it might not have felt like summer at the weekend but winter is almost gone.
Snowdrops, the blooms that signal the end of winter is coming, have arrived around a week early this year, the Royal Horticultural Society said.
A mild winter meant snowdrop varieties usually seen at the turn of the year were flowering in the first part of December, while ordinary snowdrops are a week earlier - and much earlier than in the cold winters of 2009 and 2010.
Snowdrops have also seen their flowering time shift in recent decades as a result of climate change, with the “fair maids of February” - once common in late February - now routinely flowering in the first part of January.
This year’s cold snap has arrested their development at the flowering stage, giving gardeners more time to enjoy the blooms, RHS chief horticultural adviser Guy Barter said.
“Some of the varieties which we normally expect round the turn of the year, they were in flower in the first part of December.
“The ordinary snowdrops are a bit earlier, and they are a lot earlier than in 2009 and 2010,” he said. “There is excellent evidence that snowdrops in the 1950s and 1960s would flower in February, they would not be in midwinter. Now routinely at Wisley, they’re flowering in the first part of January.”
Snowdrops are one of the most popular bulbs, possibly because “they are a traditional symbol of the end of winter coming up, and spring approaching, and they’re very graceful”, he said.
Wild snowdrops hail from across Europe, from the Pyrenees and northern Spain eastwards to Ukraine.