Gardening: Snow time, folks

LIFE FORCE: The delicate but steely harbinger of spring, the snowdrop.
LIFE FORCE: The delicate but steely harbinger of spring, the snowdrop.
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This week, it’s all about what turns a gardener’s mind to spring – the return of life in all its glory.

Unfortunately, winter may still have a nasty surprise or two up its sleeve but we have to make the most of what we’ve got – and what we’ve got big style is the humble snowdrop.

It paves the way for the more colourful and larger spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips and it may be smaller and less vibrant but it is much-loved and recognised by one and all.

Its resilience even moved Yorkshire poet Ted Hughes to wonder at its determination to blossom when hardier life succumbed to winter, saying:

She, too, pursues her ends, Brutal as the stars of this month,

Her pale head heavy as metal.

But unlike its bigger spring brethren, it is forgotten as soon as its flowering days are over.

Whereas tall flowers leave behind the problem of tatty foliage, the snowdrop (Galanthus) becomes inconspicuous after the last flower fades, and is so often tucked away in corners and beneath shrubs and trees, that it becomes an instant, distant memory.

The thoughtful gardener will, however, never forget anything which can put on a brave face when winter is doing her worst.

And, who knows, in a few weeks that same thoughtful gardener may well be feeling inspired to plant even more of
the apparently delicate snowdrop bulbs that hide an iron fist.

Strange though it may seem, clumps of Galanthus bulbs, lifted and planted immediately after they have finished flowering and before their foliage has started to die back, acclimatise quickly and tend to thrive.

Which is why so many commercial and public gardens are opening to celebrate the humble flower.

The highlight is probably a new Yorkshire Snowdrop Trail which is being organised by Primrose Bank Nursery (Dauby Lane, Kexby, York YO41 5LH, tel 01759 380220), over the weekend of February 20/21.

Among those taking part are Goldsborough Hall (Goldsborough, North Yorkshire HG5 8NR, tel 01423 867321), which is also opening today (February 13); Primrose Bank, Nursery (naturally); Sunday only, Kiplin Hall (Richmond, North Yorkshire DL10 6AT, tel 01748 818178); and Saturday and Sunday Bridge Farm House (Great Heck, Selby, North Yorkshire DN14 0SE, tel 01977 661277).

There are quite a few more gardens, both in and around Yorkshire, also celebrating the humble snowdrop.

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