Snowdrop Facts

Snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens

10 interesting snowdrop facts

Snowdrops feature heavily at Easton Walled Gardens from late January until mid March. Around 3,000 people visit us to see the snowdrop display each year.

We get asked a lot of questions about our snowdrops and here are our top 10 favourite answers and facts:

When do snowdrops flower?

  • According to the old proverb: “The snowdrop in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas Day.” (2 February)

Snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens

How many species and varieties of snowdrop are there?

  • There are 18-19 species of Snowdrops (Galanthus) and more than 500 named varieties.

What do ‘Galanthus’ and ‘Snowdrop’ mean?

  • The Species name Galanthus comes from the Greek: ‘Gala’ meaning milk and ‘Anthos’ meaning flower.
  • In the 19 century, a Dr. Prior wrote that the common name cannot mean snowdrop since ‘snow is a dry powdery substance that cannot form a drop.’ (Was he also a train spotter in his spare time?)
  • It is more likely the name comes from the pearl drop earrings worn by women in the 16th and 17th centuries, as in the painting ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’

snowdrops with water at Easton Walled Gardens

How to grow snowdrops

  • The best way to divide snowdrops is to lift a group every second year as the leaves start to yellow in late spring; split all the bulbs and then plant them separately with a pinch of bonemeal in the hole.
  • The flower is formed in the bulb the previous March and waits nearly a whole year before pushing through the soil.
  • On a sunny day, snowdrops are highly scented and give off a honey smell. If you have enough plants the perfume will fill the garden. Mix them with crocus, aconites and cyclamen coum for a colourful display.

Life saving properties

  • Snowdrops contain their own anti-freeze proteins. Snowdrop plants were harvested during the First World War to make anti-freeze for tanks.

Lady Elphinstone at Easton Walled Gardens

Collecting snowdrops

  • Snowdrop collectors and enthusiasts are called ‘Galanthophiles’ not to be confused with Snowdropping which is an entirely different type of fetish (apparently.)
  • Such is their enthusiasm that a single bulb Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’ sold on ebay for £1,390 last year. The bulb had taken Joe Sharman 10 years to develop and was a record price for a snowdrop.

For more information on our open days please see our snowdrop pages on the main website.

Copyright Ursula Cholmeley.

Snowdrop days

It’s that time of year when we go a leeetle bit snowdrop mad. Granted, we start earlier than most people as we want to get the most out of every moment of snowdrop time for our visitors. The gardens are open 11.00 -4.00 every day from February 14th -22nd for snowdrops, talks, winter walks and hot soup or cake and we need to start the planning early.

Snowdrops week at Easton Walled Gardens

For many years, we have been working on extending the drifts of bulbs on the snowdrop banks, bulking up the hellebores in the woodland walk and generally improving access and interpretation for visitors to our snowdrop days. But, excitingly, for the last year or so, we have been able to concentrate on the detail.  This means more winter irises, Cyclamen coum, yellow aconites, Crocus tommasinianus, (known as ‘tommies’,) and winter flowering cherries. New to us this year is Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ which I found at RHS Rosemoor by chasing its heavenly scent.

We- the gardening team at Easton- have also been working on building up our stocks of unusual snowdrops to use with other flowers. We don’t consider ourselves galanthophiles in the true sense (we just haven’t got the dedication to tour the country looking at 100s of varieties) but we do love variation when it allows us to try out new planting combinations.

If you are planning your display there is still time to buy bargain crocuses and other small bulbs online. Nearly all the big bulb companies are throwing huge sales. They may flower later from a late planting but they will flower at the right time the following year. Some bulb companies will sell dormant snowdrop bulbs in the Autumn but we still prefer to buy ‘in the green’ in early Spring so we know what we are getting.

One form I  am particularly fond of is Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant.’  I have been bulking up this beauty from a single bulb given to us by Louth Antiquary Society over 10 years ago. As snowdrops go, this one is a monster. It flowers slightly earlier than the common snowdrops; Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus flore pleno. This helps extend our season and means it will flower with Iris reticulata and similar hybrids. For now, it is nestled under a red dogwood. I will divide it again in late Spring to use with new combinations. You can find a few bulbs for sale in our online shop.

 

Freds-Giant.jpg

Today it is cold and dark, what Beth Chatto calls a ‘dustbin lid’ day. Brilliant analogy, it does feel like there is a rather unloved metal dustbin lid hovering above. A good day to check on health and safety and maintenance. A walk around the garden shows traces of new snowdrop growth and occasionally there are a few blisteringly lovely autumn colours to lift the scene.  Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ is on fire today.

autumn plans and cotinus More snowdrop news will be posted here as the season progresses and you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more updates.

With best wishes

Ursula Cholmeley and the gardening team at Easton Walled Gardens.

 

Snowdrops, snowdrops everywhere….

February is associated with this beautiful flower and we have them in abundance. The name ‘snowdrop’ does not refer to the powdery stuff but to the long pearl drop earrings worn by women in the late 16th and 17th centuries. (as in ’The girl with the Pearl Earring ‘by Vermeer) Once you know this, it is easy to see the comparison, as snowdrops hang on a long thin green pedicel and move in the wind.

Daffodils are starting to show. ‘Spring Dawn’ is the earliest and is a pale colour that complements the snowdrops. For some years we have been trying to establish crocuses and this year looks like we may have succeeded with a few bulbs. If the mice find the bulbs in their first year of planting they will get eaten, every single one. After that, however, it seems that the bulbs dig down deeper or maybe their roots put the mice off and they are left alone. All along the borders of the cottage garden there are delicate spikes of purple,blue and yellow. Some are crocuses but others are the early and very beautiful irises Harmony, George and danfordiae.

In some ways, February is my favourite gardening month. The grass hasn’t started to make big calls on our time, the light illuminates the spring bulbs pushing up across the close cropped turf and everything looks tidy and manageable. There is time to appreciate the small things like the first bee of the year or buds breaking on cold branches. Even the young seedlings in the greenhouse say ‘Carry on, we’re in no hurry to move.’ A warm week in March will change all that.

Snowdrop Week runs daily from 15th February until 23rd February 11.00-4.00 Jackies talks on the snowdrop are included in the admission price and last about 20 minutes and have some seating. 12.30 and 2.30 daily.

We have a good selection of unusual snowdrops and hellebores for sale.

The gardens open for the season from Sunday March 2nd until end of October. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

 

First published www.alantitchmarsh.com (2010)