February is the month when those of us in the clutches of White Fever lose all control to the bemusement of garden bloggers who are immune or who have not yet succumbed. I say ‘not yet’ and I always read with amusement when someone writes that they have for the first time, acquired a different snowdrop, perhaps a Greatorex double or the reliable ‘S.Arnott’. If that is you, then be warned my friend, you are on the primrose path ( or should that be the ‘snowdrop’ path) to financial ruin and an annual month or two of insanity. Fortunately, the disease goes into remission sometime in March. But in the meantime your credit card can take some punishment. I try to resist the ones that are silly prices, and some of them are very silly indeed. In 2015 someone payed £1,390 on eBay for Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’. You don’t need to pay this much for a yellow snowdrop. Lovely ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is quite reasonable.
‘Madelaine’ has yellow ovaries and clumps up quickly and makes quite an impact.
Sometimes I pay, (shush, I’ll whisper it) -£20 and more, for something really different. I tell myself that I will twinscale it or grow it on and make lots of money selling it on eBay where people pay crazy sums of money for snowdrops. But I never do, I want nice big clumps myself and now and then it’s nice to have enough to share with friends. Anyway what sort of philistine looks at their snowdrops and sees money?
Digggory was one of my expensive ones but who can resist those lovely puffy, seersucker flowers?
And even grumpy old Reginald Farrer called Galanthus poculiformis his ‘jewel of jewels’ because of its serene beauty. It has no green marks at all and the inner segments are the same size as the outer ones.
Or maybe the double ones are more to your taste, ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ has a froufrou skirt like a ballerina and the Greatorex doubles which were created by crossing Galanthus nivalis with Galanthus plicatus are all gorgeous too. Some of them have very pronounced green stripes like ‘Dionysius’ which is one of the first Greatorex doubles to bloom in my garden.
I have all the Shakespearian heroines but ‘Titania’ is my favourite and so she should be as she is the Queen of the Fairies. Here she is still in bud.
Galanthus nivalis is the snowdrop which carpets country churchyards and is so ubiquitous that many people believe it to be native although it is not. It doesn’t usually show much variation although I found this one with pale green shading on the outer petals recently.
Snowdrops with green on the outer petals are very desirable. I have ‘Trumps’ who is so much prettier and nicer than his near namesake and here is ‘Trymlet’ struggling through the heather, I must move her to a more prominent position.
And I am also very fond of dainty ‘Corrin’.
Maybe if I plant my snowdrop with the pale green shadings on the petals nearby I will get some unusual babies.
And of course there is always the excitement when looking at snowdrops en masse that if you are sharp-eyed you might find something very different. And yesterday in the churchyard that is just what happened- I found this strange flower.
And yes, I hear you gasp in horror, but I did dug it up. It was in danger of being squashed by careless workers who are digging trenches as some local busybody has decided our fifteenth century church needs a lavatory. Actually the oldest part is thirteenth century. I don’t know if modern bladders are weaker than they have been for the last 800 years or so, but they are making a terrible and in most people’s opinion, unnecessary mess. Anyway since the lead was stolen from the church roof we have CCT cameras so I will probably be arrested. I hope some of my blogging friends will visit me in jail. Personally, I think they should arrest the trench diggers.
Galanthus elwesii is usually in bloom much earlier and has larger flowers. It has broad glaucous leaves and the flowers show lots of variations.
Galanthus plicatus has distinctive leaves with a pleat in them. One of the most popular is the dumpy little ‘Augustus’ named after A. E. Bowles.
I have a lovely late flowering Galanthus plicatus with large folded leaves and flowers which grew in profusion in my old garden. It blooms in March and finishes off the the snowdrop season for me.
And then of course there are the fragrant ones which smell distinctly of honey. I wrote about the lovely fragrance of ‘S.Arnott’ and ‘Brenda Troyle’ in a previous post but did I mention that ‘Ginn’s Imperatii’ smells of almonds? And ‘Brabaham’s Scented’ is the most sweetly scented of all. I keep a pot in the greenhouse. Behind it Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’ is also pumping out a heavenly perfume.
And then there are the ones with faces. ‘Grumpy’ looks exactly like a grumpy face.
And ‘Two Eyes’ looks a little down in the mouth too. Actually, I only just noticed, it is very similar. But ‘Grumpy’ is the one everyone wants, we all like to anthropomorphise our plants. (Sorry about the dirty fingers, I always end up discarding my gloves.)
So there we are, for a few weeks I live and breathe snowdrops. I even wear snowdrops on my bosom.
I spend hours with my nose in the snowdrop bible, the Matt Bishop monograph on Galanthus which I bought years ago for £36 and thought I was very extravagant. You now find it on Amazon for between £560 and £880. Yes, snowdrop enthusiasts really are mad.
But then in the middle of winter what else is there for a plant fanatic to obsess about? Sitting by the fireside dreaming of roses is all very well but at some point you need to get outside and find something to enjoy. And snowdrops are exquisitely beautiful and if you think they all look the same, then look again. Here are a few more of my favourites.
Perhaps you live in a country that doesn’t have weeks of cold grey skies or maybe like Reginald Farrer, you find looking at snowdrops gives you chilblains and you don’t feel the need to kneel on cold wet ground to peer up the chaste skirts of these snow white beauties. But you are missing one of the few horticultural pleasures of winter, specially if you can share it with like-minded friends. There is something special about a rare February day of sunshine when the birds have started to practise their trills and the buds are plumping up on the trees and you and your fellow snowdrop nerds bond together, exclaiming over yet more exquisite beauties. I know there are people out there who do not ‘get’ the fascination with snowdrops. They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but I am with the inimitable Miss Piggy when she said to Kermit: ‘Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye’. I am not suggesting that any of my lovely blogging friends are stupid but if you can’t appreciate their beauty, put your coat on and go outside to have a proper look.