Snowdrops in Spring

New feet within my garden go–
New fingers stir the sod-
A Troubadour opon the Elm
Betrays the solitude

New Children play opon the green-
New Weary sleep below-
And still the pensive Spring returns-
And still the punctual snow!

Emily Dickinson (79)

March 25, ’09
Degrees 40’s
Yesterday we had snow.

My books arrived and, oh my goodnes, I LOVE them. I’m just getting started, and have read the “Early Spring” section of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens by Marta McDowell. We’ll follow along with her on this blog the early Spring plantings of Emily. If you’d like to add other poems of hers (or others) that you think might refer to the flower we’re highlighting, please do so in the comments–we’d love to read them.

Today’s flower, in Early Spring, is the Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). They were the first flowers to bloom in the garden. They are a bulb flower. Here is a picture:


Information from as follows:

“The major benefit of planting Garden Snowdrops is their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses do, and will often poke through a covering of snow. In the South, snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

A snowdrop plant looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem. This accounts for the Latin name Galanthus which means “milk-white flowers”.

Since they are small, you probably need to plant a large number to make a dramatic effect. However, in a rock garden, or planted among other early-blooming plants like Snow Crocuses, an odd number of snowdrops here and there can be just as effective.

Under the right circumstances (see Notes) snowdrops will naturalize very well, and a planting of them can last a lifetime. They are well worth the investment. As an added benefit, snowdrops (like other members of the Amaryllis family) are normally avoided by deer and rodents.

Flowering time: Very early spring

Plant height: 4 – 6″ (10 – 15 cm), although some cultivated varieties grow up to 10″ (25 cm) tall

Minimum planting depth: 3″ (8 cm)

Hardiness zones: Suitable for zones 2 – 9, although they do best in zones 4 – 7

Colours: Clear milk white, usually with emerald green tipped inner segments

Shape/form: A single, nodding, bell-like flower, about 1″ long with 3 lobes, and shorter inner segments, hanging from a stiff, slender, leafless stalk; 2 – 3 very narrow leaves grow from the base of the plant

Alternate names: Common Snowdrop, Milk Flower

Latin name: Galanthus nivalis

Notes: Good for rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, at the fronts of borders or in front of flowering shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths

Prefers moist, humus-rich soils, sun-dappled shade, and cooler climates, as in zones 4 – 7

Naturalizes both by self-seeding and bulb offsets

Example varieties: Garden Snowdrop (white), Flore Pleno (double white flowers), Viridapicis (green markings on tips of both outer and inner petal segments), Sam Arnott (larger flowers, with distinct heart-shaped green markings), Atkins Snowdrop (taller than most, with long, shapely petals)”

Have you planted Snowdrops in your garden? Will you this year? What is your exprerience or memories of them?

10 responses to “Snowdrops in Spring

  1. emilydickinsonsgarden

    I found this comment on another blog (above in generated list) by the Garden Lady. It is most relevant: Galanthus- Snowdrops:

    […] Because this flower is so beloved, in 2007 Scotland held its first Snowdrop Festival. In the UK and Ireland there are many gardens that open early just to showcase their snowdrops. Gardens such as: Brandy Mount, New Alresford, Hampshire, England which has the (NCCPG) National Plant Collection of Snowdrops or Primrose Hill, Lucan, County Dublin, Ireland or Cambo Estate, Fife, and Finlaystone, Renfrewshire both in Scotland. In the US, this GardenLady’s favorite garden to see Galanthus in bloom with other early spring bulbs, is Winterthur in Deleware. […]

  2. I’ve never planted them, but the name is as pretty as the flower. As an early flower, you can see that bit of winter in it.

  3. emilydickinsonsgarden

    I would like to see them coming up in the snow–what a sight! The name is interesting–snowdrop–it’s a bit of winter and spring–snow flake and rain drops.

  4. These are such beautiful flowers, I’ve actually never heard of them before. They look so peaceful and serene. In a way, they remind me of Easter time too.

  5. emilydickinsonsgarden

    I’d never heard of them either–and I don’t remember ever seeing them, though I probably have, but it just didn’t register. I’m wondering if it’s too late to plant them–or if I’d have to buy a fully mature Snowdrop to plant it. I’m going to call the local nurseries right now and ask about them.

  6. emilydickinsonsgarden

    Ha ha! If you want to really confuse people–call them up and ask for “potted snowdrops!” Wow! Only 3 of 10 nurseries even knew what they were. No one had potted versions–but some sell the bulbs in Fall. I was told my best bet is to dig them up in someone’s yard who has them growing already!

  7. Here is some information I found today from a man named Berfu Durantis–found it on the web when I was researching the difference between the Snowdrop and the Snowflake–which look alike, but bloom about a month apart. I bought the Snowflake today erroneously. Here is some information I thought interesting by Durantis:

    “According to legend, Snowdrops became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end an angel appeared. This angel transformed some of the snowflakes into Snowdrop flowers to prove that winters do eventually give way to spring.

    However, according to German legend, when God made all things he asked the snow to go to the flowers and get a little colour from them. All the flowers refused until he finally asked a Snowdrop to give a little of its colour. The Snowdrop agreed and as a regard the snow lets it bloom before all other flowers in spring.

    In English folklore, Snowdrops are thought unlucky if brought into the house, representing death or parting from a loved one. A single Snowdrop blooming in the garden warns of impending disaster. Wearing a Snowdrop is said to bless you with pure thoughts. Bringing a Snowdrop indoors will lead to a death in the house. This led to the plant also being known as Death’s Flower.

    Monks brought Snowdrop bulbs to England from Rome and planted them around their monasteries. Traditionally on Candlemas (2 February) the image of the Virgin Mary was taken down and a handful of Snowdrop blooms scattered in its place. Snowdrops were known to botanists of old as Bulbous Violets. Gerard’s “Herbal” refers to early-flowering Violets also being known as Snowdrops. In 1465 the Snowdrop was classed as an emmenagogue and as having digestive properties although it is not really used today as a herb.”

  8. I’ve never planted snow drops and don’t believe I’ve ever seen them first hand. I have an old fashioned garden in front of the studio I’d like to try them in. I am inspired after spending a few minutes here reading. I really like this blog.

  9. Angie–they’d probably be very pretty in the old fashioned garden. I have the hardest time finding them at this time of year–but I’m on the lookout. The “Snowflake” looks an awful lot like them–and fooled me. I hope you do follow along–I can use the eye of a visual artist to help me in this process.

  10. emilydickinsonsgarden

    This is from Marta McDowell, the author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens! Catch her at–

    Hi, Linda. Thank you for reading my book! I have lots of snowdrops in my garden, both the regular Galanthus nivalis and the large Galanthus elwesii. They like to seed around, and today I just moved some clumps to new spots in my front garden. Luckily the deer don’t eat them, because that’s outside the fence. Snowdrops are best moved “in the green”, so sometimes they’re a bit hard to start from bulbs in the fall. They just don’t like to dry out. So it’s best if you can find a friend who can share some, and now’s a great time to go dig them.

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