Four Kent Group snowdrop enthusiasts set off westwards for the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival Study, Sale and Social Day on Saturday 10 February. Now it would be foolish to travel all that way just for one event and not look for somewhere interesting to visit ‘on the way’, wouldn’t it? For me that somewhere was Lyn Miles garden in Boscombe Village, Wiltshire. She is Membership Secretary and Newsletter Editor of the HPS Galanthus Group and has many snowdrop varieties growing in her ‘wilderness’ garden. She gave me a very warm welcome, told me about a few of her snowdrops and then left me to wander.
My first encounter was with John Long – Galanthus plicatus ‘John Long’, that is. I kept wanting to say Long John but no, it was named by Margaret Owen after a man who gardened at Henley Farm, Morville, Shropshire. I read that this snowdrop should be judged not only on its flowers, which are large and of good quality, but on its stature and good proportion of flowers to foliage. A clump of ‘John Long’ really stands out – well, I certainly noticed it.
Standing guard by one of the paths was another snowdrop with great presence, G. Sentinel. This snowdrop is very well named as it has strong upright stems supporting fine, large flowers – like soldiers standing to attention.
Of course, Lyn grows many other plants and I noticed shrubs such as cornus and rubus adding colour and structure to the winter garden. It was a real treat to see a box left to grow naturally rather than being topiarized as we tend to do now.
She is justifiably proud of a lovely clump of Galanthus ‘Pat Mason’, which has green tips to its large flowers. Snowdrops with this characteristic are becoming very popular as more are being developed. ‘Pat Mason’ also has the most amazing leaves which are grey-green in colour, wide and strongly incurved.
I found another yellow one, this time with a yellow ovary and probably yellow marks on the inner segments when the flower opens. Like the snowdrops with green tips, yellow ones are becoming sought after as more are bred or discovered by sharp-eyed enthusiasts.
There were more hellebores, including a yellow one, and crocuses opening their flowers but I noticed one last snowdrop as I was leaving and that turned out to be my favourite – another that is very well named, Galanthus ‘White Wings’.
I came to an area with clumps of double snowdrops but I haven’t worked out how to tell the difference between all the different varieties – maybe I’ll get down to that next year! Among them Lyn grows some gorgeous hellebores.
And then, tucked in a corner, was Galanthus nivalis ‘Blonde Inge’. Her picture is at the top – can you see the faint hint of yellow? When first discovered in 1977 in an old cemetery in Germany, it was the first recorded snowdrop to combine a yellow inner segment mark with a green ovary. As you can see in the image, the pedicel also has a yellowish flush immediately behind the ovary. The name was derived from a German song, ‘When I will bring golden-haired Inge home’ and she has proved a good, strong doer in some gardens, although others have found her a bit more difficult. I’ve had her for a year now but her buds are still tightly closed – I wait with anticipation to see the touch of yellow!
Galanthus ‘Pat Mason’
Galanthus ‘White Wings’
This was one of several seedlings found in the late 1980s in a large snowdrop colony at West Porlock in Somerset. It has long-clawed outer segments and inners with a U-shaped mark staining towards the base. I think it is a very refined and stylish variety.
Examination of a map showed that Stone Henge was only a few miles away so that was where I headed, to see what our far-off ancestors had got up to. Salisbury Plain on a dull February afternoon was a bit bleak and there wasn’t a snowdrop in sight! That would have to wait until I went to Shaftesbury.
My companions-to-be took another route and that, and our day at the Snowdrop Festival, you can see in another blog.