It’s probably no surprise that snowdrops are one of the birth flowers for January. With their delicate white heads peeking through the frozen earth, they’re a lovely sight to behold when it’s icy cold outside. And, after all the richness of the holiday season, this tenacious little flower brings a well-needed feeling of freshness along with a promise of warmer weather to come.
Amongst the earliest garden flower to bloom, the snowdrop (Galanthus) emerges in late winter or early spring, and sometimes when snow is still on the ground! The name ‘Galanthus’ comes from the Ancient Greek gála (“milk”) plus ánthos (“flower”) and is a small genus of around 20 species, native to Europe and the Middle East. Here are a few more interesting facts about this dainty darling:
- Other names for these beautiful little flowers include Candlemas bells, Fair maids of February, and White ladies
- An active substance in snowdrops is called galantamine. It is thought that galantamine may be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease
- Snowdrops are said to symbolize purity, innocence and sympathy. As they are the first flower to bloom at the end of winter, they also symbolize hope
- In Victorian England, it was considered bad luck if a snowdrop was sighted, due to their tendency to grow around grave sites and in cemeteries
- Under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations, international trade in snowdrops, whether bulbs, live plants, or even dead ones, is illegal without a permit
The second birth flower for January is the humble carnation. Despite having a bad reputation over the past few years, carnations are actually one of the most popular flowers. They are very hardy and come in a wide variety of colours. They also last a really long time in arrangements, and are excellent value for money! Nowadays, growers are producing some absolutely beautiful versions, with delicately ruffled edges in stunning antique colour hues.
Like the snowdrop, carnations have been around for centuries, and they too have a rich history. Native to the Mediterranean regions, this frilly-fringed flower takes its name from the Latin corona-ae, meaning "wreath, garland, chaplet, crown", and was one of the flowers used in Greek and Roman ceremonial crowns. The formal name for carnation, dianthus, comes from the Greek for "heavenly flower", or the flower of Jove.
- Carnations symbolize devotion, loyalty and love but different colour shades also carry other meanings
- In China, the carnation is the most frequently used flower in weddings
- In France, the carnation is a traditional funeral flower, given in condolence for the death of a loved one
- In South Korea, red and pink carnations are worn on Parents’ Day (Korea does not separate Mother's Day or Father's Day, instead celebrating Parents’ Day on the 8th May)
- A green carnation was famously worn by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and his friends
- At the University of Oxford, carnations are traditionally worn to all examinations; white for the first exam, red for the last exam, and pink for exams in between. The story goes that a white carnation was kept in a red inkpot between exams, so by the last exam it had absorbed the colour and was fully red
- Carnations are the traditional first wedding anniversary flower
- The carnation is the national flower of Spain, Monaco, and Slovenia
Why not lift your spirits this January with a beautiful Oleander arrangement? You could take inspiration from the snowdrop and go ultra fresh and clean with a white and green, or follow the carnations’ footsteps and bring some colour in to brighten these dreary days? You can order your flowers here.