Galanthus – Snowdrops

Galanthus ‘S.Arnott’

Still looking forward to spring? Besides daffodils and crocuses there is another bulb that blooms early and is a harbinger of spring. It is a bulb native to Europe and Turkey that has a common name of Fair Maid of February because that is when many of the species bloom. In the US they are more commonly known as snowdrops.

Snowdrops are in the Galanthus family, a small family of about 20 species. Galanthus nivalis is the best-known and most widespread representative of this genus. And Galanthus nivalis S. Arnott seems to be the finest, sweetly honey scented, long lasting variety. Galanthus may be celebrated as a sign of spring, but an area blanketed with the flowers can look like there is still a field of snow in places where they are native or have been naturalised.

Galanthus ‘S.Arnott’ enjoying the sunshine

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.

Galanthus grow in zones 3 through 9 though they do better in the cooler, Northern climates. Plant bulbs in early fall 2 to 4 inches apart and covered with 2 to 3inches of soil. All snowdrops prefer cool, moist conditions in the spring and a surprisingly dry summer dormancy in the shade which makes them good to plant under deciduous trees. Do NOT fertilize. The bulbs can be left undisturbed for years. But when you want to divide them, dig and divide soon after flowering and replant IMMEDIATELY so roots do not dry out. If you want you can plant seedlings which take 3 to 4 years to flower.

A great place to buy Galanthus bulbs is from Brent and Becky’s bulbs. The reason that this is a great place is that Brent and Becky’s dig and ship bulbs earlier than most places so that you know the bulbs are freshly dug allowing you to plant the bulbs really early in the fall to give them a good head start.

If you want to order Galanthus plants, TheGardenLady was told that they don’t ship well and there are only 2 places in the US to buy Galanthus in the plant stage. One place to buy the plants is from Carolyn’s Shade Garden at 325 S.  Roberts Rd in Bryn Mawr, PA 19010. But you have to go to her garden to pick up the plants. (TheGardenLady will soon be writing about Carolyn and her wonderful plants.)

Seeds seem to be trickier to buy. Most seed distributors seem to be in the UK.

2 Replies to “Galanthus – Snowdrops”

  1. Lilac, I am beguiled every year by snowdrops. I always enjoy the snowdrops at Winterthur, but there are also several abandoned gardens in the area (Delaware along the Brandywine) where they have naturalized and form speckled, white carpets in the early spring.

  2. Can you tell me what is the 2nd place to buy snowdrop plants? Are there any in the Raleigh, NC area, or mail order that you know of?

    Thank you!

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