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Even though winter is ambivalent about exiting spring is in the wings, impatient to have her flowers center stage in our gardens. Snowdrops are the scouts of spring, sent forth from the still cold earth while other bulbs are just stirring underground.

Looking deceptively fragile, the bell shaped blooms are so white it seems to be camouflage for when they are blanketed in late snow. But they are irrepressible and snow doesn't deter them even a bit. Snowdrops belong to the genus galanthus from the Greek word for "milk flower."

The small bulbs are planted in the fall, and they like some shade. Since they are ephemeral, dying down after their early blooming, they are good companions in beds with other shade loving plants, which appear later. They are best planted in multiples, clustered so that they can slowly increase each year and form drifts. They are especially lovely in a woodland setting.

When you have large enough clumps, divide them immediately after flowering. Find a short container with a narrow neck if you pick them to enjoy indoors, and admire the delicate green markings on the tiny pristine blooms. No wonder people in times past thought of the snow drop as a symbol of purity, chastity and hope.

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