Somerset for Galanthophiles

Snowdrops have enthrallingly exquisite markings if you look closely. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

The first Snowdrops of any year always create a buzz of excitement. Last year, I spotted them peeping out of snow. My first sighting has come a little later this year. Somerset was the home of some notable Snowdrop enthusiasts or galanthophiles. Snowdrop Festivals will celebrate these special early flowers during February 2020 in the County.

Somerset Snowdrops peeping out of the snow in early 2019. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

Plant Family

Snowdrops are members of the Amaryllidaceae or Onion family in the Asparagales order. The family is divided into 3 subfamilies: Amaryllidoideae, Allioideae and Agapanthoideae. The Snowdrop’s Galanthus genus appears in Amaryllidoideae with 20 species. Galanthus nivalis is either naturalised in the wild or planted in gardens. It is so familiar that we tend to forget that it not a native British plant at all.

Galanthus to Galanthophile

The genus name Galanthus comes from the combination of two Greek words: gala meaning milk and anthos meaning flower. This tiny white flower with its exquisite markings has been a source of botanical obsession since Victorian times. The creation of the term galantophile is often attributed to the Crocus King E. A Bowles of RHS and Myddelton House fame. Somerset claims the Snowdrop King as its own son. James Allen was a gardening pioneer in the hybridising of Snowdrops. It appears that galanthophile (without the final ‘e’) was first used to describe James Allen in 1892 in The Garden, predating E. A. Bowles’ usage. Shepton Mallet will celebrate its famous galanthophile from 15-16 February 2020 in a Snowdrop Festival.

East Lambrook’s Snowdrops

Not content with one preeminent galanthophile, Somerset also boasts another in 20th century gardener Margery Fish at East Lambrook Manor Gardens. The Snowdrop Festival is open there from 1st to 29th February 2020 and boosts over 150 different Snowdrop species.

Somerset is the place to be for Snowdrop enthusiasts this February.

Snowdrops in Somerset. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

References and Further Reading

Crawley, M. J. (2010): Spring Snowdrop Identification. BSBI. Last accessed 13 January 2020.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens (2020): Festival of Snowdrops. Last accessed 13 January 2020.

Myddelton House Society (2023?): The History of E. A. Bowles. E.A. Bowles Society. Last accessed 13 January 2020.

Quinion, Michael (2010): Galanthophile. World Wide Words. Last accessed 13 January 2020.

Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival (2020): James Allen’s Story. Last accessed 13 January 2020.

Stace, Clive A. & Preston, Chris D. & Pearman, David A. (2016): Hybrid Flora of the British Isles. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. (Galanthus L. pp. 363-4)

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