Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 3 February 2014

100 Flowers : #006 Snowdrop

It had to come along sooner or later . . .

#006 : Galanthus nivalis


The mild weather has meant a relatively early flowering for the Snowdrops in our garden. I wanted to write this post in January, but last week was very busy, I realise now that the perfect day for a blogpost about Snowdrops or Candlemas Bells was yesterday, the 2nd February, Candlemas Day.

The botanical name's meaning is beautifully straightforward –
Galanthus : is from the greek 'gala' meaning 'milk' and 'anthos' which means flower.
nivalis : means 'of the snow'
. . . milk-white flowers that appear in the snow

For some the allure of this diminutive white flower, that appears in the coldest time of the year for a few weeks, is irresistible; it is the tiniest of variations of petal markings that sends them into raptures of delight. If you happen to spot a group of people squatting down, peering at the ground in a shady wooded garden, they may be Galanthophiles. There are specialist nurseries such as this one that I regularly drive past on the edge of the Fens, selling named varieties and some people will pay high sums to obtain the rarest of Snowdrops.

I don't consider myself to be a Galanthophile, but I can appreciate the beauty of the flowers and their subtle perfume. I actually prefer the single blooms, we have a few different ones in our garden but I've lost their labels. There are far more of the double ones (Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flora Pleno'), I suppose that because they have been in the garden for longer they have self-seeded and spread. Taking close-up photos of the flowers is very tricky, they like to grow in shady spots and the slightest breeze makes them quiver. I picked two Snowdrops to photograph indoors, both were doubles . . .

These are flowers from two different clumps of Snowdrops, you can see a slight difference between them . . . that's what Galanthophiles get shivers of excitement about . . . tiny variations in the little green mark on the inner petals and the size and shape of the ovary behind the flower.

Because the flower hangs downward you have to turn them over to appreciate the pretty rosette of white and green petals and the yellow anthers tucked inbetween.

TO A SNOWDROP by William Wordsworth 
Written in 1819

Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they 
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

Maybe that's the attraction for a Galanthophile . . . a once a year fix! Miss your chance and you'll have a wait a whole year to see your precious blooms again.


PS: Follow the 100 Flowers on Pinterest


  1. I like snowdrops. I'm not a galanthophile its a splurge too far. I love seeing them in spring and every year I think about how to improve my photographs of them. Last year my most atmospheric shot was taken on my phone! Despite much time spent with my proper camera crawling in the undergrowth.

  2. just lovely. I divided the clumps in my garden and they almost all died...............

  3. You have snowdrops. We have snow. Sigh.

    1. Aye, me too - 3 or 4 feet of it and more to come >sigh<


  4. Celia, we've been having actual snow falls recently. Accumulations vary, but always enough to dampen my enthusiasm for a walk over to Central Park to check the possible snowdrop appearances there.

    More snow due tomorrow morning.

    Meanwhile, I do thank you for these great close up views and information. That final picture is my favorite. What a fabulous designer nature is!

    (Your latest studio newsletter is also beautifully designed and informative.) xo

  5. They are such a joy aren't they? A friend bought me some last year from Anglesey Abbey and I have a beautiful double one which came with the garden.

  6. Some of my very favourite flowers, so perfect and a delight to see them poking through the hard ground in Winter

  7. So simple, and so beautiful. I look forward to the snowdrops in our garden every year. Watching out for them and waiting for the flowers to open makes January bearable!

  8. Brilliant post!

    I did the same thing, posted about Candlemas Bells the day after Candlemas.

  9. Lovely thoughts - I've just been inspecting my bowl of snowdrops rather intrusively as a result!

  10. Thank you for all your comments on this and the previous posts, I'm way behind with replies but I have read and enjoyed all of them xx

  11. Snowdrops never fail to charm and bring a smile to my face. I know they have come even earlier this year - for me, I consider that a bonus. The single variety is simply beautiful isn't it?

  12. I do love snowdrops, although I don't have any in my Ottawa garden. I might tray planting some this year in the beds up against the back of the house where I have my crocuses. I doubt they would flower in January (they would be very foolish flowers if they did!) but they might pop up by early March. It would be nice to see their pretty little bobbing heads.


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