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The start to the year can seem a little bleak, given summer is but a distant thought coupled with the inevitable days of endless rain. Thank heavens for snowdrops – they are usually the first perennials to pop up and end the monotony of an otherwise hibernating landscape.

 

Snow far ..

The botanical name for snowdrops is galanthus, which comes from the Greek words for milk and flower – gala & Anthos – as they look as if three drops of milk are clinging to the top of each stem.  That said, they’re also known as Candlemas Bells, Mary’s Taper, Snow Piercer, February Fairmaids and, our favourite, Dingle-Dangle, amongst a host of other names.

There are some 20 different varieties of snowdrop, the majority of which flower before the vernal equinox on March 20th or 21st. However, there are some snowdrops that prefer to do their thing in late autumn when it’s a little warmer.

It is uncertain whether snowdrops are native to this country or not – they were first recorded growing wild in 1770. Although widespread in parts of Europe, it’s thought snowdrops that colonise in the wild in the UK broke free from a monastery garden belonging to Italian monks who introduced them here in the 15th century.

 

Myths & Legends

As far as Christian legend goes, snowdrops were said to have been created by God out of falling snow flakes, giving Adam and Eve a sign of hope whilst they were being cast out of Eden.

 

Some see snowdrops as the flower of hope, for the very reason they are the first plant to break winter’s spell. Others have them down as shy flowers because they fail to raise their heads, supposedly due to some misdemeanour or other. In truth, they hang their heads for practical reasons in order to keep their pollen dry and protected  from the wind, providing a rare treat for those insects brave enough to face the elements at this time of year.

 

They are deemed by some to be unlucky and you’re not supposed to bring them into the house for fear of death. This was particularly the case in Victorian times as they often planted snowdrops on graves because of the plant’s associations with the afterlife. Centuries before the 1800s, snowdrops were thought to turn milk and dairy products sour if they were kept inside. Interestingly, this was NOT the case in Herefordshire, where having snowdrops in the home was seen as a cleansing ritual.

And did you know that Snow Drop was the original name of the heroine in the story of Snow White written by the Brothers Grimm, but changed later as it was not felt to be catchy enough?

Today, the snowdrop is being used in trial medicines for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s whilst in Eastern Europe they’re still rubbed on the forehead of anyone suffering from a headache to relieve pain.

 

Where to find them

If you want to see snowdrops in our home county Herefordshire and its neighbouring lands, here are a few places we’d recommend. We’ve also included a few websites that make national recommendations too:

Coddington Vineyard, just outside Ledbury – www.coddingtonvineyeard.co.uk

Ivycroft Garden, near Leominster – www.ivycroftgarden.co.uk

Batsford Aboretum, Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Glos - http://www.batsarb.co.uk

Dr Jenners House & Museum in Berkeley, Glos - https://jennermuseum.com

Galanthus nivalis 'Viridapicis'

 

Dial Park in Worcestershire is also listed as a great place for snowdrops but you’ll need to Google opening times as they don’t have a website.

Millichope Park in Craven Arms, Shropshire – no website again, so you’ll have to Google for this suggestion too.

The National Trust also has a comprehensive list of its various places where snowdrops are to be found throughout the UK - https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/top-spots-for-snowdrops

Country Life has also put together a list of places to snowdrop-spot based on the National Garden scheme - http://www.countrylife.co.uk/gardens/where-to-see-snowdrops-19222