“What are the six best snowdrops? Turn to page 18,” says Graham
Who can resist the appeal of the elegant and addictive snowdrop? Graham reveals which ones to choose for blooms that look a million dollars but cost a lot less
WOULD you pay more than £1,000 for a snowdrop? That’s a single snowdrop bulb? No, neither would I. But some people do. In 2014, a snowdrop bulb (along with the rights to name it) was sold for £1,602, while other bulbs have changed hands for £1,390 and £720.
Collecting snowdrops has become such a passion among so many people that last year the average price in one snowdrop catalogue was £37.77 – per bulb – and the current enthusiasm means you could find that even old favourites will now set you back a fair bit more than they did in the past. Thankfully, some of the most delightful, most elegant and most appealing varieties are still affordable, so it’s possible to grow a selection without breaking the bank.
Snowdrops are definitely worth shelling out for as they have to be the greatest delight of the winter garden. Our more-or-less native wild snowdrop,
Galanthus nivalis, is available by mail order in economical bundles of 10 or 25, but there are two things to keep in mind. First, these are often not grown by a nursery, but will have been dug up from the woods. Second, the flowers are small – they don’t have the impact from a distance of most named varieties. With its added bulk, the double form ‘Flore Pleno’ stands out better, but it’s still not that elegant.
Varieties such as ‘Atkinsii’, ‘John
Gray’, ‘Magnet’ and ‘S. Arnott’ have larger, sometimes scented flowers that capture the attention far more effectively in winter’s dull light, and they increase well. ‘Viridapice’, with green tips to the ends of the petals, is a very pretty variant, and ‘Straffan’ produces two flowering stems from each bulb. Look closely and you’ll see how the green markings vary with the different varieties.
Snowdrops are very cold hardy and thrive in most garden situations that are not hot and dry. As a rule, they don’t like being grown in pots, but they’re generally adaptable and, frankly, not easy to kill. They’ll usually spread, sometimes by seed but mainly by multiplication of the bulbs, and you can help them increase by lifting, splitting and replanting every few years.
And while I wouldn’t advocate spending hundreds of pounds on them, they are strangely addictive. I got up to about 30 varieties – after that, it’s tough to tell them apart! My advice? Start with a few distinctive (but affordable) ones and take it from there.
Hardy and adaptable, with their green and white colour combination Galanthus have a simple beauty that really lifts the spirits in late winter and, over time, they will spread