Snowdrop, (Danish Vintergæk), was named the Morning Star among winter flowers. It arrives early, trickeling
up through the snow already in February or even before if the winter is
mild. But it is a flower of the cold winter months, it has gone before
spring takes a serious hold.
Snowdrop is a low
bulp-plant, ab. 10-20 cm high. The yellow-green shoots are the first
showing above the soil. In the shoot are both two leaves and one flower.
The white bell-shaped flowers last about one month, but there might be
flowers from February till April dependent on the course of winter and
the placement of the bulbs in the garden.
thrives best in moist, nutrient-rich humus, where it comes back year
after year. If the bulbs are in the lawn, it is important that they are
allowed to die down, before the lawn is mowed the first time or else the
bulb cannot gather enough nourishment till next year. The fastest way
to grow new snowdrops is to have a lump of bulbs from friends or family.
It is easy to move the lump with flowers, if they are moved in a whole
lump and plant in the same depth. Or of course buy bulbs and put them in
the soil in 5-10 cm's depth during autumn.
is propagated from seed or sidebulbs. That's why a group of snowdrops
grow bigger each year. After they have ceased to flower they can be
increased in numbers when dividing the bulbs carefully, and since they
do not endure drying they have to be plant the same day. If sidebulbs
are placed in the garden in various places it takes two years before
they are big enough to flower. A snowdrop can also be propagated by the
seeds, it takes ab. 4 years before there is a bulb able to set flowers.
The seed-propagating is done by nature itself, but if snowdrops emerge
in strange places, then it might be the ants or mice who move seeds and
There are ab. 14 various snowdrops. The most
common sorts are all Galanthus nivalis. They look alike but have various
green markings upon the white flower-head. A few are different like
Galanthus nivalis Plenus with filled flowers, Galanthus nivalis ssp
Reginaeolgae, which flowers in autumn. The last mentioned looks like the
common snowdrop but has shorter petals, and the flowerbells have a
green horseshoe-shaped marking.
Very different are
Maximus with larger flowers, Lutescus with yellow markings on the petals
and Pictur with green spots upon outer and inner petals. These
relatives come especially from Turkey. Most of them are delicate towards
Snowdrop is closely connected to a Danish tradition about writing gækkebreve.
A snowdrop, fresh or dried, is put together with a finely cut letter.
The sender writes his/her name with dots and adds a small verse, and
then it's up to the receiver to guess from whom the letter comes. If
this is not solved the receiver has to give the sender an Easter egg.
kan be put indoors for earlier flowering - dig up a lump when the
shoot is traceable, plant it in a pot and place it as cool as possible.
As soon as the flowers have withered they can be plant in the garden
For the fun of it can coloured ink be added to
the water in a vase with snowdrops, and in a few hours the petals will
be red, green or blue etc. In a vase or pot with full-blown snowdrops
their heads will close if they are put in a cool place.
is important to let the green leaves stay on the withered flowers. The
green gathers nourishment for the next years' blooming. This goes for
both snowdrops and other bulb-plants.
The plant was
also used in folk medicine. It contains an active substance called
galanthamine, which can be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's
disease, though it is not a cure.
It is useful as a bee-plant because of its early flowering and it gives much nectare but only a little pollen.
generic name tagalanthus from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos
(flower), was given to the genus by Carl Linnaeus in 1735. He described
Galanthus nivalis in his Species Plantarum published in 1753. The
epithet "nivalis" means "of the snow", referring either to the snow-like
flower or the plant's early flowering. The common name snowdrop first
appeared in the 1633 edition of John Gerard's Great Herbal . Other
British traditional common names include February Fairmaids,
Dingle-Dangle, Candlemas bells, Mary's tapers and in parts of Yorkshire
Snow Pierces (like the French name perce-neige).
Source: Anemette Olesen, Idényt.
photo Forsthaven: grethe bachmann