A Quick guide to growing your own snowdrop collection | The Eco Fairy Garden
A quick guide to growing your own snowdrop collection
27
MARCH, 2018
Astronomy Winter Snowdrops

As snowdrops up and down the country begin to go over we look back on what has been a truly spectacular season of ‘GALANTHAMANIA!’ In this Eco Fairy Garden article we shall give our readers a brief overview of this most evocative of winter flowers, a selection of our most treasured cultivars, and top tips on how to succeed in growing your own collection. Check back in a couple of weeks for more suggested cultivars and suggested companion planting.

An Overview of snowdrops:

The scientific name for snowdrop is Galanthus, from the Greek ‘gala’ meaning ‘milk’ and ‘anthos’ meaning ‘flower’.

  •  They originate from the Caucasus, Greece, Turkey and the Balkans.
  • The first mention of snowdrops in English literature was in 16th Century.
  • There are 20-21 true species in the wild.
  • There are over 1400 named garden cultivars – some more distinctive than others.
  •  New hybrids are created through crosspollination by the bees (that’s right, many bees are active throughout winter), the wind or gardeners.
  •  The name for a dedicated snowdrop fancier is a ‘galanthophile’ (this is a real thing).
  • Rare snowdrops can command huge sums of money from collectors (a single bulb of a cultivar called ‘Golden Fleece’ went for £1,390… yep, galanthomania folks, it has arrived).
One of the many cultivars of snowdrop at Colesbourne Gardens.
Photograph by Laura Cole

Treasured Cultivars:

  • Galanthus nivalis AGM (AGM denotes the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ meaning that the plant has proven itself to be a particularly good garden plant) – This is our common snowdrop, the small but robust plant that is such a familiar sight in churchyards and through woodlands and their margins. It bulks up nicely and readily hybridises. (Approx. £3 for 5bulbs)
  • Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ AGM – This is a strong snowdrop both in stature (it is quite tall) and in cultivation (it bulks up readily from bulb offsets – plant one bulb and 2 years later you will have a healthy little clump forming). It has a delicious honey-scent and does well as a cut flower. (Approx. £3.50 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’ AGM – This is one of my favourite Greatorex doubles (Heyrick Greatorex (1884-1954), great name huh?, was a snowdrop breeder in Norfolk who named many of his exceptional snowdrops after Shakespearean heroines) with a compact, double flower. It often produces two scapes (flowers) per bulb. It bulks up nicely. (Approx. £7 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ AGM – This is an old aristocrat, she peers out at you with her beady eyes from the flower bed. A very popular and distinctive double. Very easy to succeed with, bulks up happily. (Approx. £6 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus ‘Mrs. Thompson’ – We like our cultivars to do exactly what they say on the tin, no deviation from the stated description, not-so with ‘Mrs. Thompson’. ‘Excitingly erratic’ is how I would describe this snowdrop, which frequently exhibits fascinating mutations. (Approx. £28 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus ‘South Hayes’ – One of the most distinctive of all the hybrids, this is a must for any budding galanthophile. The instantly recognisable bold green mark on the outer segments sets this plant apart and makes it one of the most desirable snowdrops out there.
    (Approx. £40 per bulb)

“Rare snowdrops can command huge sums of money from collectors- a single bulb of a cultivar called ‘Golden Fleece’ went for £1,390.”

  •  Galanthus ‘Little Ben’ – This snowdrop produces a huge flower on a very short plant. It is
    easy to succeed with. (Approx. £15 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ syn. ‘Spindlestone’s Surprise’ – This is one of the most
    famous ‘yellow’ snowdrops. Fashion plays a big part in snowdrop cultivation and ‘yellow’ or
    ‘gold’ snowdrops are very fashionable right now (well, just look at the stir ‘Golden Fleece’
    made a couple of years ago). (Approx. £25 per bulb)

 

  • Galanthus nivalis ‘Fiona’s Gold’ – Arguably one of the finest yellow snowdrops in cultivation,
    it practically glows. It is a relatively robust plant and will bulk-up readily. (Approx. £30 per
    bulb)

 

  • Galanthus plicatus ‘Trym’ – Similar to ‘South Hayes’ in its distinctive pergola-shaped flower
    with strong green markings on the outers. Another highly desirable snowdrop. (Approx. £30
    per bulb)

Arthur Cole

Photographs property of Eco Fairy Garden.

Top Tips for snowdrop success:

 

  • Plant bulbs into gritty loam-based compost.
  • Add a sprinkle of bonemeal or slow release fertiliser to the hole before planting the bulb.
  • Divide clumps when they look congested (typically every 2-4years depending on the
    cultivar).
  •  Allow leaves to completely dieback (usually by May) before tidying up (NB don’t plant in
    lawns unless you are happy not to mow until late April or May).
  •  Snowdrops are thirsty, don’t plant in thin soils.

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