Admired for their subtle splendour, Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), are small flowering bulbs originating from Eastern Europe and Russia. Nowadays, this ornamental plant is naturalized around the world.
A precursor to spring, the snowdrop is one of the earliest flowers blooming in our gardens. A welcome sight to many after a long, cold winter, including me.
As an early flowering plant, snowdrops are an important early spring food source for pollinators.
According to lore, snowdrops were once held sacred as flowers representing virginity during medieval times, which may account for their naturalized state near convents and monastic buildings.
“A flow’r that first in this sweet garden smiled,
To virgins sacred, and the Snowdrop styled.” – Thomas Tickell
Peasants in some parts of England considered it unlucky to take a sprig into a house. Single flowers were harbingers of impending death, so I wonder if a bouquet would have been a safer bet?! In any case, this flower was viewed as a death-token by peasants who looked at it like it was a shrouded corpse. I suppose there’s no accounting for taste!
However, knowing that the whole plant is toxic, bulb included, perhaps some poor medieval soul took a bulb inside, ate it thinking it was a shallot, and promptly met their maker. My own speculation, but perhaps that’s how folklore surrounding all sorts of morbidity begins . In this case and others, we’ll not likely ever know!
In any case, right now, snowdrops are blooming in many parts of Europe and the British Isles. I won’t likely see them popping up in my garden for another six weeks or so, but until then, I’ll live vicariously, viewing photos on social media from people across the pond or in the lower U.S. states, where spring is ready to roll!
– Anticipation seems to be the mainstay of many a gardener!
An easy to grow specimen, I enjoy it because of the blooms that look like dainty miniature snapdragons. The ‘wispy-ness’ of the whole plant, along with foliage that makes it appear much more delicate than it actually is, sways disarmingly in a warm summer breeze!
As an upright self-seeding perennial, every year I am able to collect literally hundreds of seeds from this plant. Having said that, Linaria doesn’t spread in what some may call a nasty way, like Phytostegia for example, as purple toadflax is easy to remove if they start sprouting where they’re not wanted.
The bees and butterflies are very attracted to Linaria. I don’t think I’ve ever viewed this plant during its tenure without some type of pollinator making a visit! What really makes me happy though is that the Deer never graze upon them, even though there are other plants right beside them that are often chomped upon, hostas and a giant blue Lobelia, for example.
Seeds should be sown at approximately ½’”depth, and spaced about 4” apart. The plant forms little clumps which are easily divided, placed in other spots of your garden, or shared with friends!
The location where it seems quite happy in my garden is a sunny spot with dappled shade, however it enjoys full sun or alternatively, even a deeper shady local.
Linaria grows to 36″ and the clumps are about 24″ wide. It is drought tolerant, too. Methinks it’s an underrated plant, maybe due to its affinity to its roadside relative, ‘butter and eggs’, but imho, this lovely taller purple variety is well deserving of a spot in any garden.