Snowdrops! Snowdrops! Snowdrops!


Galanthomania strikes every year without fail. If you look at eBay you will see the silly prices people pay for one bulb of any snowdrop which is a bit out of the ordinary. Clearly, it is a form of madness which many of us suffer from.  In 2012 a rare snowdrop with beautiful yellow markings: Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ sold for £720.10 on eBay. We are lucky in Suffolk to have a strong branch of Plant Heritage and many of us have been taught how to twin scale our treasures so that we can share them without risking bankruptcy.

I sometimes think that if snowdrops appeared in June, we wouldn’t be on our knees looking up their skirts and counting the green spots. In fact looking back on a sunny June day, surrounded by roses and irises and peonies I wonder what all the fuss was about. But in January the madness descends.  It is not unalloyed pleasure even though I have many different snowdrops, taking me through from Galanthus reginae-olgae in October to a beautiful oversized plicatus> in April. The problem is that many of my snowdrops have lost their labels and I agonise over trying to identify them. Gardening friends have given me gifts of lovely snowdrops which they have no name for. Many of us have the same problem. One friend went to a talk by the great snowdrop expert Matt Bishop and took a snowdrop to be identified only to be told that identification was impossible unless he could see the whole plant growing in situ.  I think even the experts find it difficult to sort them all out satisfactorily.

Last year I bought some snowdrops labelled as the common nivalis which turned out to be very early flowering elwesii. This year I went back to the same local farm shop and again found pots of  Galanthus nivalis for £1.50 a pot. Again there was not one single nivalis amongst them.

IMG_5733    IMG_5734

There was a curvy leaved gracilis, a bright green, broad -leaved snowdrop, maybe Worownii and lots of elwesii but all with different markings. What a bargain at £1.50 for each pot containing several bulbs, but what agony to add even more to my unnamed army.

I know that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’  but when it comes to snowdrops I seem to be overcome by a stamp-collector’s sort of nerdishness and feel that it is no use having so many different snowdrops if I can’t name them all. I have the snowdrop bible:  Snowdrops by Matt Bishop and Anna from Greentapestry recommended the Gunter Waldorf’s book Snowdrops, so armed with these books I spend ages on my knees trying to sort them all out. Are the leaves applanate i.e. they grow up like two hands pressed together as in nivalis? Or are they convolute; that is wrapped round each other as in elwesii hybrids? I look at the length of the pedicle and count the spots on the tepals. Not petals you notice. Or should I say  perianths? The Pianist looks at me with a very worried eye as I contemplate these problems. Is my horticultural obsession getting out of hand?

Cathy over at The Ramblinggarden is showing some of her snowdrops in a recent post. She recommends the book: Snowdrops and Snowflakes by F.L. Stern as a good guide. I think I will have to buy that next year; it is quite expensive. Anyway here are some snowdrops out at the moment that I can identify.

Galanthus atkinsii is early and tall and elegant with beautiful shaped flowers. Matt Bishop says they look like the drop pearl ear rings of Elizabeth 1.


Another early one, often out for Christmas is Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’. Its petals are dimpled like seersucker.


I bought Galanthus ‘Lynn’ at the Cambridge Botanic Garden last week. It is a clone of Atkinsii but has fatter flowers and apparently is more vigorous. She cost £4.50, so she didn’t break the bank.


I am almost sure that this next one is ‘Galanthus ‘Jacquenetta’. It is a lovely early double with very deep green markings. The head hangs on a hook-like pedicle. I do find all the Greatorex doubles difficult to sort out but this one is quite distinctive.


Galanthus ‘Walrus’ has ‘a face that even a mother would find difficult to love’, as they say up north. Those ridiculous fangs! I don’t know why I bought it really, but still it is easy to identify.


This stately gentleman is Galanthus Reverend Hailstone’, he is very tall and has large flowers. He comes from Anglesey Abbey and is named after a rector there.


I bought Galanthus ‘Ginn’s Imperatii’ because it is the most highly perfumed of all the snowdrops. In appearance it looks quite like ‘S. Arnott’. It has grown into a nice clump very quickly.


Galanthus plicatus ‘Madelaine’ is one of the most vigorous of the snowdrops with yellow markings. I suppose a bit of yellow makes a change, but I am not entirely sure I like my snowdrops to look jaundiced.


But still, at least I don’t have to worry about identifying it. It is raining today and even I think it is a bit eccentric to be lurking in the garden  in the rain, on my knees, peering at my snowdrops.

Thanks to Nicky aka Betty Booth at The Pop-up Photo Parlour for the picture of me and Pip. It is a very good likeness of Pip, but the best plastic surgeon in the country couldn’t take all the years off me that dear Nicky has. Cheers Nicky!

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19 Responses to Snowdrops! Snowdrops! Snowdrops!

  1. Pauline says:

    I agree with everything you say, your post could have been written by me! I have labels (Lynn and Heffalump)) without any snowdrops and plenty of snowdrops without any labels. They all had labels when they were planted, nice black ones with permanent silver writing, but where are they all, and who or what takes them! I feel the same about Blewbury Tart as you do about Walrus -why did I buy it? I have never dared to try to increase my by twin scaling, I just rely on splitting them to increase my clumps – well done you!

  2. Chloris says:

    I blame the squirrels for the labels, though what they want them for I can’t imagine.. I have Blewbury Tart too it is not as ugly as Walrus. The great thing is to have snowdrops we can recognise at a glance. Twin-scaling is not difficult but I only do it when I have a clump so that I can spare one if it goes wrong and they all go mouldy.

  3. Kris P says:

    The picture of you and your dog is charming! I grew snowdrops in my former shady garden here in southern California and, even through we have flowers of some sort all year, I was still always excited to see them start to pop their heads up through the soil at a time I’d almost forgotten they were there. Sadly, I haven’t been successful in getting them to grow at my current house, where it’s generally both sunnier and drier but reading your post reminds me of how much I loved them so maybe I can find some shaded, protected spot and try again.

  4. Chloris says:

    I think they need a period of cold to flower well, Kris. Many snowdrops are woodland flowers but there are some sun-loving ones which might do well for you. The Autumn – flowering Galanthus reginae-olgae prefers a sunny spot.

  5. Anna says:

    Oh a most enjoyable post Chloris and thanks for the mention. As you say it might well be different if they flowered in June but at this bleak time of year they are absolute gems which give me so much pleasure. Now I don’t think ‘Walrus’ is in the least bit ugly – just decidedly different 🙂 Have still to attempt twin scaling and being rather ham handed I may leave it to himself to have ago. It’s amazing the prices that some of them sell for. My catalogue from ‘North Green Snowdrops’ arrived yesterday and it was so sad to read that their entire stock of ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ has been stolen 😦 They were hoping to start selling them next year albeit the price would have no doubt would have still been out of my reach for some years to come. Did your ‘Madelaine’ take a while to flower? I bought a bulb in 2012 – it has increased considerably but has not flowered as yet.

  6. Chloris says:

    My goodness, it sounds as if we are all going to have to get security guards to watch over our snowdrops. I believe Thompson and Morgan bought the expensive eBay Elizabeth Harrison so let’s hope they are getting it ready to sell on. I have only had Madeleine since 2011 and I am pleased with how she is coming on. I think often it is just a matter of luck if you get a spot they like. Are you going to show us some of your snowdrops?
    By the way, I bought the book you reviewed: The Rooots of my Obsession. I am enjoying it.

    • Anna says:

      Thanks for your feedback on Madeleine Chloris. Maybe I will see flowers next year – I can but hope. I will post some snowdrop photos at some stage. So glad to read that you are enjoying ‘The Roots Of My Obsession’. I just wish that it had been a bit longer 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    Thank you for allowing us to share your snowdrops and for the mention as well – I hesitated briefly about Freda Cox’s book as it IS expensive, but succumbed partially because I had an Amazon voucher to put towards it, but I can honestly say It is the most helpful and informative of the snowdrop books I have (haven’t got the snowdrop ‘bible’). I have to confess that I paid more for ‘Walrus’ than I should have done, but learned a lesson from this and won’t do it again – I also have Blewberry Tart which was one of my early purchases in 2006 but it didn’t flower last year and I had forgotten till you reminded me how individual it was so am looking forward to seeing it in bloom again. Interesting what you say about the snowdrops in garden centres – must have a look – oh, and thanks for confirming that twin scaling is not rocket science as I was going to try it out this year. Now, about that first picture…?! 😉

  8. Chloris says:

    My cheap snowdrops came from a farm shop, goodness knows where they originated from. Twin scaling is easy and usually successful but now and then they go mouldy in the airing cupboard so it is best to get a clump before you try it. The first picture was painted by my son’s lovely partner. She has very generously painted me a lot younger than I am. Maybe she thought I would be hurt if she painted in all my wrinkles. She has even made Pip look quite youthful too so as not to hurt his feelings.

  9. rusty duck says:

    I am just getting to know snowdrops really, but I can see that I am already getting hooked. Unbelievable that a single bulb should cost so much. I do love them though, the woodland is starting to turn white and it is a lovely sight. Gradually I’ll replace the ‘ordinary’ ones with something a little more exotic.

    • Chloris says:

      How lovely to have them in your woodland. I have areas where I let the ordinary ones spread but my special ones I keep separate. Have you started collecting any more unusual ones yet?

  10. Flighty says:

    It’s certainly an interesting subject, but at those prices I’m somewhat relieved that I’m not hooked! It’s always good to see them appearing at this time of year when the weather is generally miserable. xx

  11. Chloris says:

    Well they don’t all cost £720 . You are right, the ordinary Nivalis snowdrops are a wonderful sight at this time of the year and they spread so quickly.

  12. Where would we be without the snowdrop at the “gloomiest” time of year! Love your pics, particularly the”Walruss” which I think is fascinating! I certainly don’t envy you your job of identifying them all!

  13. Chloris says:

    The snowdrops are so early this year, they really are a joy. Do you have any unusual ones?

  14. Sandra Garnham says:

    I bought some snowdrops last year and planted, they did after the time I had exspected them to flower.It was only into the latter part of April that they came out. But wow, they are something wor
    th seeing. They are sooo tall, like maybe taller than a 12inch ruler. I have never had such tall snowdrops before

  15. Sandra Garnham says:

    I have now taken there measurements in the full day light and they are about 24inches tall with mostly three blooms on each stem. I would love to know if this is normal. Sandra

    • Chloris says:

      Hello Sandra, it sounds as if what you have are snowflakes rather than snowdrops. The Latin name for the tall growing one is Leucojum aestivum. If you look it up you can compare it with yours and see if it looks the same.

  16. Pingback: Beautiful snowdrops | needumbrella

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