Snowdrops are one of the earliest flowers to bloom in winter, heralding brighter days to come. While not native to our shores, these beautiful bell-shaped flowers never fail to raise a smile and are a sign that warmer weather is on its way. They were first recorded growing wild in the UK in the 18th century and now can be often seen in snowy drifts throughout the countryside and in gardens and churchyards.

There are 20 species known to Europe and the Middle East with Galanthus nivalis, Galanthus elwesii and Galanthus plicatus probably being the most common. Many hybrid snowdrops have been cultivated by experts from just these three species with the rarest and most valuable being Galanthus woronowii, also known as Elizabeth Harrison or giant snowdrop.

Great British Life: Snowdrops can provide good foraging for bees early in the year. Snowdrops can provide good foraging for bees early in the year. (Image: Getty Images)

Although seemingly delicate, snowdrops are survivors and can endure winter’s frosts as their sap contains a biological version of anti-freeze that helps to inhibit ice crystals forming, limiting growth, and protecting the plant cells from damage. These tough little flowers also contain a protein that protects them from predators. In fact, this protein is so effective that scientists have tried to insert this gene into other crops with varying levels of success.

The snowdrop’s Latin name Galanthus, translates as ‘milk flower’ but through the years these pretty, nodding flowers have been known by many other folk names such as ‘White Ladies’, ‘Candlemas Bells’, ‘Eve’s tears’ and ‘February Fair Maids.’

Great British Life: Snowdrops can provide good foraging for bees early in the year. Snowdrops can provide good foraging for bees early in the year. (Image: Getty Images)

As one of the first flowers to bloom after a long, dark winter, the Victorian language of flowers associated snowdrops with hope and purity. Myths surrounding snowdrops are often associated with a promise symbolising the return of spring after winter, yet some say that snowdrops should never be brought indoors as this will bring bad luck, possibly death. Other folklore superstitions claimed that by bringing in a snowdrop, the milk would turn sour, and the eggs would spoil. So perhaps it’s best to enjoy these snowy blooms outdoors as they emerge though frozen earth in January and bring us joy through the dark days of February, sometimes into March.

And there is more to this flower than just a pretty face. Although snowdrop bulbs are poisonous if eaten, they have been used in folk medicine to treat pain, migraine, and headaches and in modern medicine an extract from the bulb is used to manage mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s in more than 70 countries around the world including the UK. The flowers provide winter forage for bees and native pollinators, providing an early source of nectar and pollen before other flowers have started to bloom.

Great British Life: Snowdrops at Bank Hall, Bretherton. Snowdrops at Bank Hall, Bretherton. (Image: Jenny Young)

7 of the best places to see snowdrops in Lancashire

Bank Hall

The grounds of Bank Hall, a Jacobean mansion in Bretherton, are open on Sundays for visitors to wander the paths and enjoy the swathes of snowdrops, which were first introduced in 1856 after the Crimean War. The Bank Hall Action Group has tended the grounds since its formation, uncovering a variety of snowdrops, some of which are unique to the garden. Over the years the snowdrops have cross- pollinated and the variety has expanded, including rare species. After a visit from the Snowdrop Society in 2007 the garden became nationally known for its snowdrops in February and is thought by some to be home to one of the best snowdrop displays in the country.

Lytham Hall

Just a mile from the centre of Lytham, the Georgian Hall is set in 78 acres of wooded parkland. The grounds are transformed when the annual snowdrop season is in full swing and millions of the blooms make a spectacular show, creating a shimmering white carpet. During weekends in February a snowdrop map and factsheet are available for a suggested fundraising donation. Well behaved dogs are welcome in the parkland and in the tearoom, café garden and courtyard.

Hornby Castle

Located in the beautiful Lune Valley, with views to the Lake District and overlooking the delightful village of Hornby, Hornby Castle will hold a snowdrop weekend on February 17 and 18. Visitors will be able to see the many varieties of snowdrops in their full glory as they adorn the woodland, river path and walled gardens. Refreshments are available and well- behaved dogs are welcome. Parking is in the village.

Gorse Hill Nature Reserve

Gorse Hill Nature Reserve is a rich and diverse habitat for wildlife and is home to many plants, birds, butterflies, and moths. Cabin Wood, which is part of Gorse Hill Nature Reserve near Ormskirk, is teeming with wildlife and is a lovely woodland walk at any time of year but is a great place to visit when the snowdrops are in bloom.

Pleasington Old Hall Wood

Pleasington Old Hall Wood at Blackburn has a small parkland, woodland belts, and a few formal gardens. A stroll through the narrow strip of woodland is well worth a visit when the snowdrops are in flower, softening the winter landscape and reassuring us that brighter days are to come when bluebells and spring flowers will replace the snowy white blooms.

Rufford Old Hall

The National Trust’s Rufford Old Hall is a beautiful Tudor building surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian gardens and woodland. As the gardens and woodland are awakening from winter it’s a peaceful place to wander as the grounds come back to life with splashes of pearly snowdrops and crocus. After a walk it’s a good place to enjoy a winter picnic or enjoy a tasty treat in the cosy Victorian tearoom.

Gresgarth Hall

Gold medal winning landscape designer, Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, will be opening her garden for the Galanthus Garden Open Day on Sunday February 11 from 11am until 3pm. Visitors can view her small collection which includes some unusual varieties including yellows, doubles, and flowers with green tips, mainly on the terrace around the house. The private gardens include terraces, lakes, a small garden, a wild garden, an extensive kitchen garden, the Millenium wood, the Rhododendron Hills, herbaceous borders and a serpentine walk, and later in the year, as the seasons shift, the snowdrops give way to a haze of bluebells in the woodland.

Guide dogs only are allowed in the garden. Most of the garden can be reached by wheelchair.

Great British Life: Separate snowdrop bulbs to avoid overcrowding. Separate snowdrop bulbs to avoid overcrowding. (Image: Getty Images)

Garden tip

Snowdrop bulbs multiply every year and overcrowding can reduce the number of flowers, so give plants in your garden a boost and create more displays by lifting and dividing the clumps. Wait until the leaves have gone yellow, then dig up the plant and carefully split it into three to five smaller clumps.

Great British Life: Snowdrops glistening after a wintry shower. Snowdrops glistening after a wintry shower. (Image: Getty Images)

Picture this

Lancashire Life chief photographer Kirsty Thompson shares some top tips for taking pictures of snowdrops.

Snowdrops are typically found in shady woodland areas which, although beautiful, can be a little challenging for light. A small tripod will help keep your camera steady and help you to get very sharp images.

Give yourself time to experiment with the light as well, as the white flowers can burn out if you trying to get detailed features in the darker background. Patience is required.

Have something waterproof you can lie or sit on so you can get down to their level and see them in detail.

Snowdrops just after it has rained can make beautiful images, with water drops hanging from the delicate petals.

And don’t forget to share your best shots with us – they could win you brilliant prizes in our annual readers’ photography competition. Simply send your pictures to For more details of the competition, see page xx.