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The fuss about snowdrops

December 5, 2019
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The way that one plant or group of plants can completely consume a person into a collecting compulsion has always intrigued me… but also bewilders me. Few do this in quite the same fashion as snowdrops.

The entire month of February (or March depending on location) feels like it is dedicated to these charming characters which are littered naturally in swathes of white in dappled shade or shining alone in all of their glory.

Gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd, though a lover of snowdrops himself, described how galanthophiles can easily become galanthobores through their obsession. Now I see the beauty in them (though not always the differences), I don’t think they could ever be boring!

This Galanthomania is thought to have a long history, starting back in the 1850s  when soldiers brought bulbs back from Crimea, sparking the ‘White Fever’ which has followed. The Despite only 20 species in the genus, they have borne an incredible 2000+ cultivars. One of these is Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’ which sold for £1,390 pounds! (Plus £4 for postage.) If that doesn’t show the monomania involved in snowdrop collecting, I don’t know what will.

The delicate yellow hats (yellow ovary) are of increasing value as are the poculiform (entirely white flowers, caused by the replacement of the inner segments with an extra whorl of outer segments). Poculus means ‘little cup’ in Latin. Those classified in the Poculiformis Group are highly collectable as people hunt to find them. Double flowering varieties are popular but often sterile and can take longer to bulk up in number.

The snowdrops shown here are just a few of my favourites!

Image of Connor Smith Connor Smith

Connor Smith began his horticulture career working at a garden centre which quickly rose to become one of the best in Scotland. After completing his first year of study, he was accepted to work as an intern for the world-renowned conifer and maple grower Iseli Nursery - becoming one of the first non-American interns to be extended since the inception of the programme in 1987.

Returning to Scotland, Connor received an offer to work for Zu Jeddeloh nursery in Germany where he witnessed cutting edge machinery, innovation and marketing. A short spell with Kevock Garden followed, where he participated in one of their Gold Medal-winning displays at the Chelsea Flower Show. Then, it was on to Vannucci Piante in Pistoia, Italy - the largest growing area in Europe.

Connor gained an interested in alpine plants when working under alpine expert Elspeth MacKintosh at RBGE. Elspeth’s passion and knowledge inspired Connor to further pursue a world in alpine plants. In 2019, he worked for the Schachen Alpine Garden high in the German mountains on a Merlin Trust placement.

Connor has written articles on various plant groups both national and international. He has lectured in America, Italy and Britain and is based at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.