Best snowdrops to grow

There are 1,000s of varieties of snowdrops out there. Some with differences so tiny they need an expert to point them out and it can be hard to determine from the enormous choice which will be the most reliable snowdrop varieties for your garden.
To help you, here is our guide to our favourite snowdrops based on their ability to spread and thrive.

Galanthus nivalis

The common snowdrop. Pure white with the famous little green bridge on the inside petals; this beautiful, simple flower is the harbinger of Spring. Flowering in mid February and continuing until early March, it is the best snowdrop to naturalise under shrubs and in thin grass. When grown in drifts, the flowers will release a powerful scent of honey on sunny days. Grow on a west facing bank to appreciate the sunshine and scent together.

 The common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis is the best snowdrop for naturalising in drifts

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’

The blowsy cousin of Galanthus nivalis with almost as many petals as it has letters in its name. Botanically you might say that the perianth of this beautiful snowdrop is stuffed with tepals. This is the double form of Galanthus nivalis and like the single form, releases its scent throughout late February. Slightly later to flower and excellent for picking for early posies.

The Double snowdrop Galanthus flore pleno

Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ AGM

A lot less demanding than some yellow snowdrops (Galanthus Lady Elphinstone, we are thinking of you:  when she is moved the flowers will have green markings instead of yellow until she has settled down) ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is a vigorous yellow form of Galanthus plicatus from the Black Sea. Her obviously different flowers that dance in the breeze make her a stand out ‘best snowdrop’ for any collection.

Snowdrop Wendys Gold, one of the best yellow snowdrops

Galanthus elwesii

The first to flower in the Spring batch of snowdrops – there are some snowdrops that flower in late winter and even autumn – Galanthus elwesii is out in January in mild years. Our favourite named variety is ‘Fred’s Giant’ which is a whopper with bulbs the size of small alliums. Big leaves and big flowers makes this variety perfect for naturalising near the back of the herbaceous border.

Galanthus Freds Giant one of the best snowdrops for early colour

Galanthus ‘Titania’

Titania is part of the stable of tall, double snowdrops known as Greatorex Doubles. To my mind she has the neatest flower with a tall upright habit. If you preferred a plant with looser morals, you could try Galanthus ‘Jacquenetta’ which has a fuller flower, is inclined to throw petals out to the side and lurch about a bit. Both of these snowdrops will multiply reliably without any help.

Galanthus Titania (3)

 

 

Ideas for May Blossom

Towards mid-May, Easton Walled Gardens is filled with an avalanche of blossom. The early blackthorn on the hedges around our village and its’ associated weather pattern (‘a blackthorn winter’ = a spell of harsh weather while it flowers) is over for another year.

IMG_1212 blossom and cow parsley 640

Now the hawthorn hedges around the carpark and village are covered with small white blossoms arranged in clusters. The dense wood and knarled outline of a mature hawthorn trunk gives the appearance of extreme age. When the tree is festooned with blossom, the combination of age and vitality is a potent emblem of spring.

IMG_1214 hawthorn and cow parsley 640

The trees form a cascade of white that splashes onto the cow parsley below.

IMG_1257 hawthorn blossom 640

Seen in detail, there is an unexpected sophistication to these generous white flowers.

The growth rate of hawthorn trees is quite fast so they may be pruned in winter. Hedges should be pruned after flowering and, to keep it neat, again in autumn. Leaving the second pruning, will give you more flowers in spring the following year. Typically, we have a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach and opt for one late summer cut which is when the birds have finished nesting and we have time to tidy the hedge up. As you can see, we still get a smattering of flowers.

hawthorn hedge 640

Apple blossom is showing for the first time in our orchard.

IMG_1253 apple blossom 640

We have an infestation of apple capsid bug which shouldn’t affect fruit production but will lead to marks on the ripe apples; a pity, but for now we are just grateful for the first ever blossom on our young trees. The tatty foliage on the greengage trees is also caused by these little bugs. We don’t like to spray while the trees are in flower; it is far too indiscriminate and will harm pollinators like bees so we may try a wash in early spring to attack the eggs early next year. The adults will lay eggs in nooks and crannies for overwintering.

Speaking of damage to blossom, the lilac blight on the rare shrubs in the meadows, has become too serious to ignore. This is a bacterial infection and is highly localised at the moment, just confined to the lilacs in the rose meadows. Suggested treatment includes copper sulphate in late winter which we will try next year. Incidentally, Syringa vulgaris ‘Zulu’ seems the most resistant to blight.

IMG_1220 double lilac 640

This image is of a very beautiful old double lilac that survives in the gardens from 100 year old stock. At the time, lilacs symbolised the remembrance of a first love. We have established this sucker in a large tub by the entrance to the gardens. It greets visitors with its beautiful scent.

IMG_1255 crabapple blossom 640

Elsewhere in the garden things are much rosier. The crabapple blossom has turned pure white and sends showers of confetti onto the long meadow grasses and under your feet as you walk.

IMG_1240 crabapple blossom 640

Nearby, the wisteria is spectacular this year.

IMG_1245 wisteria 640

This is Wisteria floribunda ‘Burford’ taken from an original climber at Burford House in Oxfordshire. The very long racemes with dark purple and lilac pea flowers and a beautiful scent require a pilgrimage every day while they are in flower. Long whippy growth on wisterias will need pruning twice a year, once after flowering back to 3-5 buds and then again in late winter back to 2-3 buds. It is also a good idea to give them a slow release, high potash feed in Spring to boost flower production the following year. This is particularly important if you see the foliage turning pale or chlorotic later in the year suggesting it is under stress.

IMG_1252 weigela 640

For totally undemanding blossom, you could try Weigela florida which, here, is confined to some of the most unpromising parts of the garden where it is dry or in semi-shade. Completely uncomplaining on our alkaline soil it will produce corymbs of flowers on last year’s growth. Like many spring flowering shrubs, it should be pruned after flowering.

IMG_1231 viburnum opulus 640

Viburnums are excellent sources of spring blossom but the queen is really Viburnum opulus var. roseum better known as the snowball tree. The lime green buds open to become pure white and are excellent cut for the vase if you split the bottom of the stems with secateurs. Here they are in the White Space Garden.

IMG_1233 viburnum and white space garden 640

Beyond the hedge is our ‘Sakura’ moment. Sakura is the Japanese for cherry blossom and the source of a traditional Japanese folk song of Spring, the season of cherry blossom.

cherry shogetsu blossom 640

As you round the hedge alongside the velvet border, 16 cherry trees are in full bloom. Our variety is Prunus ‘Shogetsu’, chosen for the broad shape of the trees, the exquisite blossom in white and pale pink and for the later flowering period. This is one of the last of the flowering cherries to break out in all its spring glory.

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The great cherry, Prunus ‘Tai Haku’ is already going over at the top of the gardens. These are ornamental cherries and the glory is in their flowers. If you want fruit you will need to chose sweet cherry cultivars (usually prefixed Prunus avium) or cooking cherries (usually prefixed Prunus cerasosus.) We grow P. avium ‘Stella’ and ‘Early Rivers’ on the wall of the old peach house – they are supposed to be sweet but in our experience, are better for cooking. Our ornamental cherries will now recede into the landscape until Autumn when their leaves colour up in orange, red and yellow.

Tulips

Ideas for working with tulips

We are in mid-tulip season. Tulipa ‘Albert Heijn’, one of the earliest to flower, is going over. He is a particularly luscious pink with a smoky sheen on the outer curve of the petals. His (and it probably should be ‘her’ with all that feminity but with a name like ‘Albert’ I feel compelled to stick with the masculine) foliage is a gentle grey green that matches the emerging foliage of Nepeta faassenii.

IMG_0754 Tulipa Albert Heijn with Nepeta at Easton Walled Gardens

As the flowers fade, the growth on the Nepeta picks up speed and engulfs the tatty, dying foliage of the tulip. We try and consider the effect of mounds of extraneous leaves when we plant our bulbs. Some alliums and large daffodils cultivars are the worst offenders and should be carefully sited where they won’t distract from nearby flowers in mint condition.

See how the tulipa and catmint foliage match?

Tulipa Aibert Heijn and Nepeta at Easton Walled Gardens

It took some research to come up with this combination and we will grow it every year in front of the alpine bed unless replant disease becomes a problem.

In the White Space Garden, Tulipa ‘Diana’ is in bud. Just a single, white tulip but one with a very long flowering period that means we choose her over other popular whites.

IMG_0961 white space garden tulip diana at Easton Walled Gardens

Early in her flowering she has the bed nearly to herself but as the petals fade she is joined by a chorus of silvers and whites.

EWG 28.5.15.-5 Tulip Diana flowering in the white space garden at Easton Walled Gardens

Here she is in close up:

EWG 1.5.14. Tulip Diana at Easton Walled Gardens

A new white tulip to me this year, is Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’, a fosteriana hybrid that I saw in pots at Coton Manor. The outer tepals streaked with green and the sumptuous creamy interior make this tulip worthy of a pot on its own.

IMG_0849 Tulipa Exotic Emperor

Another combination that I liked at Coton Manor is Tulipa Gavota with Ligularia foliage. A very fine tulip that we have used in our pickery or cut flower garden; it’s good to see it used here in a border setting.

IMG_0862 Coton Manor Gavota with ligularia

Back at home, Tulipa Ballerina is flexing her petals in the sunshine.

EWG 4.5.14.-10 tulip ballerina at Easton Walled Gardens

EWG 4.5.14.-12 tulip ballerina and wallflowers at Easton Walled Gardens

Wallflowers make an obvious complementary scheme but we do find them a bit hit and miss as we have a no-slug-pellet policy and, in a hard winter, the wallflowers may not make it. This image shows that even after the flowers are pollinated and the petals start to fade, Tulipa Ballerina is as elegant as her namesake.

IMG_0960 spring plant combinations tulip at Easton Walled Gardens

Tulips don’t need to be used formally. In our meadows and the woodland walk we use species, early and late tulips to complement the planting. Like the other tulips, these will need to be topped up every year. We order around 10,000 bulbs of which about 2,000 will be tulips.

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