Poking up through lawns, appearing from under shrubs in flower beds and in outdoor containers that you'd forgotten you'd planted, the emerging buds of Snowdrops makes you smile and lightens your step with the promise that spring is not far behind.
It's botanical name of Galanthus comes from the Greek words 'gala' (Milk) and 'anthos' (flower), it's easy to understand why they chose that name. The pure brilliant white as snow outer tepals give us it's common name.
The term Galanthophile is given to anyone who collects the species and cultivars of this stunningly simple looking bulb. It gives so much joy that's it's not surprising they've been collected by so many people throughout recent(ish) history and still inspire dedicated collectors today.
The term is credited to E.A. Bowles (1865-1954) a noted plantsman whose name you'll see in many other plant species but it was also given to one cultivar of Galanthus plicatus that was found at his family home, Myddelton House.
Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles' is an 'albino' with six pure white petals and flowers in February.
Other snowdrops has been named after other notable galanthophiles such as Primrose Warburg (1920-1996) as several cultivars originated from her garden in South Hayes, Oxfordshire.
But there are so many more 'Snowdrops' out there to learn. The Hardy Plant Association has a group purely for these delicate beauties, hosting annual AGM's and Study days with galanthophile's visiting collections and sharing their plants. They sell out quickly!
There are Snowdrop festivals and events throughout January, February and March and online searches will quickly find an event near you, from Scotland's Dawyck Botanic Gardens to Chelsea Physic Garden down to East Lambrook Manor in Somerset.
There is even a Snowdrop Fair (7th - 9th Feb.) in Boshoeve, near Arnhem (Netherlands) that alongside selling plants includes 'Galanthofilia' all things decorated with snowdrops from postcards to hand painted crockery and everything in between.
Sharing the love
Almost everyone I know loves Snowdrops and there's nothing nicer than seeing swathes of them running through a garden or wooded area. Propagating them can be really easy. If you have a large clump in your garden, why not divide them either for yourself or potted up as gifts.
The experts recommend bulbs are best lifted and divided while they're dormant, between June and September before new roots start to grow.
I have to admit, I never remember and by that time the other perennials and shrubs have hidden the soil and I can't remember where they were. I did try putting a stick in to mark the spot but along came the dog and plucked it out so I knew that was a non-starter.
A lot of people wait until the flowers have finished and the foliage is just starting to 'die back'. Known as being In The Green it does seem to work well.
- Prepare the new locations before anything else.
- Find a nice thick clump of foliage and lift the whole clump. Try to get the fork/spade below the bulbs which can be surprisingly deep down.
- Gently pull the clump apart into quarters, with as little damage to the roots as possible. I've found that snowdrop bulbs do better with company so don't break the clumps down too small. Plus they make more of an impact than single plants.
- Replant straight away at the same depth to prevent the bulbs from losing moisture as this can sometimes kill the plant.
- Allow the foliage to die back naturally so the bulb can build itself up ready for the next year. If you're planting in the lawn, try not to run the mower over them. Speaking from experience sometimes that easier said than done.
And that's it, next year, depending on species the flowers will emerge and your smile won't be far behind!