Gardening: Mild winter brings host of snowdrops to the fore

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As you may remember it was only this time last year we were emerging from a the thick covering of snow that lingered with us for weeks, the snowdrops just popping their heads out from under the snowy cover. However with the mild winter the garden is now a-flush with snowdrops heralding the nearing of spring.

Snowdrops, Galanthus are not native to Britain, although they seem such an intrinsic part of our gardens and landscape it seems hard to believe not. In fact they originate from Central Europe across to Russia and have crept across the continent finding conditions here which suit them perfectly.

Snowdrops have long been associated with the church and were used to celebrate the feast of Candlemas on 2 February, with churchyards and monasteries often surrounded by large colonies. It is often thought that large wild swathes may be sites of former ancient monastic buildings long since lost to ruin.

There are over 700 named varieties or cultivar of snowdrop. The popularity of the tiny white flower with green flashes on its nodding head is ever growing. Those that aspire to collect them all, gaining ever larger collections, have been labelled ‘Galathophiles’. It is serious business with many of the rarer bulbs fetching hundreds of pounds.

A bulb, Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ was bought for £725.10 at auction, more than twice the price of the previous record held in 2011. The popularity of snowdrops and the growing number of collectors is creating even more demand.

If wanting to create your own collection of snowdrops, unlike the majority of bulbs they are best lifted and divided when ‘in the green’. This is after they have finished flowering but while they still have their leaves, usually between February and early April. So, if friends or family have ever growing clumps, ask them to dig you up a corner and settle them into your own garden. They like a well-drained but fairly rich soil so incorporate compost or leaf mould if necessary. Clean bulbs or potted bulbs can be bought and planted, although they will usually take longer to become established.

The snowdrop is such an unusual plant in the garden, popping through so early compared to other plants.

Planting combinations which compliment them include Hellebores, Cyclamen coum and Crocus tommasinianus, all bringing an early flush of colour and interest to the garden. My particular favourites, which bring beautiful displays include; Galanthus ‘Augustus’, a sturdy large snowdrop with beautifully crimped leaves. Galanthus plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’, a snowdrop with yellow rather than green colouring is also something a little different, although some think the yellow snowdrops look sickly, I strongly disagree, this holding pride of place in my own garden. Finally Galanthus nivalis the common snowdrop is a real doer, colonising fields and verges and giving us hope spring has nearly sprung.

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