Where to See Snowdrops in London
Why does everyone love snowdrops so much? Because they’re one of the first flowers to bloom towards the tail end of winter – flowering before daffodils and bluebells – meaning that spring is on the way! The delicate white blooms emerge from mid-to-late January and bloom until late-February. But where can you see them in the urban jungle that is London? The Resident has a few ideas…
Lead image: Snowdrops in at Bell House in Dulwich (photo: Adam Swain Photo)
Did you know…
- Snowdrops contain a compound called galanthamine, which is used in modern pharmaceuticals to manage Alzheimer’s disease and is also used to relieve traumatic injuries to the nervous system. Do not eat them, however – they can make you quite poorly! Leave the processing of galanthamine to the pharmacologists!
- Snowdrop enthusiasts are called galanthophiles, and can spend hundreds of pounds on a desirable bulb
- Snowdrops like to grow in well drained chalk and limestone soils, under the shade of deciduous trees, so you’ll usually find them in woodland, grassland and shrubland
Kew Gardens, Richmond
But of course! London’s famous botanical garden is home to almost all of the 20 known varieties of snowdrops. Find most of them in the Natural Area, where Kew meets the River Thames, the Rock Garden (one of the oldest and largest in the world) and the Woodland Garden and Temple of Aeolus (a calming corner with gentle slopes and forest shade). This one’s not free, however, as Kew Garden is ticketed.
Covid status: Open in the daytime, though some buildings are closed. Book a time slot in advance.
Kew, Richmond TW9 3AE; kew.org
Myddelton House Gardens, Enfield
Myddelton House Gardens, the home of renowned gardener and botanist Edward Augustus Bowles from 1865 to 1954, was salvaged from disrepair with a Heritage Lottery Fund in 2011.Now, it is well known for its snowdrops. To spot them in their full white-carpet glory, head to the Alpine Meadow. Usually, towards the end of January, Myddelton House will host a snowdrop sale with several nurseries selling common and rare varieties of the plant.
Covid update: Temporarily closed
Myddelton House Gardens, Enfield EN2 9HG; visitleevalley.org.uk/myddelton
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanical garden (and the second oldest in the UK), dates back to the 17th century. Originally founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673, it houses around 5,000 different medicinal, herbal, edible and useful plants, as well as the oldest Alpine garden in England. The garden usually hosts a snowdrop trail on reopening from its winter break in late January, and you can also buy more than 50 snowdrop varieties from the shop.
Covid update: Closed until 24 January. Check the website after that.
66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea SW3 4HS; chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
Morden Hall Park
Winter is a great time to enjoy the open spaces offered by Morden Hall Park for frosty mornings on the wetland boardwalk and brisk walks in the wide open spaces of the South Park. To find early snowdrops in bloom, head for the arboretum at the far end of the rose garden from mid-to-late January. One of the most beautiful aspects of Morden Hall Park is the sheer number of trees – head in any direction to discover magnificent specimen trees and pockets of woodland.
Covid update: Currently open for local visitors
Morden Hall Road, Morden SM4 5JD; nationaltrust.org.uk/morden-hall-park
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, Mile End
This urban wildflower meadow, which cosies up to the railway line running between the City and Stratford, is an old 19th century cemetery. The only woodland in Tower Hamlets, it’s home to both common varieties and rarer snowdrops. Together with the adjoining areas of Scrapyard Meadow and Ackroyd Drive Greenlink, this Local Nature Reserve is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
Covid update: As a public park this area is always open
Southern Grove, Mile End E3 4PX; fothcp.org
Eltham Palace, once a favoured medieval palace, then a Tudor royal residence, and finally transformed by eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, has 19 acres of award-winning gardens around the striking Art Deco mansion. In the gardens, beyond the top of the moat, you’ll find smatterings of snowdrops as well as cyclamen, yellow aconites, primroses, sky-blue wood anemones and wine-coloured hellebores.
Covid update: The gardens at Eltham Palace are closed until the end of January, although some areas are open for locals to exercise
Court Yard, Eltham SE9 5QE; english-heritage.org.uk/eltham-palace
Ham House, Richmond
Ham House, known for its lavish interiors and fine furniture, is just as pretty on the outside. The 17th-century house, the creation of the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, sits on the banks of the river Thames in Richmond and is one of the grandest Stuart houses in England. Snowdrops can be found under the very old Acacia trees. Seek out the hellebores and winter aconites too, and while you’re there, explore the maze-like wilderness with 16 garden compartments and head over to the kitchen garden to see which herbs are around at this time of year.
Covid update: The gardens are open, toilets are available and the cafe is doing takeaways. Pre-booking required
Ham Street, Ham, Richmond TW10 7RS; nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house
Oxleas Wood, Eltham
Oxleas Wood, one of the few remaining areas of ancient deciduous forest in south east London, dates back over 8,000 years to the end of the last Ice Age in some parts. It’s part of a larger continuous area of wood and parkland on the south side of Shooter’s Hill including Jack Wood, Castle Wood, Oxleas Meadows, Falconwood Field, Eltham Common and Eltham Park North, and is also home to the impressive Severndroog Castle. Keen snowdrop spotters might enjoy a seven mile walk from following the Green Chain Walk from Falconwood to Abbey Wood, via the ruins of Lesnes Abbey.
Covid update: Oxleas Wood is public land and therefore always open
Off Shooters Hill, Eltham SE18 4LX; oxleaswoodlands.uk