Gayton-based gardener Jamie Marsh shares all you need to know about snowdrops
In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh talks about snowdrops...
This week, like a few times before, I’m going completely out of the allotment and into the garden.
Galanthus or snowdrops have been making me smile more and more every season for the last several years.
Taking a walk by the river with the dogs or even driving down a main road, you can see the beautiful little white drooping flowers bobbing around in the wind. And there’s nothing better than seeing a huge swathe of snowdrops almost covering the woodland floor like a wintery snow scene.
The species’ name galanthus comes from the Greek ‘gala’ meaning milk and ‘anthos’ meaning flower.
Galanthus nivalis is the most common snowdrop we see in the places I’ve described above, but this little beauty is far from alone in the snowdrop family.
There are 20 species of snowdrop but over 500 different varieties, all with differences in appearance, some quite slight but others with very distinct differences.
The height can vary from 50mm right up to 250mm, the colour of the leaves can be a very light grey to a quite limey green and the actual flowers are decorated with different colours and shaped markings, of which many take their sometimes funny names like ‘grumpy’ which is self-explanatory.
You can purchase snowdrops in two forms: bulbs and in the green.
Bulbs like daffodils and tulips or “in the green” means already growing and in most cases flowering, so you can see all the details close up.
After I began to realise I had a bit of a connection with snowdrops I decided I’d like some in our garden, so I bought a bag of the common nivalis bulbs and planted them under our apple tree.
Since then I’ve learnt that the bulb has a quite low success rate so I think from the 50 I planted only 30 actually grew.
I’ve subsequently added a few more in the green and they have all come back every year.
This time of year you will see snowdrop days advertised everywhere.
These are usually held at stately homes or country estates which have beautiful gardens anyway, but in February show case their snowdrop and winter aconite woodland walks.
Many of these events invite snowdrop breeders and nurseries to share with us their snowdrop wares.
At these events, you will be able to get closer up and personal and see all the beautiful different markings.
The price of snowdrops has a massive range, from just a few pounds, for the more common varieties, all the way to the beautiful galanthus plicatus – or ‘golden fleece’ – which took 10 years to develop and was a massive £1,400 the first year it was on sale.
It’s amazing to see them close up all in one place.
I thought I’d tell you a few fun facts about these little white beauties.
Snowdrops contain natural anti-freeze and on frosty nights the small dainty flowers collapse with freezing stress. Their anti-freeze allows them to recover as soon as the temperatures rise. During the First World War, snowdrop bulbs were used to de-ice tanks!
Snowdrops are highly scented and on sunny days give off a honey smell which attracts bees.
It’s illegal to harvest ‘snowdrop’ galanthus nivalis bulbs under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) treaty.
Legend has it that the snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
An angel appeared when Eve was just about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, and the angel transformed some snowflakes into snowdrop flowers proving that winter does eventually give way to spring.
Perhaps when you go for a walk and see a clump of these amazing white winter flowers, crouch down and have a bit of a closer look, and you, like me, might start to enjoy the beautiful snowdrop.
As always if you have any questions about snowdrops or anything allotment-based, feel free to send me an email to Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com