrating snowdrop season, with some of the best places to see them and tips from an expert gardener on how to grow them in your garden.

A carpet of snowdrop flowers on a woodland floor with trees in the backgroundCredit: Shutterstock /nnattalli

Where to see snowdrops in the UK

The five best places to see snowdrops

The National Trust is celebrating snowdrops in 2024 with walks, talks and workshops at it’s properties across the UK. We’ve got five of the best spots to visit.

1. Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire

There is a dedicated Snowdrop Stories trail through the grounds of this Tudor manor house, between 10-25th February.  You’ll be able to find out what people have believed about these blooms over the centuries.

It’s worth a visit at anytime during snowdrop season to see the flowers throughout the estate.

2. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, has one of the finest snowdrop collections in the UK, with 400 varieties of these delicate white flowers – many of which are rare.

You can take in their beauty with a wander through the Winter Garden, which is also in its prime at this time of year. The NT has organised snowdrop tours where you can see the rare varieties and find out more about the collection.

3. Rowallane Garden, County Down

Celebrate the imminent arrival of spring with a walk amongst the pretty white flowers at Rowallane Garden, south of Belfast, where 130,000 bulbs have been planted in 10 years. Here the snowdrop season can last into March.

4. Wallington, Northumberland

Over the past few years volunteers have planted more than 800,000 snowdrops at Wallington, near Morpeth. This year another mass snowdrop planting is planned from 17-25 February and everyone is welcome to join in and get their hands dirty.

The carpets of snowdrops in the grounds of this country house includes a few special varieties of snowdrop too, including the Northumbrian ‘Sandersii’ group which has sulphur-yellow markings instead of green.

5. Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Snowdrops have been part of the garden at Kingston Lacy for more than a century. More than 40 varieties of this much-loved flower pop up throughout the gardens in January and February.

The country house, near Wimborne Minster, is having a celebration of snowdrops this year with early morning snowdrop walks, smartphone snowdrop photography workshops, snowdrop planting and Kokedama workshops – where you can create a hanging snowdrop moss ball to take home.

In France, snowdrops are more commonly known as perce-neige – which literally means snow piercer.

How to plant and care for snowdrops

Five tips for growing snowdrops

Ben Dark is a head gardener and landscape historian. He has these great tips for growing snowdrops in your garden.

  • Transplant snowdrops when dormant in early summer or ‘in the green’ with leaves attached just after flowering.
  • Snowdrops will happily grow in pots. Look for a mossy, north-facing corner of your garden that never quite dries out and store the containers there when not in flower. Water occasionally.
  • The small bulbs dry out quickly, so if planting in autumn get them in the ground on arrival.
  • To help bulk them up, consider watering them with diluted tomato feed when in leaf.
  • Divide congested clumps every three years for space and to help them spread.

Galanthophiles

We can thank the Victorians for the word ‘Galanthophile’, which means snowdrop lover. It describes the person for whom a trip to see some snowdrops could mean a journey of hundreds of miles.

A rare snowdrop bulb can fetch thousands of pounds at auction. An annual snowdrop sale takes place at Myddleton House, Enfield, every year. This year it’s being held on January 28th, 2024.

Types of snowdrops

Popular varieties of snowdrop

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

Tall and highly scented. Lovely in the garden, even better in the vase.

Galanthus ‘Hill Poë’

A classic double snowdrop discovered in Ireland in 1911 and yet to be bettered.

Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group

From Northumbria, a golden snowdrop with the best chance of naturalising in gardens.

Galanthus ‘Magnet’

Elegant with long outer tepals, arched flower stalk and thin green-grey leaves.

Galanthus reginae-olgae

A snowdrop for the impatient gardener, it can begin flowering in late October.

Snowdrops help treat Alzheimer's disease

The snowdrop bulb contains the alkaloid galantamine – approved for use in the management of Alzheimer’s disease in over 70 countries worldwide, including the UK. Don’t try to eat one though as the bulbs are poisonous.

The history of the snowdrop

Snowdrops aren’t native to the UK

The snowdrop’s nodding white flower, each carried on a single stem is a welcome sight in the early months of the year.

Yet it’s not a native plant and wasn’t recorded as growing wild until the late 18th century. Dark explains that Snowdrops belong to the genus Galanthus; the naturalised species is Galanthus nivalis.

“Its arrival on these islands from central and southern Europe is unrecorded, though it may have come with the Romans,” he says. “It was certainly familiar to John Gerard, who included the snowdrop in Britain’s first ever gardening book, writing in the Herball of 1597 that it ‘flowereth at the beginning of Januarie’.

Snowdrops have journeyed to the UK from across the globe

“In the mid-19th century it was joined by Galanthus plicatus, carried here as bulbs by soldiers returning from the Crimean War. Many had spent the winter under bombardment outside the besieged city of Sevastopol and clung to the flowers that bloomed in the mud of their frozen trenches as reminders of life.

“The final piece of our snowdrop puzzle was added in 1874 when botanist Henry John Elwes brought back the giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, from the Caucasus Mountains. While another 17 species have so far been discovered, it is these three that contribute most of the genetic material to the hundreds of varieties available today.”

The meaning of snowdrops

Snowdrops have been given many meanings over the centuries; they often symbolise new beginnings, hope, rebirth and the ability to overcome challenges. White has meanings of purity, innocence, spirituality and sympathy.

If you’re thinking about giving flowers, then snowdrops can be a thoughtful present for a birthday, a new baby or in sympathy.

Phillipa Cherryson

Written by Phillipa Cherryson she/her

Published:

Phillipa Cherryson is a senior digital editor for Saga Exceptional. Phillipa has been a journalist for 30 years, writing for local and national newspapers, UK magazines and reporting onscreen for ITV. In her spare time she loves the outdoors and is a trainee mountain leader and Ordnance Survey Champion.

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