Last weekend Karin, Sue and I went off to the Cotswolds to attend the HPS Galanthus Day on the Sunday. The Cotswolds have many snowdrop gardens and as we approached we kept seeing village names associated with varieties of snowdrop. It was a cold and very wet Saturday so we proved that we are ‘hardy’ planters by visiting Colesbourne Park, home of the Elwes family and a mecca for galanthophiles (Galanthus elwesii was discovered in Turkey by Henry John Elwes in 1874) We saw drifts of naturalised snowdrops such as G. nivalis and ‘S. Arnott’ planted with bright pink Cyclamen coum, providing a lovely contrast.

There are also beds, planted for winter interest, containing more specialised galanthus. A raised bed along a pergola provided a close up view of many other galanthus varieties, without us having to bend too much.

A drift of Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ in Colesbourne Park
Colesbourne’s ‘blue’ lake

Colesbourne also has a ‘blue’ lake with sheets of naturalised snowdrops on its banks. The blue is from colloidal clay. Having walked around looking at snowdrops and two of us acquiring ‘dead fingers’, we defrosted with the requisite tea and cake and then spotted David and Anke Way outside. They were also there for the Galanthus Day on the Sunday.

After staying overnight in Cirencester we made our way to Chedworth Village Hall for the HPS Galanthus Day. (I wondered why the name Chedworth was familiar. It has a Roman villa which we took the boys to years ago.) The sale started at 9.00 am and everyone was ready for the scrum. We all had a wish list and a budget. We stuck to the budget more than the wish list, being swayed by others we liked!

The first talk, after the Galanthus Group AGM, was from Matt Bishop who spoke about variations in different types of Galanthus. He did question how many were worth actually naming. A bit like tulipomania it was getting out of hand! I will only mention a few main points from his very informative talk.

  • The well-known G. nivalis throws most yellow forms in the wild such as one named G. ‘Wisp’.
  • Green leaved forms – G. ‘Anglepoise’ is the only poculiform (cup-shaped) with green leaves.
  • Green tipped apical forms are very common, in fact too many, but G. ‘Jade’ from Alan Street is good and robust.
  • After green tipped come virescens forms such as G. ‘Witchwood’ from the Bakers. G. ‘Green Tear’ is the best known of all virescens but at a price! Still costing £200 to £250 per bulb. It is also the tallest.
Galanthus ‘Green Tear’
Galanthus ‘Big Boy’
‘The Ditch’ in John Sales’ garden
  • G. rizehensis, G. ‘Margaret Billington’, can be the perfect 5 x 5 (Outer 5 and inner 5), 4 x 4 (sounds like a car!) or even 3 x 3 forms, when flowering from small bulbs. It is variable depending on the age of the bulb.
  • G. gracilis with fine twisted leaves. G. ‘Highdown’ is the most common form. The local (to our venue) G. ‘Daglingworth’ is a good form with larger, taller flowers.
  • G. plicatus has many good forms. G. ‘E. A. Bowles’, which was found by Michael Myers at Myddleton House, is distinct.
  • G. elwesii do not like being twin scaled so if you haven’t been successful with this technique you now know why! G. ‘Big Boy’ is a good elwesii.
  • G x hybridus ‘Trumps’ is a good doer. It is a cross between a poculiform plicatus and elwesii.
  • Yellows are not my favourite having found them trickier to grow in my garden, however Matt Bishop recommended G. ‘Treasure Island’ as being a vigorous form.
  • He recommended John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary Blog.

We next had a very entertaining talk from Andy Byfield, one of the founders of Plantlife, about Turkey and the work that he was involved in trying to encourage and teach the local people how to cultivate bulbs for sale rather than strip them from the countryside. A completely different but complementary talk based on over ten years of working in Turkey with tips and facts thrown in. For example, I learnt that Cyclamen coum have white noses to each flower. I will now look at them more closely!

After lunch we split into two groups to visit local snowdrop gardens. The three of us went to John Sales’ garden.

Leaving at about 3.30pm we managed to get back to Kent in the daylight and had a much drier journey home!