Beautiful drifts of white snowdrops are one of the great pleasures of visiting National Trust gardens at the end of winter. Despite the cold, snowdrops can be found thriving in pastures, woods, gardens and orchards across the UK in January and February. Their white petals and green leaves brighten the winter months and signal warmer weather is on the horizon.
But how much do you know about these dainty little flowers? There are more than 2,500 varieties of snowdrop and its Greek name ‘Galanthus’, translates as the ‘milk flower’. They first became fashionable in the Victorian era, but no one knows for sure when they were first introduced to the UK.
They’re also incredibly clever, as they contain a natural antifreeze. When temperatures reach 10ᵒC and above, the outer petals open-up revealing the nectar inside. When the temperature drops, the petals close. This is perfect for bumblebees, which come out of hibernation when the temperature rises above 10ᵒC and rely on these early flowers as a vital nectar source.
Here are some of the best spots to enjoy a snowdrop walk:
Ickworth Estate, Suffolk
- Snowdrop Walk, Friday 16 February
Take a crisp winter walk through Ickworth to discover carpets of snowdrops along Geraldine’s walk, as well as The Albana Walk and Trim Trail. There are two main varieties that you can see at Ickworth Estate: Galanthus nivalis, which is the most common of all the snowdrops, flowering from late-January and growing to around 7 – 15cm tall. Galanthus elwesii is larger than the nivalis and flowers slightly later, these snowdrops originate from Turkey and grow to around 20 – 25cm tall. The pretty white flowers are complemented by the golden glow of aconites scattered throughout.
Join the Head Gardener for a guided walk to find out more about Ickworth’s snowdrop collection. Pre-booking recommended. Guided tour is £7. Normal admission applies.
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Wimpole boasts a large collection of snowdrops too, along with aconites throughout the Pleasure Grounds. Why not brighten up a winter’s day with a walk to see them?
Normal admission applies.
Peckover House & Garden, Cambridgeshire
Throughout February and into early March, Peckover House will be opening the garden gates earlier this year, so more people can enjoy their beautiful snowdrop display. Come along, take in the sights and smells of the garden in winter and enjoy a sneak peek at the first signs of the changing season ahead.
Open at weekends from 3 February. Normal admission applies.
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
- Pre-book The Specialist Collection Tours, Monday–Friday and every Sunday from 29 January to 29 February 2024
Anglesey Abbey has one of the finest snowdrop collections in the country, with 400 varieties of these delicate white flowers, many of which are rare. Take in their beauty amongst a collection of classical statues and wander through the Winter Garden, also in its prime at this time of year.
You can also enjoy a closer look at the specialist snowdrop collection, when you join one of the National Trust’s knowledgeable garden team on a pre-booked tour. Here you’ll see some rather special varieties including Galanthus nivalis ‘Anglesey Abbey’ which is a snowdrop that was discovered at and named after Anglesey Abbey. Its green v-shape mark on the tips of the inner petals are what gives this single snowdrop its recognisable features and it often flowers around the middle of January.
Tours are free, but a £5 donation would be gratefully received, which will go towards the care of the gardens at Anglesey Abbey. Normal admission to Anglesey Abbey applies.
Oxburgh Estate, Norfolk
- Snowdrop Guided Tours, Gardener led: Every Sunday & Monday in February
Late winter and early spring at Oxburgh Estate is a natural wonder. Thousands of snowdrops and winter aconites put on a memorable display each year in the Wilderness, My Lady’s Wood and on the North Terrace. The plants are allowed to self-seed, creating a beautiful, natural scene. The Wilderness was created in deliberate contrast to the more formal gardens and showcases a beautiful carpet of snowdrops, followed by aconites and finally bluebells across the woodland floor. Scented shrubs, evergreen planting, and mature lime trees surround the space and create a romantic illusion of an untamed landscape.
To find out more about Oxburgh’s snowdrop collection, book your place on a snowdrop tour with a National Trust gardener. Suggested donation of £5. Normal admission applies.