Quietly elegant flowers dressed in simple white and green, snowdrops look too fragile to cope with wintery weather. They are however very resilient and are treasured by gardeners for their ability to flower early in the horticultural year. In Snowdrop Gail Harland explores how they have been used by non-gardeners too, as symbols of purity and of hope and consolation. In Victorian Britain snowdrop bands encouraged chastity among young women; today snowdrops are used as the symbols of several charities. Snowdrops are commonly found in flower paintings from the sixteenth century onwards and frequently appear in poetry and prose. Medicinally they are a source of galantamine, used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
The gentle beauty of the snowdrop may have attracted the attention of poets and artists for centuries but today snowdrops are more popular than ever before, with record-breaking sums being reached for individual bulbs. The rise of snowdrop enthusiasts, known as galanthophiles, has been much commented on and an expanding number of snowdrop events draw fans from around the world to discuss, admire and buy specimens of these enchanting plants.
Snowdrop is the ideal companion for galanthophiles or indeed any plant lovers who are interested in the emotional and cultural aspects of these much-loved plants.
Gail Harland combines work as a dietitian with horticultural writing. Her previous publications include The Tomato Book (2009), Designing and Creating a Cottage Garden (2011) and The Weeder's Digest (2012).