What’s the point of a snowdrop when there’s no snow?



For me, snowdrops are simply the first indicators that spring—and a much more interesting display—is on the way, and I think one of the nice things about them is that they often appear as if by magic during a partial thaw. But if I lived in England and belonged to some wacky snowdrop-worshipping cult, I might feel differently. There, where it is usual for them to bloom in February, annual snowdrop galas are held and single bulbs of unusual varieties like “Green Tear” and “E. A. Bowles” go for $500 each. I’m no snowdrop connoisseur; I have nivalis, nivalis “Flore Pleno,” and elwesii, and that’s good enough for me.

In Britain, as they are here, the snowdrops are early; they started in December and were forming carpets by January according to garden writer Monty Don. Early February snowdrops are the norm in the UK, but not in Buffalo, where I usually see them in March. Gardeners throughout the Northeast are getting their early spring blooms in late winter; in Philadelphia, some have already seen tulips come and go.  The groundhog may have predicted 6 more weeks of winter, but if it is 6 more weeks of the gray, dull winter that wasn’t, at least we'll have some unexpected flowers to enliven it.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I think we’ll be lucky if we have only 6 more weeks of winter. I don’t mind this mild winter if it presages a prompt arrival of spring. My snowdrops did quite well last year.

  2. My snowdrops were blooming on January 1. the earliest ever for me. Usually they are mid february. Honey bees come out for them if it is at all warm and sunny. I always have to get down on my stomach to sniff their sweetness. One more way to embarras the children and make the husband question my sanity. I love my snowdrops, have two of the common types, can’t see me ever being a rabid collector, just not my personality. That said, the first flower I ever bought was snowdrop bulbs at about age 11. Neighbors had some and I just fell in love. Decades later I would pass a house that had thousands. It inspired me. I want as many as I can get in the ground. Never can have too many of the minor spring bulbs.

  3. My snowdrops started blooming at the end of January! The bigger variety, I think it’s “elwessyi”, is blooming first, but the others are not far behind.

    Snowdrops are ok, but I agree the best thing about them is that they are an early, early sign of spring. If I had to pick favorite early bulbs, I’d say give me crocuses and some of the species tulips.

    I don’t mind an early spring as long as it doesn’t mean stuff buds out and then gets whacked by a hard freeze.

  4. Interesting, Elizabeth – Over here in Rochester, there’s not a sign of a snowdrop in any of the beds, but my winter aconites have begun to bloom. Also noticed a few peony spears sticking up. Poor judgement on the part of the peonies….

  5. I wonder if I could get some to grow and bloom outside my basement windows, so I could see them at eye level. Unfortunately, said windows are on the south side of the house in full sun.

  6. OK, I live an hour south of Philadelphia. My witchhazel is blooming. The species crocus are coming up but not blooming yet. And I have yet to see a see a daffodil, let alone a tulip. Where are tulips blooming? In city courtyards? Where they only plant them 2 inches deep? Just curious….

  7. Still waiting for winter to arrive – we’ve been crazy warm & dry. So far behind on rain it’s scary, mosquitos are out like it’s July. With the fruit tree buds swelling already, it looks like we’ll skip winter this year.

  8. I take my previous comment back – late yesterday afternoon, I went out to pick up some trash that had blown into the yard, and out back by my pergola, some ‘Sam Arnott’ snowdrops were blooming! Happy, happy, joy, joy!

  9. Unless a snowdrop is pushing it’s way out of the snow… it does very little for me. There’s something about them out in the wild that makes me think of a fairytale. If you stick them in a vase though, to me the magic is gone. Utterly and fully gone.

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