Fagus Times Snowdrops
I don’t think there is another flower that brings such hope as snowdrops. Once we get into the heart of winter and finally some cold weather knocks the garden for six, the first flower to rise like a phoenix from the cold ashes is the snowdrop. Their pure white petals have come to symbolise purity and innocence but also sympathy as they were often found growing in cemeteries.
Galanthus nivalis meaning “milk flower of the snow,” were bought to the UK by the Romans but had to wait till 1753 to be botanically named by Carl Linnaeus as part of the Amaryllidaceae family.
Snowdrops thrive in woodland conditions so try to recreate this feeling in your own garden with dappled shade. Plant from January to March after flowering and when the bulbs still have foliage, ‘in the green.’ Over time they will naturalise and spread.
Snowdrops are a genus of 20 species. These bulbous herbaceous perennials have three inner petals with green markings surrounded by three outer petals, not to be confused with Acis or Leucojum, known as snowflakes.
An exceptional flower is Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno, whose delicate double flower heads are show stoppers. Another unusual Galanthus nivalis is ‘Walrus’ with three dramatic ‘tusks’ framing beautiful double petals or for a contrast in height plant Galanthus elwesii.
Collectors, or Galanthophiles, have been driving up the prices of snowdrops over the years creating ‘galanthomania.’ Thompson & Morgan won the bid for one of the world’ s most expensive snowdrops, Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison,’ which sold for £725! This unusual flower has a yellow ovary and petal markings, to date only found in the Scottish garden of Elizabeth Harrison. But the bulb of snowdrop ‘Golden Fleece’ is reported to have sold on eBay for a staggering £1390 in 2015; developed and grown over 10 years by Cambridgeshire nurseryman Joe Sharman.
Painswick Rococo Garden, Stroud and East Lambrook Manor, South Petherton are both stunning gardens to visit to see snowdrops en masse.
All photos © Debi Holland 2021