Nearly everyone loves snowdrops, whether in white drifts or up close in detail. Two even found their way into our Top 30 that we compiled a couple of years ago.
We have members who have become more and more interested in growing snowdrops, intrigued by the small differences between the many hundreds of cultivars and the human stories that go with them. Before the flowers disappear until next season we have asked them for their particular favourites this year.
‘Natalie Garton’, so good I bought it twice!
What a dilemma – especially difficult because, as the snowdrop season progresses, a number of ‘favourites’ come and go. Among the earlier ones, ‘Gemini ex PC’ stands out, and real whoppers like ‘Yvonne Hay’, Fred’s Giant’ and (with local interest) ‘Gravesend Giant’, followed by the later-flowering ‘Big Boy’. Then there are those with conspicuously marked flowers, in particular ‘South Hayes’ and ‘Trumps’ (a much better do-er than ‘Trym’).
But it is one of the later-flowering G. elwesii hybrids that catches my eye year after year. ‘Natalie Garton’ has the typical broad glaucous elwesii leaves, and large, substantial flowers with well-rounded outer petals, held well above the foliage, that really stand out in the garden. It is also very vigorous and quickly forms good-sized clumps. It’s named for Natalie Garton who died in 1996, and used to distribute it from her garden at Ramsden, Oxfordshire, but I know nothing more about her.
I originally bought it from Avon Bulbs, only to succumb to its charms again a few years later at an HPS Galanthus Group Day, having quite forgotten that I already had it.
I think that says it all!
Our love of snowdrops arose because they cheer us up so much when winter’s cold dankness and gloom seems to be interminable. They are the essence of hope and renewal. For this reason the autumn flowerers such as Galanthus reginae-olgae and Peter Gatehouse bloom too soon to be of use. But those that are in flower in December just around the shortest day are especially precious. Even on the most dismal winter day I can’t resist venturing out to check their progress.
Three Ships is lovely but my absolute favourite is Mrs McNamara. Tall and beautiful with impressive large leaves she is always in flower by Christmas. She multiplies most generously forming a substantial clump in as little as three or four years. She was apparently named after Dylan Thomas’ mother-in-law and this poetic connection adds to her charm.
So, Ginny asked, ‘What is your favourite snowdrop?’ So diﬃcult to answer! According to my husband they are all white ﬂowers with bits of green. Not strictly true but perhaps he has a point. Why do we get so excited about snowdrops? I think it is because they are the harbingers of spring. A promise of things to come in the depths of winter, when the days are dark and dingy.
Back to the original question. My favourite? – this varies, so perhaps I am fickle. I love sheets of Galanthus nivalis, such as the spectacular display at Welford Park, naturalised under beech trees. I have fond memories of naturalised G. nivalis in woods near my grandmother’s cottage.
I love ‘Dionysus’ a double which is lovely from above with twin green spots on the base of the outer segments. ‘Augustus’ is a robust plicatus with seersucker globular flowers. ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ is a neat prolific double. Another ‘Lady’, ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a double with a ‘scrambled egg’ centre. ‘Mrs McNamara’ named after Dylan Thomas’ mother in law, is an early flowerer out before Christmas and lasting for about six weeks.
‘Bertram Anderson’ for all its apparent vulnerability, has stood up proudly in adverse weather and winds. ‘South Hayes’ has a lovely shape like a pixie hat, inner segments with a large green mark across the segment and edged with a narrow white border. ‘E A Bowles’ is a lovely pure white poculiform flower whereas ‘Diggory’ has seersucker petals forming a globular flower. ’Grumpy’ makes me smile, with its markings looking like a grumpy face. All of the above do well in my garden, which is on clay. I have much more trouble growing the ‘yellow’ forms which I find need better drainage.
As I said so much choice! Which would I recommend? I think the ones which do well in your soil and bulk up well. One of the first ones I bought was ‘Straffan’, an old Irish variety from 1858. It is apparently the third oldest cultivar grown. It has stood the test of time, as has ‘S. Arnott’ with its honey scent. My favourite, if I only had to pick one? Oh dear, I can’t make up my mind! Ok, if pushed, ‘S. Arnott’ because it is prolific, honey scented and a ‘good doer’.
However ask me again and it will have changed.
Basically, I love all my snowdrops and especially those in flower at the time. ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a favourite. I love its butter yellow inners. ‘Three Ships’ is great mainly because it is usually out at Christmas and the earliest of mine to flower. I love the seersucker effect flowers of ‘Diggory’ and ‘Trymposter’ is a good ‘Trym’ seedling. ‘E. A Bowles’ is a nice poculiform and stands out well in the borders and ‘Green of Hearts’ is special.
I could go on!
My favourite snowdrop this year? Is it possible to choose just one? Should it be an old variety that I’ve known for years or a brand new one that’s suddenly taken my fancy? Could it be ‘Yvonne Hay’, which is new to me? It’s very large in all its parts so certainly grabs attention. Or could it be the small and delicate double ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, which is so lovely viewed from above with the tiny sinus marks visible between the narrow outer segments?
However, I’m afraid I won’t be picking either of them because my absolute favourite is Galanthus plicatus ‘Percy Picton’. It has bulked up well, is very floriferous and the blooms last well and don’t seem to be spoiled by wind and rain. But it is the way the flowers are held on very long pedicels, on tall scapes well above the foliage that I find so attractive. It has a certain poise and, amongst all the other snowdrops I grow, a unique presence.
It’s a gem and I love it!
Many thanks to all our contributors for sharing your favourite snowdrops with us.