Having 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….
My 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.
Producing 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…