Plant of the week: Snow­drops

An amaz­ing range of forms await gar­den­ers will­ing to seek them out

Garden News (UK) - - Contents -

Our fas­ci­na­tion with snow­drops goes on un­abated, with bands of en­thu­si­asts scour­ing the ground in snow­drop havens through­out Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary.

Their prize is dis­cov­er­ing a new vari­ant of this much-loved win­ter flower, which, in the rarest forms can change hands for hun­dreds of pounds per bulb. Over many years a mind-bog­gling range has been in­tro­duced. Most are found by ac­ci­dent, oth­ers specif­i­cally bred or se­lected, as the snow­drop is a pro­mis­cu­ous soul, eas­ily crossed and set­ting vi­able seed.

Fan­ci­ful or de­scrip­tive names of­ten ac­com­pany each new form. The most gar­den wor­thy and vig­or­ous have been prop­a­gated, bring­ing down the price to suit more mod­est pock­ets.

Here, our short­list picks the most re­li­able and dis­tinc­tive for more gen­eral gar­den use. You can also grow them in pots of well-drained, peat-free com­post, so their qual­i­ties can be ap­pre­ci­ated up close. Many of the lat­est and hotly con­tested are on on­line sell­ing sites, and in the dark days of win­ter it’s a treat to visit out­lets to see what’s go­ing on.

Named forms of snow­drops should only be prop­a­gated by split­ting up clumps of bulbs, ide­ally when still ‘in the green’, mean­ing in leaf, af­ter the flow­ers have just gone over, un­til late win­ter, when the fo­liage is just start­ing to die back. Lift bulbs and di­vide into sin­gle bulbs or small clumps, re­plant­ing at two bulbs or 5cm (2in) apart. Plant in soil con­tain­ing plenty of or­ganic mat­ter in semi-shade and wa­ter in. The soil shouldn’t be­come ex­posed to pro­longed drought in sum­mer. Mark the po­si­tion of the bulbs and cover with fine mesh to help pro­tect bulbs from mice.

To avoid your col­lec­tion be­com­ing di­luted with hy­brid off­spring, re­move seed pods be­fore they ma­ture. In­di­vid­ual bulbs can be prop­a­gated by twin scal­ing or chip­ping, which in­volves sev­er­ing in­di­vid­ual bulbs into chunks, with leaves at­tached to the base plate, but is a tech­nique that re­quires some ex­pe­ri­ence.

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