The Maid of February…

Snowdrops warley 2Crime Writers! Looking for an unusual way to kill off a particularly annoying character? Perhaps a Mary-Sue, a little too pure-as-the-driven-snow to be fun? How about making them more interesting by subjecting them to…


snowdrops 4In this blog, I’ll often talk of the joys of edible flowers, but here’s one I don’t recommend. In France this feisty little flower is known as Pierce-Neige. Don’t be fooled by its frail, perfect looks. The innocent white Maid of February is deathly.

Traditionally, Galanthus Nivalis (from the Greek words for ‘milk’, ‘flower and ‘snow’) appears at Candlemas, 2nd Feb – and, incredibly, in my garden it really did.

I adore these delicate little bruisers, which, pub-quiz fanatics, makes me a galanthophile. I would never be without them in my garden, but there’s no way I’d be caught dead eating one. So to speak…

Snowdrops 5Every part of the snowdrop  is poisonous. The bulbs in particular are nasty cusomers, not least because they look like spring onions and could be taken for them. Not really sure why you might be looking hungrily at the bulbs; I guess kiddies might be tempted.

Snowdrops 2You might get dizzy, tummy ache, feel sick, actually be sick or just find it all shoots out the other end. Apparently, crime writers, just before someone dies from snowdrop poisoning, they’ll get the shakes and die wracked in convulsions. Snowdrops are a member of the Lily family, and while I’m about it, don’t forget that all lilies are very, very poisonous to cats. I don’t grow lilies any more for that reason. A single snowdrop is a dreadful omen, portending impending death. Tradition holds you should never bring one into the house. Snowdrops warley 3

Odd, then, that snowdrops also symbolise purity and hope. Legend holds when Adam and Eve were thrown out of Eden an angel turned snowflakes to flowers to give them some hope.

Snowdrops 3It’s the alkaloids that do it. Narcissine, galantamine and glycoside scillaine. No, they don’t mean much to me either but I’ll be more than happy to take advice on this one. Unless I had Altzheimer’s – they’re apparently dickering with the galantamine in snowdrops as a possible way of slowing early symptons of the disease. Another good reason why we should preserve all plants – we never know when one might turn out to be a miracle cure.

Snowdrops warley 1Warley Place, and I always try to grow as many as I can in the garden. This year I’m going to plant a few in the green (much better than buying dried bulbs which have usually dried too much to ever grow again and have sometimes been unethically acquired from endangered wild land) in my ‘lawn’ (frankly it’s a bit of grass, calling it a lawn is stretching things a bit far).

A great place to buy unusual varieties is Chelsea Physic Garden. Due to the unseasonable weather they had to bring their traditional snowdrop days forward a couple of weeks and they’ve gone now, but there are still some fantastic varieties on sale in their shop. Snowdrops for sale Chelsea








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