Snowdrops at Oxburgh Hall

Snowdrops in flower in front of Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk

A winter walk wouldn't be complete without snowdrops and there are thousands of these delicate white flowers to enjoy, carpeting the woods and gardens at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk each February.

Snowdrops have inspired artists and folklore for centuries. William Shakespeare celebrated them as a happy reminder of the end of winter, yet others feared them as a harbinger of death! We like to think of them as a symbol of nature's commitment to giving us something beautiful during the cold winter months. 

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'.

They’re often seen to symbolise purity and hope, but folklore also states that taking a single snowdrop 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.

Growing in the wild

It’s hard to imagine a British spring without snowdrops, but did you know that they aren’t actually native to the UK? Historians believe they were probably introduced from Europe in the late 15th century and cultivated varieties became popular in Elizabethan gardens, but it wasn’t until the 1770s that they were first recorded growing in the wild.

There are 20 species of wild snowdrop, of which Galanthus nivalis is the most common. Over the years, green-fingered fans have used these original species to cultivate over 1000 new varieties, the best-named of which has to be Galanthus ‘Heffalump’.

Oxburgh's snowdrops

At Oxburgh you’ll find drifts of snowdrops amongst the trees and along the paths throughout Oxburgh's wooded areas and gardens. A welcome sight after the long winter months.

If you want to find out more about these delicate white flowers, our garden team are ready to answer your questions on anything snowdrop related, from planting tips to interesting facts. Our tea room will be open for warming comfort food and hot drinks too.

Did you know?

A close up view of a single snowdrop

Snowdrop buds have a hard tip that helps them break through frozen soil. The sap also contains a type of antifreeze which helps to protects them from frost.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops contain an alkaloid called galantamine, which has been used to help manage mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s.

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.