Thursday, April 17, 2014


I hope you have snowdrops.

If you do not, get some. They are just about the only thing that will bloom in time to save the gardener's sanity while she waits for the snow to be gone and the ground to be dry enough for actual gardening to begin. Without Snowdrops, the outlook for future normalcy in the gardener would be grim.

In our area, we can grow all three of the main species. There are about 20 more different species, but sadly they are just not available here so I don't know whether they are hardy here.If you ever have a chance to get bulbs, or more likely, seeds, of any of the others, take it, and remember your friends.

Galanthus nivalis

The ones we can get and which I know do well here are Galanthus nivalis, G. elwesii, and G. woronowii.

G. nivalis is the one that causes Snowdrop fever in susceptible gardeners. There are too many varieties to count, there are clubs for the afflicted, there are official registries, competitions, books.... if this sort of obsession appeals to you, a quick on-line search will make you very happy. Not that the search will be quick because of course if you are smitten with Snowdrop Love, you will spend the rest of the day following the many, many links. You'll have a great time, and maybe by the time you are done the snow will be gone.

G. nivalis is also the smallest and daintiest of the three. It is the one that makes us kneel in the wet leaves so that we can get close enough to admire the purity of the outer petals and the brilliant green markings on the inner ones.

G. nivalis has style.

G. elwesii is slightly larger in all ways: the flowers are a bit larger, the leaves are wider and taller, the bulbs are larger too. It is every bit as beguiling as G. nivalis.

All the Snowdrops are of course bulbs. The conventional wisdom about growing them is to move them 'in the green', that is, to move and propagate them by digging them up with a good sod and re-planting them immediately. Sadly, we cannot often do this as we are forced to order the bulbs in the summer and they will arrive, dry, in August. A good source (in fact the only source I know of, not counting little bags of dried-up bulbs sold by big-box stores at strange times) is Botanus. They have a fine on-line catalogue, very suitable for more time-wasting while you wait for the snow to go. Ask for more than a few bulbs as they will not all grow but you will end up with enough. They spread.

Galanthus woronowii

Last, and the opposite of least, is G. woronowii. It has decidedly wide leaves, but the flowers are as delicate as those of G. nivalis.

All the Snowdrops are trouble-free and need no special care. The foliage goes dormant without calling attention to itself and once established, the plants will return every year, just when you really need them.

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