Monday, 8 February 2010


They seem later this year - perhaps the prolonged cold of January held them back - but snowdrops are finally flowering locally.
The flowers are the familiar outriders of spring, emerging early to clothe gardens, verges and woodlands in advance of the later festival of bulbs that commences in March.  It is one of the happier facts of the garden year that these flowers are so gentle on the eye - a subtle introduction to the flowering season to follow, reminding us primarily of the beauty of fresh green.  Where they are left in peace snowdrops build huge colonies, drifting very like snow itself around the boles of established trees, pooling in wilder areas of the garden, running alongside streams and pathways.  The species, Galanthus nivalis, has the unadorned purity we all look for, and for a long time I was unswerving in my defence of this plant against the increasingly popular varieties championed by others.  Now I'm not so sure...the species is still top of the heap for me, but I have to confess that it has some wonderfully glamorous cousins.
Those that I like best preserve something of the simplicity of G. nivalis, and G. elwesii is a terrific plant - larger in all its parts than nivalis but equally poised and unshowy, as these images show.  G. 'Magnet' has large flowers, similar to elwesii, and an extra long pedicel, the bloom hanging far from the stem and trembling in the breeze.  If any snowdrop can be coquettish, it is this one. 
The jury is out on doubles, I'm afraid.  I have a demure, very green variety, G. 'Ophelia', which is very pretty, but bought only this season it needs to settle down - indications are that the outer petals may be insufficiently large to offset the inner green, but if it improves it will be a lovely addition.  The standard double, 'flore pleno' is a dud as far as I'm concerned - tubby, cabbagey little flowers with no grace at all - as are all the coarse large species and overly-flattened flowers.  As for those with yellow coloration, forget them - they miss the point entirely, and one may as well have white and red snowdrops, to be honest.
So, I'm not yet a galanthophile, but I can see that there are plants besides the familiar species that will enchant me as I get to know them better - as in all things, discrimination is the key...


  1. Dear Paul, I am so pleased that in this piece you extol the virtues of what to many are seen as 'common or garden' Galanthus nivalis. Personally, it remains for me a firm favourite, most lovely when growing wild in some of the situations which you describe.

    I share your dislike of those with yellow colouration.

  2. Dude, I can't say it often enough, you photos are just amazing.

  3. Thank you both for your comments - great to have such support!