Poets love snowdrops. Even Linnaeus got lyrical when he classified them as Galanthus nivalis, which translates as “milky flower of the snow” (in Greek, gala = milk and anthos = flower). For St. Francis the snowdrop was an emblem of hope and the touch of green on the inner petals has often been seized upon as a symbol of spring’s return. It is uplifting to see the green sword-shaped leaves piercing the snow and the apparently fragile bell-shaped flowers resisting all that winter can hurl at them.
There is some disagreement about when the snowdrop was introduced to Britain: some say as late as the 16th century. It’s noticeable for its absence in Shakespeare. Snowdrops grow particularly profusely in damp deciduous woodlands, and flower from January to March: this year the Big Freeze has delayed them.
A list of gardens with particularly good snowdrop displays can be found here.