In the Bag

IMG_5488…is a ‘chopped up’ snowdrop bulb, my first experiment in ‘chipping’ or ‘twin scaling’ snowdrops.

In readiness for this later experiment, when replanting my special snowdrops in their newly elevated home earlier in the year I kept back a bulb of ‘Maidwell L’, one of the snowdrops I have had the longest and therefore a well established little clump, potting it up and making sure it was watered periodically during the drier months. Freda Cox describes the process of chipping in her book ‘A Gardener’s Guide to Snowdrops’ and there was an article covering it in the July/August ‘Which? Gardening’ magazine and it was the latter I followed as I had read it most recently. The techniques are essentially the same but Freda Cox used vermiculite rather than perlite and took the precaution of using a fungicide.

First of all I unearthed the bulb from the pot, relieved that there WAS still a bulb for me to work on and pleased that it had developed two additional bulblets since I last saw it; the skin was then gently peeled from the bulbs:

snowdrop.chipping1The pleasure of finding 3 bulbs instead of one was tempered by discovering that two of them were damaged or infected in some way, but I took the decision to work with these damaged ones as well but to keep them separate. The next step was to slice off the top and the base (with a sterilised sharp knife), retaining a section of the basal plate to which the scales are attached, and then cutting the bulbs vertically into 2, 4, 8, 16 or even 32 sections, each with a tiny section of the basal plate. I cut the larger two into eight sections and the smaller one into 4, but you can see how damaged the two bulbs are so I am not hopeful of any results with these ones:

snowdrop.chipping2IMG_5487The sections of bulbs were then placed in plastic bags in a mixture of peat and perlite and moistened before the bags were sealed. They are meant to be placed in an airing cupboard for 6-8 weeks but in the absence of this they are tucked in a dark corner of the kitchen next to the Aga, where I will try and resist the temptation to inspect them too frequently! In time new bulblets should appear between the scales but this could take anything up to 6 months – I will keep you posted!

Not yet in the bag is inclusion of our garden in the NGS Yellow Book, and although a preliminary visit from the Assistant County Organisers today was largely positive there are some issues which need to be addressed, particularly maintaining access round the garden and clearing unnecessary clutter, as well as the inevitable issue of parking. Inevitably a little apprehensive about the visit, I nevertheless recognised that as the garden is a reflection of myself if it was deemed not suitable for inclusion then that was fine by me as I garden essentially for my own pleasure; if on the other hand it was considered of wider appeal then it would a shame to keep it to myself. A further visit has been provisionally arranged for June next year, around the time it would potentially be opened if it was to be included at a later date. Again watch this space – but don’t hold your breath!

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36 Responses to In the Bag

  1. Fascinated by the treatment of the snowdrops – itching to try this out now. You are very brave to consider opening your garden, i’m sure visitors would LOVE it!

    • Cathy says:

      Summer is the time to try this method of propagating snowdrops – I was going to start with a ‘common’ one but decided life was too short to chip these ones as they increase so readily anyway. I do feel ‘brave’ offering to open the garden but I would like to share my pleasure with a wider audience – although just as people have to take me as they find me the same goes for the garden…

  2. Pauline says:

    Hope your twin scaling is successful, that is something I’ve not tried, it will be wonderful if it works.
    We opened for 5 yrs for the NGS and the problem of parking is quite often what stops some gardens from being accepted, which is a shame. We were lucky in that we had the former school next to us, so we were allowed to use their playground. We had to withdraw when I got my muscle problem 4 yrs ago, we felt we couldn’t keep up the standard of maintenance that they expect, just as well really as the school is now a house and 3 more houses have been built on the playground! Hope you are successful eventually.

    • Cathy says:

      I am just curious to try the twin scaling and have no plans (yet) beyond the experiment. Thanks for info on your NGS experience – after yesterday I have something to work towards but there is no rush and if it is to be then it will be, or not! 😉

  3. AnnetteM says:

    I hope you are successful in your application, Cathy. It would be real shame if others couldn’t enjoy your lovely garden. I have sometimes thought about it, but I am not sure I have sufficient interest at the moment. Is there a list of criteria anywhere for inclusion? I hope your twin scaling works. It is a fascinating experiment.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Annette – it it helps to visit several NGS gardens (the Scottish equivalent in your case – and I noticed from the recent visit to my Mum’s that their handbook is about 3 times the size it used to be!) to get an idea of what sort of gardens are included, which of course is a huge range and not all to everyone’s taste. Generally they need to sustain at least 45 mins of interest – see this link http://www.ngs.org.uk/get-involved/open-your-garden.aspx

      • AnnetteM says:

        Thanks that is useful. I would be pushing it at 45 mins just now, but I have a few more areas I could develop, so maybe in a few more years. Or maybe if I put a lot of labels in the ground that would keep them busy!! Thanks for the link.

  4. Christina says:

    Exciting to be reproducing the snowdrops, I can see you selling them on eBay for a fortune in the coming years. I’m sure you’d be a wonderful hostess if they do accept your garden in the NGS, I know it is hard work, a friend of mine does it (Karen, from An Artist’s Garden), I think the important thing is to have lots of friends helping with parking, teas and making cakes etc. and not to try to do it all on your own; anyway good luck, I hope you are successful.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Christina – I am just curious to try the snowdrops but I have sold a few snowdrops on eBay before so who knows….! I realise from gardens I have visited how important the extra help is on the day and if it was to happen I would involve a voluntary group I am with for support, with a share of the proceeds going to them – but I am afraid the cakes would still be made by me as it is not something I would delegate!! ps intriguing to know you have a connection with Karen and the Artist’s Garden!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    I’ve never heard of this kind of propagation. Always learning! 😉 Hope it proves successful and that the NGS process goes well. Best of luck!

  6. Sam says:

    Very interested in the snowdrop propagation. Do keep us posted. And best of luck with the NGS. It’s lovely to be able to share a garden; I’m sure yours is definitely worth inclusion.

    • Cathy says:

      I shall keep you all posted on the progress of the snowdrops – but even if (sorry, when!) new bulblets form, it will be few years before they are of flowering size. It is very hard to be objective about your own garden – and of course we all have our own ideas of what looks good in a garden

  7. Looks like minced snowdrops, fingers crossed it works.
    As for the garden, always looks worth a visit from this side of the screen. I hope you are approved!

    • Cathy says:

      Hmm… perhaps that could make 64 from each bulb then…? 😉 Thanks for your kind words about the garden – it is never going to be a manicured garden so if proves not to be acceptable for what it is then so be it

  8. Brian Skeys says:

    Good luck with the snowdrops and the NGS. What did they mean by maintaining access around the garden? We all have to clear unnecessary clutter, parking can be a problem, we are fortunate the local friendly farmer lets us use his field. If we could not use this we would consider opening on a week day when there are less cars parked around the houses. I think some County Organisers are a little more flexible and encouraging than others!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Brian – that was just my words about the access. I am well aware that I am not the tallest or broadest person on the planet and have to remember that overhanging or not-tied-in greenery could be an inconvenience for others and our many paths are fairly narrow. That and the clearing clutter are common sense really, but can be readily dealt with for a specific occasion. The parking is a different issue of course, but there is a possibility I can sound out before next June.

  9. Noelle says:

    Good luck with the snowdrops. I have no special ones, but I do have a nice double, so I shall practice on some of those, just to keep you company. Hope you get into the NGS….clutter can be ‘heaped’ somewhere hidden, just for the visit. Its amazing what I got up for the Kenilworth in Bloom Judging, and it did the garden good too!? Slowly everything is getting back in place, to how I like it!

    • Cathy says:

      Ooh, thanks for deciding to have a go with snowdrops too – it will be interesting to compare notes! I was going to ask you about the the KiB judging – no doubt you are ‘in waiting’ now? That is a useful thought on how you deal with the clutter – moving stuff just for the visit, however much it goes against the grain… 🙂 Will be emailing re a visit soon – hope you have some days free!

  10. May you have many tiny snowdrops shortly! I’ve done the process with daffodils, as an experiment, but nothing as small a snowdrops. Good luck.

  11. Gina says:

    Good luck with the snowdrops. I look forward to seeing the results.
    I’m not sure whether to wish you good luck or not with the NGS application. It’s not something I would do. I have no problem showing family and friends around the garden but I’m not sure about strangers. I hope it works out as you wish though

  12. A very interesting and useful post about chipping snow drop bulbs, thank you for showing us so methodically how it is done. I shall give it a go!

    We open for the NGS, I remember those preliminary visits! I so admire your stoicism and rationale. It’s a wonderful thing to do, even if the logistics can be a bit overwhelming. We have to renegotiate field parking every time we open, on the other hand, we are so lucky that the local church cheerfully does the teas. Best of luck if you do go ahead 🙂 .

  13. Anna says:

    Oh I will be most interested in the results of your twin-scaling experiment Cathy, a process I’m unlikely to dabble in now that our airing cupboard is no more. There are also some comprehensive notes on Judy’s Snowdrops website about this technique. I have been dividing some snowdrop bulbs over the last few days so there may be some spares/swaps for friends come spring. Good to hear that the feedback from your NGS visit was constructive. I’m sure that you will be able to come up with solutions. I had to chuckle at your overhanging greenery comment as I’ve been trimming some back this afternoon.

    • Cathy says:

      No airing cupboard here either but I have improvised! It seems strange to be thinking about snowdrops at this time of year. Do you keep your pots somewhere shaded and remember to keep watering them?!

  14. rickii says:

    Fascinating…do you suppose this technique would work with other bulbs as well?

    • Cathy says:

      I expect it would, but for less expensive bulbs it may be less worth the time and effort. Special named variety snowdrops can be quite (or very!) expensive so if you can get such a large multiple of new bulbs from a single bulb it makes commercial sense. I am just curious to try it at the moment

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