This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It is very often the case in horticulture, as well as in many other branches of human employment, that practices often continue after the reasons which induced them have long ceased to exist. It is said in the recent "memoirs" of Prince Bismarck that "One day I was walking with the Emperor of Russia in the Summer Garden of St. Petersburg, when, coming upon a sentinel in the centre of a lawn, I took the liberty of inquiring why the man was placed there. The Emperor did not know. The adjutant did not know. The sentinel did not know, except that he had been ordered there. The adjutant was then despatched to ask the officer of the watch, whose reply tallied with the sentinel's - 'Ordered.' Curiosity awakened, military records were searched, without yielding any satisfactory solution. At last an old serving man was routed out, who remembered hearing his father relate that the Empress Catherine II., one hundred years ago, had found a Snowdrop on that particular spot, and given orders to protect it from being plucked. No other device could be thought of than guarding it by a sentinel.
The order once issued was left in force for a century." It is more than likely if the planting of the Snowdrop had been examined, some practice as silly would have been found as the keeping of the soldier guard over them.