Memorable Snowdrop Walk at Hever Castle this spring

January 19 2023 | Garden What's on

The snowdrop is not just a beautiful indication of the coming spring but it’s also a plant that has played an important role over the last 50 years in the medicinal management of memory loss.

It is said that a travelling pharmacologist first witnessed remote villagers in Bulgaria rubbing their heads with the leaves and plants of the snowdrop to cure headache and memory loss, but whether that’s true, or as fictional as Odysseus using the snowdrop to repel Circe, is a matter for debate among hardy galanthophiles.

What isn’t up for debate is the power of galantamine – the compound isolated from snowdrops – which has proved to have beneficial effects for dementia sufferers. Early scientific research originated in Bulgaria in the period 1950 – 60 but has also generated interest over the past few decades in the west.

After approval by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2001, galantamine is now used as a memory improvement supplement for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in America and over 70 other countries worldwide including the UK.

Hever Castle has chosen Alzheimer’s Society as one of its charities for 2023 – a fitting tie-in for Anne Boleyn’s childhood home in Kent where over 115,000 snowdrop bulbs welcome the early spring every February.

CEO Duncan Leslie says: “it’s wonderful to support the Alzheimer’s Society this year and to bring some focus on their fundraising and important work as the snowdrops bloom.”

First logged as Galanthus nivalis by the godfather of the snowdrop world Carl Linnaeus, Glanathus Galanthus means ‘milk-white flowers’.

These pretty clump-forming perennials originated from the area around modern-day Turkey, but are now ubiquitous throughout Europe and Britain where woodland snowdrops are legally protected.

Head Gardener Neil Miller has a fondness for different varieties of galanthus, and plants 10,000 bulbs a year on the Estate, adding year on year to the displays.

Neil explains: “In February, visitors love to take a self-guided tour of the snowdrops and follow them down Sunday Walk where William Waldorf Astor and his family would walk, and into Church Gill.

“We have tens of thousands of Galanthus nivalis rippling beside the Outer Moat as well as interesting and unusual varieties in the Winter Garden like ‘Grumpy’ Galanthus elwesii – a delicate snowdrop discovered by ‘Mr Snowdrop’ Joe Sharman, its distinctive green markings depictmarkings depict a grumpy face, which always makes me smile. We also have lots of snowdrops like ‘Wendy’s Gold’ in the Winter Garden here too alongside ‘Colossus’ (a big one at 9inches!) and and Galanthus ‘Green Brush’ with its unusual green tipped flowers.”

From the 8th of February onwards, visitors will be encouraged to explore the snowdrop tour at Hever Castle, featuring 1105,000 snowdrops.

The self-guided snowdrop walk will take visitors through the woodland areas, around the Outer Moat and into the colourful Winter Garden. The Winter Garden features flame-coloured dogwoods, ‘Early Sensation’ daffodils, heathers and winter shrubs.

Frosted topiary on the walk towards the Castle is a delight to behold in the winter months. Over on the outer banks of the moat the crocus will begin to appear towards the end of the month too.

If visitors are feeling adventurous they can add in a walk around the 38 acre Lake.

Snowdrop Walk runs daily from the 8th February.