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.
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!