January Snowdrops

31 January 2018

Public Ownership

On December 15th, 2017, the wonderful Bannockburn House passed into public ownership for the first time in three and a half centuries, so Bannockburn House Trust now owns the House and the surrounding grounds of twenty-six acres. In the coming years we aim to bring all of this back to life and share it with you.

The Gardens

The Gardens are neglected and overgrown but underneath the brambles, nettles and broken branches there are treasures waiting to be revealed. It will take us time to identify and catalogue all these trees, plants and shrubs and it is important that we photograph them and map their locations, so we can protect them in the months and years ahead as the plans for the grounds take shape.


Now that the snow has gone, we are able to appreciate the large clumps of Snowdrops popping up all over the place, a welcome sign that Spring is on its way and warmer days will follow. Ours are snug in the woodlands, hidden under fruit trees, nodding by the rhododendron bushes and jostling for space with the daffodils which are beginning to creep up through the rich, dark soil. I’m always amazed that such dainty, delicate flowers are strong enough to survive the harsh frosts and winter darkness. The first Snowdrop of the year is always an exciting find but it is only since the 1990’s that they have been appearing in January. As recently as the 1950’s they were only recorded as blooming towards the end of February.


Despite the presence of many rabbits and deer, our Snowdrops are not eaten because they contain toxic substances. It’s odd that such an innocent flower can be poisonous, but the plant actually contains several chemicals which can be used as insecticides and medicines and one such extract is currently being researched to treat Alzheimer’s and HIV.

Milk-Flower of the Snow

Snowdrops are sometimes called ‘Candlemas Bells’ or ‘February Fairmaids’. Their botanical name Galanthus nivalis means ‘Milk-flower of the Snow’ (Gala – ‘milk’, anthos – ‘flower’, nivalis – ‘of the snow’), a perfect description.   

Native Lands

In their native lands, they grow extensively from the Ukraine across to Spain, preferring deep rich soil in a partly shaded area. Sadly, many long-established colonies have been destroyed because Snowdrop bulbs are the most heavily traded, wild-collected bulb world-wide and as a result the plant is ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Tradition has it that they were brought here by the Romans however recent research now believes that they were introduced in the sixteenth century. It would be fascinating to know how old ours are!

Scottish Snow Drop Venues

Snowdrops are beautiful flowers and if it’s a dry, sunny day you might catch their delicate scent on the breeze. They say it takes a hundred years to carpet a forest floor with Snowdrops so why not go out these next few weekend and visit some of the well-known Scottish Snowdrop venues. If you do, you will see large swathes of the nodding, white flowers which look like actual snowdrifts from a distance and it is an unforgettable sight.

You might even be able to visit ours next year!

Blog from our Gardening Volunteer Group.