Nothing heralds the end of winter quite like a snowdrop. Bursting from the muddy soil they have an almost other-worldly delicacy. Often found in graveyards and abbey ruins they were once planted by Norman monks as a symbol of purity and the cleansing of the earth. Come February our isle is liberally scattered with their pearl-like blooms - we've scoured the length of the country for the very best places to see them and buy them. It is best practise to buy them 'in the green', when they are in leaf, not when the bulbs are dormant.
On Saturday 27th January in Enfield, once home to botanist Edward Augustus Bowles, kicks off the season with its famous snowdrop sale. Various specialist snowdrop growers sell here and it has become a must for serious galanthophiles, enthusiasts come from as far as America and the Netherlands to get their mitts on a rare variety. The sale runs from 10.30am - 12 noon and entry is £3.50.
The Chelsea Physic Garden
The in London holds snowdrop days from the 27th January to the 4th February, it is open daily from 10am - 4pm and admission is £7.40 for adults or £4.90 for under-16s. There will be a plant marquee selling a selection of snowdrops and other winter flowering plants and also a programme of walks, talks and workshops. The tours of the garden are free and there is no need to book but do take a look at the courses which include 'Painting Snowdrops' with botanical artist Lucy T Smith and 'Photographing Snowdrops' with photographer Sue Bishop as these get sold out quickly.
The Cambo Estate
The in Fife, Scotland holds the National Collection of snowdrops, boasting over 350 different varieties. Their Snowdrop festival runs from 27th January to 11th March - entry to the woodland is £5.50 for adults and free for children. They also sell snowdrops in the green, either in single pots or in bulk. If snowdrops alone are not enough to tempt you Cambo also has a trusty team of pigs who rootle up the ivy which would otherwise threaten the snowdrops. Their piglets are born to coincide with snowdrop days!
The 12 acres of woods belonging to in Nottinghamshire have been undisturbed for centuries and snowdrops line the woodland floor under ancient trees including veteran oaks. During snowdrop season from 10th February to 4th March visitors are welcomed daily from 10am to 4pm. Admission is £5 for adults and £1 for children. One can also buy a snowdrop day pass for £15 which includes entry to the garden and tea and cake for two people.
The snowdrop collection at in Gloucestershire originated in the plantings made by Henry John Elwes who in 1874 discovered galanthus elwesii, known as the giant snowdrop, while travelling in western Turkey. Elwes was a true galanthophile and planted swathes of snowdrops in his lifetime which have since hybridised to create exciting new varieties. The present day collection is looked after and expanded upon by gardeners John Grimshaw and Will Fletcher, who plant out thousands of snowdrops each year. The gardens are open weekends from 3rd February to 4th March from 1pm - 4.30pm, admission is £8.00 for adults and free for under-16s.
Hill Close Gardens
The in Warwick are a rare example of detached Victorian leisure gardens and are dotted with historic summerhouses. A snowdrop weekend is held on Saturday 3rd - Sunday 4th February from 11am - 4pm, entry is £4.50 for adults and £1 for children. The gardens hold more than 80 varieties of snowdrops, including an entire border planted with older varieties dating from pre-1900. There is a table-top display of many different snowdrops so that the small blooms can be appreciated up close. Snowdrops will be on sale along with other spring bulbs and there are light refreshments on offer in the visitor centre.
At in Berkshire carpets of snowdrops can be seen throughout 5 acres of beech wood along the River Langbourn. The formal gardens of the Queen Anne house also hold some rarer specimens such as Lord Monstictus, Lady Elphinstone and John Gray. Welford Park is open for snowdrop viewing from Wednesday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm, from 31st January to 4th March. Entry is £7 for adults and £3 for children aged 4-16, under 4s go free! The shop sells delightful aprons and tea towels printed with a snowdrop pattern, just the thing for Mother's Day. On Thursday 26th February a plant fair will be held in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support from 11am-4pm.
The National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival
This year the is staging its third annual Snowdrop Festival. Over one hundred gardens will be open across England and Wales throughout the month of February with all proceeds going to the beneficiary charities of the NGS which include Marie Curie and Carers Trust. All the gardens taking part in the Snowdrop Festival can be searched on its website .
There are plenty of snowdrop gardens to see at this time of year, but in Northumberland is perhaps less well known than most. Winter is embraced here, with serpentine woodland walks lit up by carpets of snowdrops. There's even a snowdrop planting week in half term (February 10th - 18th), a snowdrop sculpture workshop on February 7th, and guided walks on February 8th and 22nd. The walled garden is also a draw, while the indoor winter garden offers year-round colour. Wallington is open daily from 10am to dusk; admission, £11.