Places to see snowdrops

Snowdrops

The first few months of the year can be gloomy, but seeing a swathe of snowdrops is one way to brighten the winter months. Despite the cold, these hardy little flowers can be found thriving in pastures, woods, ditches and orchards everywhere. After a long winter their brilliant white petals and green leaves are a welcome sight, signalling the growth of new life. Discover the best places to see these pretty white flowers near you.

Flowering between January and March, snowdrops are one of the first signs of life in gardens after the long winter months.

Our garden experts take great care of these delicate little blooms, and now they’re passing on some of their favourite facts and top tips so you can create your own mini carpets of snowdrops at home. 

In this article:

Green man carving on the Snowdrop Walk at Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

What's in a name?

Snowdrops’ scientific name is Galanthus, which translates as ‘milk flower’, but over the years they’ve gained other names such as 'February fairmaids' and 'Candlemas bells'. One variation of the flower is called 'Green Man'. The Green Man, pictured here, can often be used to represent the cycle of rebirth that happens each spring.

They’re often seen to symbolise purity and hope, but folklore also states that bringing a single one of these white flowers inside will bring ill-fortune, hence another name – ‘death flower’. Alternatively it might just cause your milk to sour and eggs to spoil, which isn’t quite as ominous.

The Gaelic festival Imbolc marks the beginning of spring, and snowdrops are the symbol of this occasion.

Places to see snowdrops

 

More than just a flower

A double petaled snowdrop

Homes for bees

Bees love snowdrops. They're a vital source of nectar early in the year when not many other plants are in flower. By planting snowdrops, you'll be building on the eco-system this vital species calls home.

How to grow snowdrops in your garden

Top tips from our gardeners

Common snowdrops are hardy and fairly easy to grow, so it’s not too difficult to create your own mini display at home. Here Jack Lindfield, Assistant Head Gardener at Ickworth and Johnny Norton, Head Gardener at Mottisfont give some of their top tips for growing them:

  1. There are so many beautiful species of snowdrop, but if you're hoping to create an impressive swathe you can’t beat Galanthus nivalis. It's the most common species because it self-seeds and spreads very quickly, which means you’ll get to enjoy your snowy white display sooner.

  2. Always buy pots of snowdrops ‘in the green’ – this means once they’ve finished flowering but while the leaves are still intact. This could be any time from mid-January to early March, so keep an eye out at your local garden centre or National Trust plant shop.

  3. Once you get your flowers home, plant them out as soon as possible. The best location is somewhere with partial shade such as under a tree, and with moist but well-drained soil. It’s worth adding some leafmould or garden compost to the soil to ensure you’re giving the plants plenty of nutrients.

  4. Plant them at the same depth as they were previously grown - you can often see this where the leaf stalks change from white to green. If you can’t see the level clearly, then just plant the snowdrops around four inches deep, and if you bought multiple clumps then space them about six inches apart.

  5. Water the plants in, and then you can leave them alone – the foliage will die back and become food for the bulb, ready for next year’s display. Within a couple of years each clump will have grown to fill the gaps you left.

  6. As the years go by, you can to help your snowdrops to spread by lifting and dividing any large clumps. Carefully dig up the clump and prize it apart with your hands into smaller chunks. Discard any diseased or dead bulbs, and then re-plant each new group six inches apart. Over time you’ll end up with a beautiful carpet of white flowers every spring.