It feels like winter has finally arrived this week with blustery days out in the garden. But for us in Bristol, Avon, the temperature hasn’t dropped yet and is still very mild. Spring bulbs can be planted as late as November as long as the ground isn’t frozen. The main thing to remember with Galanthus bulbs is that they don’t dry out before you plant them. All Snowdrops like a moist but well drained soil in partial shade, that doesn’t dry out in the summer.
Whilst gardening in the rain this week I was envisioning the bright days of spring approaching, and nothing says that better than drifts of Snowdrops. There are many cultivars of Galanthus to choose from, that vary in height, shape and colour.
Galanthus nivalis – the Common Snowdrop is seen throughout British woodlands. I love seeing them in the Victorian cemetery woodland by my house, nodding their heads, like little white beacons under the shade of the trees. They grow to a height of 15cm and spread up to a metre.
Galanthus plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’
Galanthus plicatus, AGM (RHS Award of Garden Merit) is an easy to grow variety. It is free-flowering and grows to a height of 10-18cm. If you wanted to try an interesting Snowdrop you could plant Galanthus plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’. It has a vivid yellow ovary, which offers good contrast to the darker varieties. It flowers in February and reaches a height of 15cm.
Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus
Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus, AGM is an elegant Turkish variety with blue grey leaves and reaches a height between 9-18cm. Another AGM winner is Galanthus Atkinsii which is a popular Snowdrop amongst gardeners. It has an elongated form and grows to a height of 21cm.
I love seeing Avon Bulbs stand at RHS Chelsea Flower Show each year. They produce a delightful Snowdrop called Galanthus ‘Sprite.’ It has fine green lines in the outer petals and are green on the inner ones. It grows to a height of 15cm.
Irish cultivars have only recently become available to the mainstream. Snowdrops in Ireland were originally collected from naturally occurring hybrids found in gardens across the country. They were nurtured and bulked up and shared amongst passionate gardeners. Cicely Hall, who has a Snowdrop named after her, created a collection that is now maintained by her son at Primrose Hill Garden in Lucan, County Dublin.
Galanthus ‘Straffan’ is a tall, Irish Snowdrop which is also known as ‘The O’Mahoney.’ It is a tall Snowdrop with grooves in the inner segments and grows to a height of 25cm.
Galanthus ‘Cicely Hall’
Galanthus ‘Cicely Hall,’ is an outstanding, robust Irish cultivar with dark green inner markings. It grows to a height of 20-25cm.
Galanthus ‘Hill Poe’ – Image Copyright Steve Covey
Galanthus ‘Hill Poe,’ is an interesting, double variety with five outer petals and was found growing under a Walnut tree in Riverston, County Tipperary in 1911 by James Hill Poe. It needs good drainage and flowers late in the season. It reaches a height of 14cm.
Make sure that you buy Snowdrop bulbs from reputable nurseries in the autumn, and ensure that bulbs feel firm, not soft and are not dried out. If you prefer to plant ‘in the green’ in the late springtime. Lift and divide them when they have stopped flowering but the leaves are still green. Plant bulbs in groups to a depth of 10cm and 10cm apart. Or for natural looking drifts scatter them across an area and plant them where they land. Snowdrops can be planted in containers, but do prefer to naturalise and spread in the great outdoors, where possible.
Throughout Britain many country estates, botanic and private gardens open their gates to visitors in the early part of the year to display their Snowdrop collections. The Scottish Snowdrop Festival runs between January and mid-March. The 16th Century, Castle Kennedy Gardens is one of Scotland’s most important landscaped gardens. It offers mature woodland with curved banks and streams, situated between two lochs. Galanthus woronowii thrive under unusual trees and shrubs. As part of the festival it opens a wonderful Snowdrop route through private areas of the estate during this time.