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Snowdrops At The Physic Garden

January 16, 2016
by the gentle author

The Snowdrop Theatre

Today is the first Snowdrop Day at Chelsea Physic Garden. Each year, I rise early and take the District Line over to West London to join the other passionate horticulturalists at opening time. The Garden is closed during winter months but these special openings permit the opportunity to admire the drifts of snowdrops, supplemented by rare species on display in a Snowdrop Theatre and a sale of exotic varieties.

The snowdrops in my garden in Spitalfields have already been in flower for a couple of weeks, encouraging my anticipation of seeing those at the Physic Garden. Through the passing years, the wonder of these flowers that appear in the depths of winter, glowing white against the dark earth as the first harbingers of spring, has never dimmed for me. Yet such is my short-sightedness, I wonder whether the differentiation of multiple varieties may be no more than academic in my case.

Fortunately, the Physic Garden has strategies to bring snowdrops to your eye level. As you come through the entrance in Swan Walk, you encounter snowdrops growing in moss balls hanging from the trees – in the Japanese style – and then you arrive at the Snowdrop Theatre where sixteen different specimens line up for your scrutiny behind a crimson proscenium. To my mind, there has always been a drama in the appearance of snowdrops emerging out of the darkness and, placed in a theatre, their natural stage presence delivers an effortless performance worthy of applause.

Once you have taken a stroll through the woodland planting upon the southern edge of the garden where clumps of snowdrops may be viewed in an approximation of their natural environment, attending by starry yellow aconites and pale-hued hellebores, you visit the marquee where dozens of varieties are lined up on a long table just waiting for you take them home and cherish them.

I pace up and down, peering over and looking closely to ascertain the precise nature of the distinctions between all these snowdrops – some in showcases containing expensive varieties at thirty and sixty pounds a pop. Yet I cannot not bring myself to favour any particular example over another. The differences are immaterial to me because I love all snowdrops equally.

Moss balls planted with snowdrops hang from trees



Selecting snowdrops from dozens of varieties on sale

Sir Hans Sloane leased the land for the Chelsea Physic Garden to the Society of Apothecaries in 1673

SNOWDROP DAYS run at the Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Rd, Chelsea, until Sunday 24th January from 10am-4pm – including a variety of lectures, walks & workshops with snowdrop experts.

You may also like to read about

The Auriculas of Spitalfields

Bluebells At Bow Cemetery

10 Responses leave one →
  1. January 16, 2016

    Snowdrops are always a joy to see. Valerie

  2. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    January 16, 2016

    Fabulous – thank you – just what we needed to see.

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 16, 2016

    There are other species of snowdrop, as well …..
    Being further out, in Walthamstow, so not as warm as Spitalfields, my proper G nivalis didn’t flower until this Tuesday, but I’ve got some G elwesii ( With bigger, bluish leaves & considerably larger flowers) that have been out since 29th December …

  4. Annie G permalink
    January 16, 2016

    I love them all too and cannot tell one from the other. They bring such hope at a grim and grey time. Mine are already springing up and cheering me every time I look out of the kitchen window.

  5. Stephen Barker permalink
    January 16, 2016

    I love the snowdrops as hanging balls.

  6. January 16, 2016

    Gentle Author; Thank you for showing us the Snowdrop displays. yes Spring is on its way, lots of good cheer. Snowdrops are known as Candlemas Bells symbolizing hope. Perhaps for a good Spring. John.

  7. Cornish Cockney permalink
    January 16, 2016

    They opened two weeks early this year because, thanks to the mild weather in December, they would have ‘gone over’ had they waited until February as usual!

  8. susan c permalink
    January 16, 2016

    National Trust Anglesey Abbey at Lode outside Cambridge has heavenly winter garden.
    … . Also Wandlebury has magnificent snowdrops and aconites growing in the wild.
    Cambridge Botanical gardens has a wide rangeof species….so get on that train.

  9. pauline taylor permalink
    January 16, 2016

    All lovely, the snowdrops, the aconites and the beautiful hellebores, and anything else that dares to bloom at this time of the year; seeing bulbs coming up in pots cheers me up more than anything, and pots it has to be for me as most bulbs just rot in my heavy soil much to my regret.

  10. January 18, 2016

    So, now we are ready for Springtime!

    Love & Peace

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