Contributed by Ginny Oakes

On March 7, 2017

Farewell Fair Maids of February

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

The Snowdrop by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

But now it’s time to say farewell to this little white, bell-shaped flower that has kept us busy, active, amused and entertained for the last month or so. Oh, I forgot about the freezing feet and fingers, aching back and sore knees, and frustration when a label has inexplicably disappeared! But these downsides are easily outweighed by the pleasure gained – travelling to other parts of the country and visiting gardens, meeting and talking with like-minded people, having a reason for getting outside in the fresh air, poring over the books and internet to identify a plant, reading the stories behind all the different varieties, finding another snowdrop that really takes your fancy and deciding to take it home, and looking at your own collection, however small, with delight and satisfaction.
We will miss them but, thankfully, we were just in time to enjoy some more at our meeting at the end of February. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the display – it was amazing. We had over 40 varieties – plus a few unknowns that owners were hoping to have identified – and, judging by the comments, I think everyone really enjoyed seeing such diversity.

Don’t panic! I’m not going to describe them all but I would like to pick out a few for your consideration. Of course, it is a very personal selection, more like a wish list really. and I’ll start with a giant.

A member brought along a lovely pot of Galanthus ‘Hunton Giant’ but apologized because he thought the flowers were rather small due to his poor cultural methods. Luckily Tim Ingram was close by and told us that the plant wasn’t called giant because of the size of the flowers, rather the size of the leaves and its tall stature – the leaves can apparently reach 50cm! A giant indeed! It was found by David Way, one of our founder members, in the village of Hunton, where he and his wife, Anke, lived. Members who grow this cultivar, propagate it and sometimes bring it to plant sales so it should be easily available.

I think Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ is one of the most popular snowdrops. We had several on the display including a large vase full of what must have been hundreds of blooms – quite a sight. Samuel Arnott (1852 – 1930), after whom this variety is named,  was a gardener and writer in Scotland, writing books and articles for a number of publications, including a review of Galanthus entitled ‘Fair Maids of February‘.
It is described in the books as a first-class garden plant with an unquestionable constitution, admired by everyone. A classic snowdrop that should be in everyone’s collection.

Galanthus ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ also caught my eye. She is a double but very delicate because, instead of large dark green marks on the inner segments, she has one very small one that usually splits into a dot on either side of the sinus. The mark can be seen clearly between the narrow outer segments.

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’
Galanthus nivalis ‘Lady Elphinstone’
Here is a delightful double that I look forward to adding to my collection.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a variant of G. n. ‘Flore Pleno’ with yellow marks and, like that plant, is inclined to be rather irregular. It was found by Sir Graeme Elphinstone in the grounds of Heawood Hall, Cheshire in 1890 and named for his daughter. It can revert to green marking when moved but, as Bowles remarked, “after a season or two repays with pure gold.” I like the reference to gold rather than what the member who brought the plant compares it to – scrambled egg! Take your pick!

Next we have another lady but no title this time, just plain Mrs. Thompson, from Yorkshire. However she is quite extraordinary.

Not content with the normal three outer segments she sometimes has five, almost perfectly arranged, together with a variable number of inner segments. This behaviour doesn’t detract from her beauty but is somewhat erratic, occuring more in some years than others. This year seems to be a good one for freakishness. The books tell me that she sometimes has two flowers from separate pedicels on the same scape and can also have a second, single-flowered scape or even fused flowers. What an awful lot for one poor plant to contend with! I haven’t noticed this last feature but will take a much closer look next year.

Galanthus ‘Mrs. Thompson’
Members also brought some plants for possible identification. There was one pot of a charming small-flowered, narrow-leaved snowdrop, which, it was agreed, was probably a form of G. nivalis. Although it is likely to be very common, I thought it was delightful and was pleased to be given the pot-full for my own garden. I will keep it separate and keep an eye on it to see if it stays a miniature. Another member brought a few pots of unknown snowdrops and I think someone was able to identify one as Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’.


I have saved this one until the end. Take a look.

Left – Galanthus nivalis    Right – Galanthus elwesii var. elwesii ‘Big Boy’
The flower on the left is G. nivalis, the common snowdrop. On the right is Galanthus elwesii var. elwesii ‘Big Boy’. As you might imagine, this immense flower provoked quite a lot of reaction. It is in contention to be the largest snowdrop flower although is not one of the tallest. The size is variable but the outer segments have been recorded at a staggering 48mm long. It was discovered by Alan Street at Frinton-on-Sea, Essex in 1994.
Although the flower is colossal it is quite shapely with outer segments tapering to a point and pale lines at the apex. The inner segments have large, deep green marks and a very narrow white margin.

Wow! was the reaction from members when they saw this amazing flower. Definitely one to look out for.

Below you will find a list of all the snowdrops in the display, which shows what Kent Group members can achieve when they get together. Thank you to everyone who contributed and, just as importantly, everyone who took an interest in the display – I think we all learned a lot.

List of snowdrops in the display at our February meeting.

Galanthus nivalis ‘Lady Elphinstone’
Galanthus nivalis ‘Walrus’
Galanthus nivalis ‘Anglesey Abbey’
Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’
Galanthus nivalis ‘Viridapice’
Galanthus elwesii var. elwesii ‘Big Boy’
Galanthus elwesii ‘Comet’
Galanthus elwesii ‘Ransom’s Dwarf’
Galanthus plicatus ‘Augustus’
Galanthus plicatus subsp. plicatus
Galanthus ‘Armine’
Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

Galanthus ‘Bertram Anderson’
Galanthus ‘Cicely Hall’
Galanthus ‘Cowhouse Green’
Galanthus ‘Dionysus’
Galanthus ‘E.A. Bowles’
Galanthus ‘Ecusson d’Or’
Galanthus ‘Ginns’ Imperati’
Galanthus ‘Hunton Giant’
Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’
Galanthus ‘Imbolc’
Galanthus ‘Ivy Cottage Green Tip’
Galanthus ‘James Backhouse’
Galanthus ‘Ketton’
Galanthus ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’
Galanthus ‘Lavinia’
Galanthus ‘Magnet’
Galanthus ‘Merlin’
Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’
Galanthus ‘Mrs. Thompson’
Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’
Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’
Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’
Galanthus ‘South Hayes’
Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’
Galanthus ‘Sprite’
Galanthus ‘Trymingram’
Galanthus ‘Trumps’
Galanthus ‘Tubby Merlin’

1 Comment

  1. Karin Proudfoot

    What an impressive display!

    Just measured the outer segments of my ‘Big Boy’ (as shown in the photograph), but they are barely 40mm long, rather pathetic. I’ve told it to try harder next year.

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