I bought my first ‘special’ (named) snowdrop back in 2005 and added a handful more in the next year or two, but it was from 2012 onwards that actively adding to their numbers began. The first bulbs were kept in their original pots but sunk into a specific border away from any of the common G nivalis. As the collection multiplied, the border was dubbed ‘The Snowdrop Border’ and kept exclusively for named snowdrops, white hellebores and white annuals in the summer.

Once well and truly a ‘galanthophile’, my snowdrop reading led me to move the growing collection into lattice pots, to give the ‘drops more breathing space – but after a year or two it became clear that these also provided more space for weeds and particularly roots to get established, and I bravely began to move the strongest clumps directly into the soil, with newer bulbs confined to Avon Bulbs’ deep snowdrop pots, sunk into the ground.

Throughout this period, though, I was losing bulbs every year, mostly newer varieties, but occasionally fairly established clumps – whether their loss was down to squirrels, cats or disease or, Heaven forbid, bad management! is unclear, but it makes an expensive interest even more expensive, despite welcome gifts and exchanges with fellow enthusiasts.

Following comments and discussions on the blog last year, I decided to trial bulbs in our little woodland (planted in 2000, and home to wood anemones, fritillaries, bluebells and wild garlic) and moved a couple of bulbs from each of six varieties there in March 2021, with a view to potentially moving the whole collection of 60-70 varieties if the trial proved successful. I eagerly awaited the outcome, sticking firmly to my decision not to buy any new bulbs this season, and was thrilled that all 6 returned, looking happy and healthy and growing vigorously.

The decision was made, and last week the snowdrop border was emptied of bulbs, the majority being replanted on either side of one of the paths through the woodland but with the newer varieties going under the apple trees, where they can be more easily kept an eye on. I may lose a few in the process, but in the long run I am now fairly confident they will thrive in their more natural surroundings – and in the meantime I have a new map to properly annotate, a pile of empty snowdrop pots and an empty border to fill!

Incidentally, I still have ‘Lady Elphinstone’, that first snowdrop I bought 17 years ago…

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15 Responses to Exodus

  1. A massive task Cathy, but oh so satisfying. I am always full of admiration for your record keeping.

    • Cathy says:

      I had made the decision a year ago to move them if the trial ones did OK, so it was just waiting for the right time this year. The record keeping pays off, especially if labels disappear in the case of snowdrops. It may be a while before my roughly pencilled notes and the draft map get properly recorded though!

  2. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Looking around this area where there are huge drifts of native snowdrops it seems to me that they will be happier in a woodland setting. It must be a big job to move them all AND remember which is which! But what fun to have a whole new area to design!

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, I agree, and perhaps I should have considered moving them before – but to be honest it hadn’t even occurred to me until some discussions on the blog last year. I already have a map of the existing snowdrop border to show where things were, and a map of their location in the woodland was a priority. In some way it might be ‘fun’ having a new area to fill, but I will happily admit it’s quite daunting as it is a relatively big border (excluding the shrub border it’s by far the biggest border in the garden). Actually, very daunting…

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        There is something quite intimidating about an empty border or a blank page / canvas. Something abut too many choices! And you didn’t move the snowdrops because you had something else in mind for this spot. At some point an idea will crystalise and until then maybe just mulch it to stop weeds invading?

        • Cathy says:

          Yes, usually I have something already in mind when I change something – like the recent transformation of one of the bold borders into a grass border. I shall continue with having annuals in the border for the summer though, as the seedlings are currently being nurtured in the greenhouse…about 6 different colours of limonium (statice)

          • Going Batty in Wales says:

            And annuals do not commit you long term so if you decide on something else it will be easy to do next year. Or you can just o on using annuals until inspiration comes.

          • Cathy says:

            Hmm, my inspiration would be failing if I hadn’t had any by next year…! 😉

        • Cathy says:

          Hadn’t finished my reply…! But you are right about an idea crystallising in due course, as that’s what invariably happens – although I found myself wondering today whether I could split it and have a paved area in the middle – with a bench, or pots, or a big sculture even…

  3. Wow, that’s quite a collection! Very impressive, and encouraging that your decision and actions are proving successful. I have a few patches of snowdrops, and I so look forward to their reappearance each late winter/early spring. 🙂

  4. Oh you’re a braver woman than me Cathy but I think your woodland area should prove a fine spot for your special ‘drops to thrive in and shine. I’m sure that you are giving them tender loving care as they settle into their new home. What are your plans for the space their removal has freed up?

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Anna – in the long run I am confident it will the best option for them – and I was really surprised how well the trial ones had done. The empty border is really quite daunting as it is such a big area – I am sticking with the planned annuals for this summer but want to have a firm plan (and hopefully plants too) ready to put into action by late summer. Any suggestions would be welcome…

  5. Such an interesting post – I’m very impressed with your map, record keeping in general and the planning and labour it took to move them all! I’ve noticed that the Galanthus I planted in my wooded area have started to spread out quite a bit in the past two years, and always look a lot more at home than the ones I have in more sunnier areas. They’re starting to peak right now, with blooms expected for several more weeks as the ground continues to thaw in more shaded and/or leaf covered areas.

    • Cathy says:

      Record keeping definitely pays off, Chris, and not just with the snowdrops. The map I showed was only a very rough draft and needs a proper neat version in due course! The border where they were is only partially sunny but I do wonder whether the position was ever a good place for them. I certainly have no regreeys about moving them. Good to know your natives are doing well – i haven’t spent as much time as I usually do splitting mine this season

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