“... these frail snowdrops that together cling,
And nod their helmets, smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirl-blast sweeping by...”

On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm
William Wordsworth

Field Head Outgate Snowdrops by Tony RichardsHeralds of spring, snowdrops bravely poke their heads through the ground during Cumbria's rain and snow in late January and February. Whether in gardens or growing wild, they carpet the ground with six to eight inch stems from which hang white drops. In fact, their generic name, Galanthus, comes from the Greek, translating as ‘milkflower’. Galanthus nivalis is the common English variety with the nivalis deriving from the Latin for ‘resembling snow’.

Langdale Snowdrops courtesy of Tony RichardsThe Romans believed the snowdrop came down from heaven and associated it with the idea of purity. In the 1400's snowdrops were thought to be a digestive aid. They became fashionable in England after the Crimean War, and Victorians with their passion for plants and gardening brought many varieties to England.

Troutbeck Snowdrops courtesy of Tony RichardsSearch for them in Cumbria's woods, orchards, and pastures. They like both sun and partial shade and spread over the years into compact masses.

Snowdrops are a promise of spring, and Wordsworth, clearly taken with them, wrote a second poem, To A Snowdrop, in their honour:

“... Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,...”

Photo courtesy of Tony Richards

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