Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Snowdrops Sing of Spring

Posted in Horticulture on March 14 2014, by Kristin Schleiter

Kristin Schleiter is the NYBG’s Associate Vice President of Outdoor Gardens and Senior Curator. She oversees the wonderful gardening team that keeps our flowering gardens looking topnotch, curates the herbaceous gardens and collections, and manages the curator of woody plants. She lives and gardens in Fairfield, CT.

Galanthus elwesii

Every February, I can be found on my knees in the Garden poking and prodding and looking for signs that my beloved snowdrops are coming up to signal the beginning of spring. Pushing aside the snow, I see small green noses forcing their way up for a whiff of warm air. Even a single sunny day can bring forth elegant white blossoms which have a lovely honey scent. The spring’s earliest snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii, are blooming now in the Perennial and Azalea Gardens. Their glaucous blue foliage and large flowers create a much nicer drift of white.

Galanthus will seed around nicely if planted in an area of the garden that isn’t frequently worked. The most fun of all is waiting for the seedlings to bloom and looking carefully at each one to note the differences in the green markings on the delicate cup inside. At first it seems that they are all alike, but once you start looking at the details, you begin to see that, like a snowflake, each is just a little bit different. Soon you can spot an extra long pedicel or slight green blush on the outer petals easily.

Many Galanthophiles (snowdrop nuts!) use peep sticks (mirrors attached to long sticks) to peek inside the flowers. I prefer a much less genteel method. I like to get down on the ground—hobnobbing with the bees who float from blossom to blossom—and lose myself in the details of this marvelous plant.