Snowdrops herald the advent of spring

The snowdrops are here and even in the snow they are a cheerful sight!

The snowdrops at the Triangle Garden were donated by Mr Ransom from his own garden, many years ago probably in about 2003. Their Latin name is Galanthus nivalis, from the Greek gala – milk, and anthos – flower.  They are native to Europe and the Middle East and were believed to have been naturalised in the UK in around 1770. Although there are only about 20 species of snowdrop, there are now 2500 named varieties and the plants have a very keen fanbase – so called ‘Galanthophiles’ who enjoy seeking out and growing the numerous different forms.

Snowdrops appear as a magical herb in Greek mythology – the herb ‘Moly’ is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and as described, bears a distinct resemblence to the snowdrop; Hermes gave the plant to Odysseus to protect him from Circe’s wizardry when he went to her home to rescue his friends. Caucasian snowdrops, Galanthus caucasicus, contain an active ingredient called galantamine which is used in the treatment of cognitive decline eg Alzheimers disease, and conditions associated with sensory and motor dysfunction.

Snowdrops are easy to grow and easy to move. Best planted and moved ‘in the green’ ie when in leaf, they can also be successfully planted as bulbs in the early autumn. They look best in clumps of several bulbs rather than singly, and are happiest in areas where they’ll be in shade in the summer; they look great as a carpet under deciduous trees where they’ll get the winter sun they need before the leaves come out. They need to be planted fairly deep with about 5cm of soil over the bulbs. Remember they’re not very tall so if you’re planting them within an established bed, position them towards the front.

There are plenty of gardens to visit locally if you’re looking for displays of snowdrops and other spring bulbs – visit the National Gardens Scheme website to find out more.