Create a snowdrop carpet in your garden

What better way to brighten the dark days of January and February than a glimpse of snowdrops? They are a beautiful signal that winter will come to an end and make way for the bright colours of spring.

Snowdrops

Although not native to England, snowdrops became popular in Elizabethan gardens. They thrive in shady pastures, woods and orchards, but struggle in the shade of evergreens. 

Their proper name, Galanthus, is of Greek origin, signifying ‘milk flower’. Although through history, snowdrops have had many names. 

In Norfolk they were known as Fair Maids of February. Another name from the past is Candlemas Bells, blossoming as they do at the time of Candlemas on 2 February. In several English counties, it was considered unlucky to bring them into the house, hence the name Death’s Flower.

These captivating little flowers acquired a popularity that hasn’t waned, earning affection for the cheerfulness they bring – and the reminder that spring is on the way. 

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey

Known for their year-round splendour, the gardens at Anglesey Abbey attract particular attention when snowdrop season arrives.

Anglesey Abbey has one of the finest snowdrop collections in the country with over 300 varieties of the delicate white flowers.

The spectacle draws visitors from far and wide, eager to enjoy the uplifting experience. Making the trip more special are the twenty or so varieties which are specific to Anglesey Abbey - and named after its associations, having first been found here. 

Snowdrops are very eager to cross-fertilize so there is always the prospect of yet another variety emerging.

Snowdrops in bloom
Close up picture of snowdrops

Guardians of the garden

David Jordan is Assistant Head Gardener at Anglesey Abbey and one of those people fortunate to have spotted a new snowdrop variation - now known as Moses Basket. Its name came about because its petals curl in a spiral, creating a basket-like form. 

Snowdrops clearly have a place in David’s heart.

" I still hunt for snowdrops – I’m always looking for strange mutants, something different. There’s so much going for them, snowdrops have such a simple form – two colours, six petals - yet there’s so much variation within that simplicity."
- David Jordan, Assistant Head Gardener at Anglesey Abbey

David’s tips for creating spectacular winter colour in your garden

  • If you’ve got space fill it with big blocks of colour, rather than dot gardening.
  • Cornus has good vibrant colours, yellows, greens, reds and even black, and can be kept relatively small if pruned every spring just as the leaves are breaking out of bud.
  • Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry), with its really shiny coppery-coloured bark, which peels off, gives a wonderful effect with the sun behind it.
  • Ornamental brambles give great texture; though don’t pick the really vigorous ones. I’d suggest Rubus biflorus with its chalky white stems.
  • For scent, go for Sarcococca, its evergreen, likes chalky soils and grows in most conditions but doesn’t like being exposed to icy winds. 
  • For under-planting, go for irises, cyclamen, and snowdrops of course. Snowdrops like dappled shade and don’t like to dry out too much. They don’t want to be disturbed, so don’t hoe too much. Only lift and split when clumps have got too congested – say every 3-5 years depending on the size of the clump and how well they’re doing. They will benefit from a feed when they’re in leaf, bonemeal is fine or something organic. An autumn leaf-mould mulch works a treat in our Winter Garden.
Snowdrops House

Top spots for snowdrops in the East of England 

A cheerful sight on a woodland walk, riverside ramble or garden stroll, snowdrops are a welcome sign that spring will soon be on its way. We’ve chosen some of the best places to see them in the East of England.

Did you know...

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