Galanthus reginae-olgae ssp vernalis
Galanthus reginae-olgae is the earliest snowdrop, flowering in October under the plane trees of the Peloponnese in Greece, high in the Taigetos Mountains. Lower down in the Kardamili Gorge in the North Mani snowdrops also grow in deep shade under sweet chestnuts. You won’t see these on an autumn visit to Greece though because they flower in winter to spring.
Apart from the flowering period, the main difference between Galanthus reginae-olgae ssp reginae-olgae and Galanthus reginae-olgae sssp vernalis is that the leaves appear with the flowers. It is just as well that there is this difference because the first flowers may coincide with the last of Galanthus reginae-olgae. This year they are already beginning to flower in the garden in the sun and have just appeared in the cool, shady frame.
They are hardy, though it is perhaps wise to have some in a pot so that rain, mud and slugs don’t spoil the flowers. Outside they will tolerate lots of English summer sun (far less intense than that found in the Eastern Mediterranean!) and they grow particularly well amongst tree roots where the soil is drier, because they do not like their roots to become too wet and cold during the growing season.
A non alpine gardener couldn’t believe that snowdrops were already out in October. Those are now setting seed as the next spring messenger brightens up the darkest days of the year. Set under Hammamelis mollis ‘Pallida’, which glows bright yellow for Christmas day, the pair help us to forget winter and lead us on toward the new alpine year.