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Snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall

There have been snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall for hundreds of years but latterly they were hidden under the fallen trees, nettles, brambles and so on which crept into the woodlands over the last few decades. Since owning the hall in 2005, we have cleared more and more of the woodlands and have been stunned by the thousands of snowdrops which have emerged. The spectacular display of snowdrops are made up of two species – the single Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis and double Galanthus nivalis ‘flore pleno’. Who could have planted them? We’re not really sure, but the appearance of Mercurialis perennis (dog’s mercury) in the woods leads us to believe that they are ancient woodlands.

My gardener and I have spent many years clearing the woodlands of ground ivy, planted over tens of thousands of new snowdrops and split and divided thousands more. Where there were once just clumps of snowdrops, there’s now carpets of ‘white magic’…

Snowdrop Days:

We have opened the 12-acre garden for Snowdrops Days since 2011 and this year they are being held on Sat 13th and Sun 21st Feb from 10-4pm. Admission adults £5; kids go free. Dogs on leads welcome.

Species Walk

In 2011, with some expert help from Mike Heagney, I planted a  Species Snowdrop Walk, a selection of a few rare and interesting snowdrops in a section of cleared woodland. Two of these species snowdrops have excellent Yorkshire connections – Galanthus ‘James Backhouse’ comes from the Backhouse Nurseries in York from 1875 and Galanthus ‘Mrs Thompson’ was discovered in the 1950s by the eponymously named Mrs Thompson in a back garden in Escrick. Once very rare this variety is now more widely available.
Image left by Cat Hepple.

Other single varieties of snowdrop in the species walk include G Sophie North, found in a garden in Dunblane and named after a little girl who was tragically caught up in the dreadful massacre in Scotland. Washfield Warham (pictured right) originates from a Kent nursery near Hawkshurst.

Double varieties of snowdrops include Blewbury Tart from Blewbury in Oxfordshire in 1975 and Jacquenetta, one of a range of double snowdrops raised in the 1940s by HA Greatorex of Norwich. Some of the snowdrops are very rare including Peg Sharples while another is from a galanthophile friend, simply named Roadside Weed from where it was found. I have added to the species walk over the last two years with additions from Beth Chatto, Avon Bulbs and Gee Tee Bulbs.

Snowdrops Fact File

  • A love of snowdrops is called Galanthophila and someone, like me who loves snowdrops is a Galanthophile.
  • The snowdrop became a symbol of hope according to legend. After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve wept bitterly at her first sight of snow. Whereupon an angel turned some of the snowflakes into snowdrops to show her that winter does eventually turn into spring.


  • Hope or death? The Victorians believed that the snowdrop conveyed a message of hope, but also represented death. This idea may come from its habit of blooming just above a cold and lifeless earth and partly from the petals resemblance to a folded white shroud. This association is probably why bringing snowdrops into the house is thought to be very unlucky.
  •  The snowdrop’s botanical name is Galanthus nivalis. Galanthus derived from the Greek words for milk (gala) and flower (anthos), and nivalis being the Latin for snowy. Common names include Fair Maid of February, Bulbous Violet, Maids of February, Mary’s Tapers or Candlemas Bells.
  • Are they native or not? Well, the answer is a bit of both. The snowdrop is a sparsely distributed native wild flower which was spread extensively by organised planting. There are nearly 20 wild snowdrop species, from all over Europe, and from these hundreds of cultivated varieties have been developed.
  • Our native variety is Galanthus nivalis a member of the lily family, closely related to the daffodil.
  • This small white flower has healing powers. Traditionally it was used as a rub-on treatment for headaches, painkiller and poison antidote.
  •  White gold – Previously the most expensive single snowdrop was Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ which was sold for £725 on eBay in 2013. But the record was broken last February 2015 when someone paid £1,390 (plus £4 postage) on eBay for Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’!
  • Traditionally on Candlemas (2nd February) the image of the Virgin Mary was taken down and a handful of snowdrop blooms were scattered in its place.
  • How to plant snowdrops – lift and divide snowdrops when the foliage is just dying back in late spring. Or you can buy plants just after flowering when their leaves are still green, (‘in the green’). Plant snowdrops in a partly-shaded position in a moist, but well-drained soil with leafmould or garden compost. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer. For more info on snowdrop maintenance, see the RHS website.

To a Snowdrop

LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend…

…Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!
Worthsworth, Rydal Mount, 1819

Goldsborough Hall
Nr Knaresborough
North Yorkshire

tel 01423 867321