Winter aconite. Snowdrops

Winter aconite. By Marilyn Peddle and licensed for reuse under CC BY 2.0.

Snowdrops and aconites turn up so reliably from January to March, depending where you are in the country. It’s so good to see them coming through the ground, and to be reminded that spring is here - or practically here.

Snowdrops are white and green; aconites are buttery-yellow with a green ruff. These two plants make a perfect combination. They both grow from bulbs and multiply keenly and happily. In established gardens and undisturbed spots, such as under large trees, they spread into wonderfully patterned carpets. ‘Snowdrop gardens’ are open to the public now and like Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, they often have aconites mixed in too.

Visit a garden to drink it all in.

It’s OK, you don’t have to be a galanthophile

You don’t have to be a galanthophile (that is, a snowdrop fancier) in order to like snowdrops.

Just let me tell you that there are 19 wild species of Galanthus, growing from Spain to the Caucasus, and most are found in Turkey. G. nivalis is the common snowdrop which is excellent in the garden. There are hundreds of cultivars, some say more than 1,000.

Snowdrop gardens (and probably aconites too)

We don’t all have swathes of grass where snowdrops and aconites can grow undisturbed but we can enjoy the spectacle by visiting gardens open to the public during February and March.

Aconites and snowdrops near King Edward, Aberdeenshire.

Aconites and snowdrops near King Edward, Aberdeenshire. © Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under CC BY 2.0.

Some gardens are well known to be carpeted with snowdrops at this time of year. Others less well known are opening for charity as part of the National Gardens Scheme Snowdrop Festival, and for Scotland’s Gardens as part of the Scottish Snowdrop Festival. There may be more gardens opening locally.

Snowdrops sorted …

Q: I love snowdrops but my garden is small. What can I do?

A: My garden is small too but I’ve decided to let snowdrops multiply in (= take over) the tiny front garden. A pocket-hanky sea of white and green welcomes me when I come home and it’s lovely.

Q: I always forget to divide snowdrops ‘in the green’ and I know I’m going to forget this year too. What should I do?

A: There’s a school of thought that says this doesn’t matter. At Colesbourne Park (‘England’s greatest snowdrop garden’) they say,

We do not move snowdrops in growth, only as dormant bulbs, when they take no harm, and in our experience this is very much more successful. Mark the plants when in growth and as the foliage yellows in late April or May, or when they are dormant in June and July, lift and split the clumps into their component bulbs and replant as soon as possible.

Do get out and enjoy these spring flowers if you can this month!