. . . Brother; joy to you!
I’ve brought some snowdrops; only just a few,
Cheerful and hopeful in the frosty dew
And for the pale sun’s sake.
–“The Months”, Christina Rossetti
The number of common names for snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) may be an indication of their lasting popularity. These little white flowers have been called procession flowers, snow bells, fair maids of February and snow piercers. In my garden, it would be more apt to call them “leaf piercers”. I’ve been moving them around in past years, trying to establish little colonies in different parts of the garden, and they are now piercing through a mulch of leaves and coming into bloom. I’ve found snowdrops undemanding and easy to grow, although it is amazing how deeply I’ve had to dig to transplant them after they’ve finished flowering.
Snowdrops have also been called Candlemas bells and purification flowers. On the Welsh borders, it was believed that if a person picked a bowl of snowdrops and brought them to a house on Candlemas, the home and everything in it would be purified.
In the language of flowers, the meaning of snowdrop is “hope” or “consolation”. Seeing these first flowers of the year certainly does herald the approach of spring, bringing hope to the heart and consolation at the end of the cold, grey winter.
Perhaps in years to come the snowdrop will also come to be associated with “remembrance” or “recollection”, since galantamine, an alkaloid obtained from the bulbs and flowers of Galanthus Caucasicus, is being used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other memory impairments.
I wouldn’t call myself a galanthophile. I stick to the easily obtainable, common sorts of snowdrops and don’t chase after any of the hundreds of cultivars that inspire such yearning in the true snowdrop lover. I’m certainly not tempted, even if I had the wherewithal, to spend more than a thousand dollars for one bulb, a price that was paid recently for an unusual snowdrop grown in Scotland. Still, I do enjoy the annual appearance of this simple, white flower with its inconspicuous green markings.