LOUISE AND ROBERT PETERS
FOXGROVE PLANTS
FOXGROVE
ENBORNE
NEWBURY
BERKSHIRE
RG14 6RE
TELEPHONE  01635 40554

                                       

CARE OF SNOWDROPS

On receipt of your Snowdrops, whether collected or posted, keep in a cool place until you are ready to plant them. It is essential to loosen the packaging. If you are at all concerned about how you find your Snowdrop Order please get in touch at this stage.

Sometimes parcels can be delayed in the post and Snowdrops are a delicate item to have been sitting in a post office warehouse.

Planting should be done as soon as possible. Temporarily they can be put into a pot, but snowdrops prefer to be grown in the ground. It is best to plant without delay.

A FEW NOTES ON SNOWDROPS

It has already be mentioned that Snowdrops are not a Native to these shores, although they look so right in woody places.G, nivalis has come across from other European Countries and is the most common specie Snowdrops, G. elwesii is a later introduction from Turkey.

Snowdrops are remarkably hardy and flower at a time when most garden plants await the arrival of warmer weather. Snowdrops seem able to withstand whatever the weather may be during the winter. For this reason it is sensible to judge the weather and leave Snowdrop visits to later in the day to avoid a disappointing trip.  Prolonged cold spells will naturally check their growth, but it will not be harmful. Even deluges of rain will not be a problem so long as the soil is not overlying a poorly drained sub-soil. Despite their delicate appearance Snowdrops are resilient plants.

Bare earth or sparse grass is more suitable than turf which is regularly tended once the Snowdrops are no longer in bloom. A lawn is not ideal – Snowdrops resent being mown and the compaction resulting from regular rolling does not encourage them to increase. Snowdrops planted in a lawn may come up, but they will not thrive and look rather sad. Dense shade is often a problem site but G. nivalis would be quite happy in such a place and combined with Cyclamen the effect would be very pretty. The best displays of Snowdrops will be found where they are left in peace to grow without being ‘gardened,’they will happily dwell beneath deciduous trees enjoying the leaf litter as it gradually breaks down.

Wild drifts of Snowdrops are a wonderful sight, however most gardeners do not have woods or orchards in which they can establish such a mass planting. In the wild Galanthus occur in deciduous woods, here the trees give summer shade but the flowers enjoy plenty of light in the winter. Snowdrops are not fussy about soil type, a heavy fertile loam, with neutral to slightly alkaline properties is fine. They will benefit from humous-rich materials, but care is really minimal. Natural plantings beneath trees and shrubs look super and   over the years will quietly spread.  Even in a tiny garden a home can be found for a clump of Snowdrops. As with all ideas of gardening how and where to grow a plant is a personal choice, but bear in mind the conditions Snowdrops seem to prefer and introduce a few to your garden. At this time of year the first glimpse of white is as ever a cheerful sign.

Establishing a drift of Snowdrops will take a while, bear in mind certain growing requirements listed previously. Also, consider whether Snowdrops appear in other gardens near yours, this will give an indication of suitability. Not all soils will be suitable and occassionally no matter how much effort is made to plant snowdrops they just will not flourish.

Snowdrops might appear to some to have a fleeting seasonal interest, but by planting a few G. reginae olgae ssp.reginae olgae (the autumn flowering forms) then the Flowering span is longer. Autumn flowering Snowdrops are not as straight forward as the  forms we are used to and to achieve great clumps is probably an unreality. Simply they are not that easy and can for some reason grow very well for several seasons and then go back to almost nothing. If you wish to grow these Snowdrops remember there requirement for a much drier position, which is open to the sun.                                                                                                    

Dry bulbs obtained in the autumn are not usually the most successful  way of establishing Snowdrops. In this state the over-extended storage leads to dehydration and the bulbs do not recover well. Bulbs obtained 'IN THE GREEN' should be fresh looking, not dry in appearance or showing signs of dying down. Neither should they be soggy. Slightly dehydrated foliage soon recovers and continues to develop. Plant the bulbs about 3” down, often a sprinkling of sharp sand and bonemeal will encourage a good root system. Also some leaf mould will prove beneficial. As previously mentioned regular division is advisable; lift the clump when flowering or just after. Care must be taken not to damage the root hairs or to allow them to dry out. Sometimes it is a good idea to lift and move to a new position a clump that has not multiplied.

Untended clumps, particularly the cultivars, deteriorate after a period of time. A scattering of bonemeal in the autumn is a good idea, although Snowdrops are not gross feeders. As to the question of growing Snowdrops in pots – in our experience they do best in the garden. The environment of a pot can be much to dry and temperatures fluctuate, these and other factors do not suit Snowdrops.                                                                  

All Snowdrops have a perfume, it is a smell unique to the Galanthus family and will be accentuated on a warm winters day. Scent is a feature of most winter flowering plants. Many people will mention G. ' S. Arnott' with it honey scented flowers, but  the whole Snowdrop family have a perfume. A bunch of picked Snowdrops will soon lift their outer petals in a warm room to release the fragrance peculiar to Galanthus.
                  
The growing and particularly the identifying of Snowdrops is not always easy. For instance some years G. n. 'Lady Elphinstone' has ordinary green and not pale, apricot flowers, this can be  most disappointing and sometimes G. 'Straffan' only produces a single flower per bulb.

The characteristics of  Snowdrop are refreshed every February when time is spent admiring how well or otherwise the garden is looking. Some Snowdrops will increase more quickly than others, this is to be expected. This  is all due to some plants being more vigorous than others, as with all types of plants. Again some soils will be better for some groups of snowdrops than others – for example yellow forms seem to grow better on acid soils. Another point to remember is how newly moved or disturbed bulbs may be smaller than expected in  the first season, but will improve once established. Sometimes no flowers will be produced in the first year, disappointing but not uncommon. They really do grow larger and better in the following years. With a nursery we find that some Snowdrops are disturbed too often and so we have to be careful or else they are not allowed to flourish, so care has to be taken. As previously mentioned in the section for Double Snowdrops identification is terribly difficult, particularly with Mr. Greatorex's Hybrid Doubles. Within a clump flowers may not be uniform, immature, poorly formed flowers will appear as well as perfectly shaped ones. Also green tips will appear on some flowers one year, but not the next or even within a group green tips will come to certain flowers but not others. It can be rather confusing. So the growing of Snowdrops is not for the faint hearted.

Definite names can not be found for all Snowdrops, they are so variable, not every plant should be named. Identification can be tricky, but that is part of the fun.                                                   
For those wishing to grow one or two of the less common or GIANT Snowdrops the following are the best to start a collection:
GAL. 'ATKINSII' , early & slim, a hybrid which will increase well & naturalises readily.It has large pearl drop shaped flowers.
GAL. 'GALATEA', elegant & impressive, the large flower hangs heavily, J. A. Allen considered it to be a GIANT of the family.
GAL. 'S. ARNOTT' received an Award of Merit in 1957, being tall and beautifully proportioned, it increases well & is still my favourite.
GAL. ELWESII the beauty of the silver leaves makes this a stunning plant, it is easy to identify & strong growing.
GAL . NIVALIS 'VIRIDAPICIS' a single, well worth closer inspection by  getting on your hands & knees to view the delicate green flush on the outer petals.

Enthusiastic interest in Snowdrops does not appear to wain, what is the reason for our love of Snowdrops? The question has many replies - They are the first things to appear on chilly winter days, not minding frosts or wet. A simple, white flower which just grows itself without much help from a gardener. They are part of the cycle heralding new beginnings. A turn around the garden to see what is coming up gets the gardener out and interested in the changes happening, a positive stimulus after the decline of Autumn.

These are only a few suggestion so read through this booklet and if possible look at Snowdrops. Many private gardens now open in late winter for their displays of Snowdrops so do some research, make some enquiries and find out a place to visit locally or venture  farther a field. This is the start of the gardening year so don't delay go Snowdropping!