Dangers of Snowdropping

frosty.snowdropsHaving successfully resisted the temptation to purchase the newest snowdrop book available, Naomi Slade’s ‘The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops’, I succumbed to suggesting it as a Christmas present and Christmas Day saw me eagerly devouring the content. Some may think that one wouldn’t need more than one book about snowdrops but those with a larger collection in their library will vouch for the fact that there is always something else to learn or a more helpful description of a certain variety. Thus it was that I learned that ‘snowdropping’ is a recognised urban slang term for stealing washing from washing lines, particularly ladies’ underwear! Be warned!

A warning must also go out about the dangers of allowing yourself to get sucked into the delights of snowdrops – once you start introducing something a little different from the common Galanthus nivalis and certainly one you call by a name other than ‘snowdrop’, like Augustus or Ophelia, then there may well be no turning back. Not only will you want to provide them with a wider social circle of friends but you will want to have some doubles, or earlies and lates, grumpy ones and cross ones, yellow or all white, cheap ones and expensive ones (no, don’t go there…).  You will want to know which ones should flower first, if their leaves are applanate, explicative or supervolute, whether to keep them in pots or in the ground. And you will definitely want all those snowdrop books.

That is just the start, as once you have your expanding collection the fun really begins, and you will find yourself all but on your knees for several weeks in early winter through to spring, waiting for your  preciouses to emerge and admiring them when they do. If you are lucky they will indeed emerge when they feel up to it, and if they have caught you napping you will have the pleasure of seeing their green shoots and maybe even buds emerging from the bare ground like magic – at which point you will start poking around like Sherlock Holmes looking for evidence of the rest of them and thus it will continue till all are safely poking through and flowering in the welcome winter sunshine. Yes, if you are lucky….

snowdrop.carpetMy own snowdrop journey began alongside the woodland edge border in about 2003 when I added common snowdrops from a bundle of acquaintance’s spares to the new border, which have spread in the way that only snowdrops can do, aided and abetted by regular divisions and now can be described as a carpet when they flower. In 2005 I visited a local garden open for the snowdrop season where I first came across ‘specials’ and was intrigued enough to buy my first examples, Lady Elphinstone and Pusey Green Tip, fortuitously planting them in a separate border away from the ‘plebs’. They were joined the following year by a dozen or so more examples from well known suppliers but then Work got in the way, as it does – and it wasn’t till the latter was dispensed with that my interest was sparked again in 2012 when I paid more than I should have done for Wasp and Walrus from eBay. Guiltily I sold some spares to recoup part of this expenditure but I was well and truly hooked by then, rescuing the existing snowdrops from near obscurity,  striving to ensure labelling was maintained and, of course, adding further to the collection.

map.checkProducing a map last year of what is now known as the ‘Species Snowdrop Border’ was a good move as it made scrabbling around looking for those first shoots much easier, and with Maidwell L, Mrs Macnamara and James Backhouse already in bud, Faringdon Double and Three Ships believed to be AWOL, I was there with a copy of the map the day after Boxing Day ticking off the others. As the ground was frozen there was no poking around to be done other than under leaves and I can report, with some resigned sadness, that the ticklist is as yet nowhere near complete…

Without a note from their mothers, reasons for non-appearance could be any of a number of things which I am not going to write about now, and of course I may still be surprised by latecomers – just another of the perils of snowdropping. The good news is that I have identified a suitable extension to the border, under the partially removed plum tree and to the immediate right of the existing border; the bad (for my bank balance) news is that Avon Bulbs should be ready to start taking internet orders for snowdrops tomorrow…..

Sincere apologies to all those who unable to grow snowdrops, can’t stand snowdrops, or find this seasonal obsession with snowdrops inexplicable…


This entry was posted in bulbs, corms and tubers, Gardening, Gardens and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Dangers of Snowdropping

  1. It is fun to delve into a particular flower, herb, plant, etc. and examine all aspects, types, etc. I love your map.

  2. Helen Johnstone says:

    I am still trying to resist but now that last years purchases have reappeared I can feel my resistance fading.

  3. sungropam says:

    Just spotted a cluster of mine coming up through the mulch, and remembered this quote, which I am delighted to share this afternoon – “Snowdrops stand round in a tiny square, like ballet girls waiting to dance.”
    Beverly Nichols, A Thatched Roof, 1933

  4. johnvic8 says:

    Thanks, Cathy. You have done such a grand job of keeping track and labelling your plants. It shows me once again how that has been a deficient part of my gardening practice in this garden. AND, I can’t go back and recreate all that information. Now I can’t keep the hostas straight. Lazy does as lazy is.

    • Cathy says:

      You also need to have confidence in your labels and writing implement though John – the labels I use now are much better than the T labels I used to use as they are less likely to snap if stood on, and the pen doesn’t wipe off in time. You could always start keeping track now…

  5. Like Helen, I am diligently trying to resist. I have a slightly addictive personality so there is only one way it would go…..

  6. Anna says:

    It’s that wonderful time of year again! I thought of you today Cathy when I read a snippet that advised waiting at least two years if a ‘drop seems to disappear. One plus to growing them in pots is that you can remain upright to examine them at close quarters and breath in that fabulous scent 🙂 A quick email will be winging its way to you later – have a look at it before you put your Avon order in.

    • Cathy says:

      At least 2 years? But if you gently empty out the pot or the aquatic basket after the first year’s non-appearance and there is nothing remotely bulb like, then surely that’s fairly convincing evidence..? 😉 Thanks for the kind email which I shall reply to shortly 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    You are definitely hooked, I see. 😉 I don’t really have the right conditions for them here, but am always pleased to see a few of them peek out of the snow in spring. I hope you’ll post a few more photos to share soon! 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      None of mine have opened fully yet, Cathy, as it must not be quite sunny and warm enough for them to open – shouldn’t be long, weather permitting. I often struggle to get decent pictures because they are just so, well, WHITE!!

  8. I have been warned! Your dedication is impressive! Although I’m always thrilled to see mine come through, this year earlier than ever. It is my one and only example. But it is a named variety – Arnott. Always a highlight!

    • Cathy says:

      Possibly not dedication, Ali, as they would receive individual TLC and be tucked into bed every night – more of a seasonal obsession I would say… 😉 Sam Arnott is one of the ones with a distinctive fragrance – enjoy!

  9. pbmgarden says:

    I enjoy seeing your snowdrops, but haven’t had much luck establishing them here. I am afraid it could become addictive.

  10. kate says:

    I am amazed and impressed by your organisation (and by your snowdrop thoroughness). I love them but learned early on that the mice only eat the special ones – so I’ll have to enjoy yours instead.

  11. Chloris says:

    I am impressed by your organisation too. I have lots of snowdrops out now and it is spoiling my enjoyment of them not knowing their names. It shouldn’ t really matter but somehow it does. I will probably succumb and by that book too.

    • Cathy says:

      Were they all there when you came to this house, Chloris? There has been a huge increase in named varieties in recent years so if they pre-dated your arrival that would help in restricting any identification research – and if the last people were not snowdrop aficionados they may be purely readily available varieties. You may find Freda Cox’s book better for identification as she includes more varieties. I too like to know names.

      • Chloris says:

        Some of them I bought at the local farm shop labelled as nivalis, although they clearly aren’ t. Others came from the garden of a snowdrop enthusiast who belonged to my garden club. When he died his wife gave members his snowdrops but unfortunately they weren’ t labelled. They are all kinds of elwesii.

  12. AnnetteM says:

    I really enjoyed this post, though I am ashamed to say I only have the ordinary snowdrops. They do seem to do well here though and have lasted many years – I am now tempted to increase my collection. I have some growing in very dry conditions and some in shady moister conditions – do different varieties have different requirements? Just a yes or no answer will do here as I can look up the details – or buy a book. Or maybe wait for your next post? Thanks.

    • Cathy says:

      Some are a little more choosy because of where they originate, but Naomi tells us whether the varieties she features are easy, moderate or difficult to grow – I need to make sure I avoid any ‘difficult’ ones if they are pricey as well! Do read the reviews of the different books or ask those who have them because they have different appeals

  13. rusty duck says:

    I have decided to try another two specials this year while I wait to see if our mouse defences are up to the job. If they are then I suspect the floodgates will open.. I am hooked.

    • Cathy says:

      So perhaps you could have yours in pots in a cold frame or something – or perhaps if the mice fancy them there will be no stopping them anyway… 😉

  14. Helen Leach says:

    Cathy, I’m afraid I can’t seem to email you. I know you’ve visited Hodsock Priory before to see our snowdrops and winter gardens but this year we have some extra special celebrations and we would like to invite you to our media and blogger day on 3rd February. If you could drop us a line via info@hodsockpriory.com I will be glad to send full details. Keep up the good work, we love your blog! Thanks, Helen

  15. Amy says:

    Oh, don’t apologize to those of us who can’t grow them 😉 Looking at yours is the closest I can get at present. I had only G. elwesii in my Kansas City garden and the only specials I knew of were Sam Arnott and a few doubles, but I did – and do – adore the lot of them so I’m happy to see yours flourishing!

  16. bittster says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing your snowdrops flourish this spring, You have been brought it back and I think the little bulbs are quite pleased. Now I can live vicariously through your nice little collection!
    Somehow mine have also multiplied (as well as the snowdrop books). Maybe because our winters are more brutal it gives me too much time indoors to think about the drops and not enough time out in the garden to keep me otherwise occupied.
    Unfortunately new drops are no cheaper on this side of the sea. I had the Slade book in hand Christmastime and when I thought about the money already spent on snowdrops this year I put it back on to the shelf. I was tempted though, it looks like a nice read.

    • Cathy says:

      Very restrained! I was thinking today that many nurseries have 12 month guarantees on plants these day, but it doesn’t seem to apply to bulbs in the green or not that I have noticed anyway 😦

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