Hosts of snowdrops are appearing throughout the Garden, often in concert with early crocus and golden aconites. Leading the way is the large flowered Galanthus atkinskii, the icy droplets brightening the path from Brookside Gate into the Garden.
In very cold spells of wintry weather, the crowds of snowdrops collapse to the ground, seemingly irretrievably decimated. Not so - when the temperatures rise, they will resurrect themselves unharmed. Dr Tim Upson, Curator, explains, 'Plant tissue is damaged by ice crystals forming in the cells during freezing, which causes death of the tissue. However, many plants, including snowdrops, have anti-freeze proteins that help inhibit ice crystals forming and limit their size and growth, thus protecting the cells from damage, an essential quality for wild plants that grow and flower at the end of winter. In harsh cold, snowdrops show signs of freezing stress, losing turgor and collapsing, but as the plant tissue is fundamentally undamaged, they recover as soon as temperatures rise.
Many early flowering plants will have some tolerance to freezing but there's a great spectrum of responses - the flowers of Viburnum x bodnantense will be killed by just a few degrees of frost (although protected flower waiting in the wings will open in mild periods) in contrast to the snowdrops, the flowers of which have an extremely high tolerance of freezing and seem able to emerge unscathed however severe the winter weather.'