The Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is the archetypal stalwart of the Winter/Spring Garden. A small and delicate looking plant, with its fine foliage and nodding snow white heads tipped with green, which is truly deceptive in terms of its hardiness and sheer resilience against the elements. This plant is always one of the first to emerge in my garden; a true sign that things are set to change. I love the way that, unlike many other plants, a thick layer of snow does nothing to damage emerging shoots and flowers of the Snowdrop and as soon as snow has thawed the Snowdrop remains completely unaffected. Totally unaware of the chaos and hardship the snow created.
Snowdrops are best planted in the green. This means planting them after flowering when only the leaves are visible. I have always read that this is the preferred technique, however, I planted mine as bulbs and they've taken off quite nicely. I tend to prefer to plant these in drifts and let them to naturalise. The outcome of this is a blanket of white that can brighten up the darkest of gardens.
What you may not know about the Snowdrop is that it contains many compounds that may prove useful to science and medicine. In a recent study a team of researchers from the Univeristy of Barcelona discovered that Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii, contain seventeen bioactive compounds including three alkaloids that are brand new to science. The new discoveries may prove useful in treating Malaria and Alzheimer's. You can read the full news report here.
The delicate Snowdrop appears to be not only beautiful but also potentially important in creating breakthroughs in the treatment of hard to treat medical conditions and a whole raft of other things. After all, the most inconspicuous of new discoveries can produce groundbreaking outcomes.