Snowdrops: Spring is on the way. By Jake Croft, Head Gardener
Snowdrops often bring joy, as they are one of the first signs that spring is on the way. Although a common sight in many British gardens they are not native to our isles, they originate from mainland Europe. There are only around 20 species of snowdrop but about 2,500 different varieties. The most common is probably Galanthus nivalis, its name loosely translates to ‘milk flower’ and the species nivalis translates to ‘of the snow’. The flowers of many snowdrops have beautiful markings in different shades of green, that are rarely seen unless you take a closer look and turn the flower over. You may also notice the slight honey scent that many snowdrops also have.
A couple of my favourite snowdrops are:
Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’
A white flower with almost yellow markings. Named after a famous collector of snowdrops.
Galanthus ‘Long John Silver’
A pricey bulb with a deep green ovary that hangs a handsomely large flower with a deep green chevron marking which seems to accentuate the angle on the outer segment.
Snowdrops have been in the news a lot over the last few years making headlines with the huge amounts of money ‘galanthophile’s’ have been paying for a single bulb. In 2015 a single bulb of Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’ sold on eBay for £1,390 plus £4 postage.
A good tip if buying rare snowdrops is to plant them in the ground in aquatic plant baskets, this keeps them together while they are bulking up and make lifting of them in a few years easier and reduces the risk of damaging them when digging.
Some snowdrops are autumn flowering, but most will be blooming between late January and March. I love to see them flowering on mass or in neat clumps under specimen trees and shrubs. I also think they look good mixed with Cyclamen coum and Helleborus orientalis. They usually become available to buy after flowering when they are sold ‘In the Green’, which just means they are in leaf, there are a few reasons for this but mainly it makes planting of them easier.
Keep an eye out next time you are merrily walking amongst the snowdrops, just like Jason you may find your own ‘Golden Fleece’ and become King of the galanthophile’s.
Lastly, a couple more of my favourite snowdrops are;
Galanthus ‘Flocon de Neige’
A Galanthus nivalis double cultivar. Gets its name from the French for snowflake. It is a late flowering variety.
Found in 1990, and possibly popular just for its name, it is a good snowdrop, its outer segments are big and bold and nicely lined in white along their length.
Blog written by Jake Croft Mhort (RHS). January 2021