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…