Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
In the coldest part of their range (USDA Zone 3), snowdrops often wake up and flower with old snow around their ankles and new snow coming. Two zones warmer, snowdrops bloom for me before the official end of winter on March 22. It’s the earliest bulb I grow. Some years, the patch at my front door hits full bloom and wanes before I even see it (because I avoid imaginary frostbite by sprinting between the back door and the car in the driveway most of the winter).
The flowers nod on curving stems. Each flower has an outer circle of four cupped, white petals that flare apart, and inner petals that are shorter and gather together. The outer petals are white in this species (Galanthus nivalis), but sometimes have a trace of green at the tip, while the inner petals have a notch at the tip and a green band that follows the notch. There’s grace in the way the flowers nod, as if they’re honoring the departure of King Winter.
There are choices in snowdrops. Though G. nivalis is the most commonly grown of the three or four species, it also has variations, including a double (extra petals) called 'Flore Pleno,' one with green-tipped outer petals called 'Viridi-apice,' a fragrant selection called ‘Sam Arnott,’ and ‘White Dream,’ which has a pale streak in the leaves.
Snowdrops are reliable bulbs. If you plant them in a spot with well-drained soil that gets sun in late winter they will multiply year after year. They have a fragrance like honey (but you have to get close to smell it). My patch attracts an odd-looking (and cold-hardy) fly that never appears any other time of the growing year.
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