Snowdrops

Recently discovered varieties are becoming more readily available

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Snowdrop mania or galanthophilia shows no sign of abating. Each year eagle-eyed enthusiasts scour gardens throughout the UK and Europe on the lookout for interesting new variants of the 20 or so species and numerous hybrids of this enchanting winter garden staple.

The number of named forms in existence now runs into thousands, with the latest coveted finds often changing hands for hundreds of pounds. Internet sites such as eBay buzz with frenzied excitement as professional and amateur enthusiasts vie with each other to sell their floral treasures.

Desirable traits include size of flower, length, shape and arrangement of the inner and outer petals (tepals) and the nature of the green markings on each. While so-called ‘yellow’ types are well known, the scramble is currently on to breed different coloured forms. Named ‘pink’ and ‘apricot’ forms are starting to emerge, but as yet colours are pale or muddy, hardly living up to the description, but in time, who knows? Names are also amusing, fanciful or evocative with ‘John’s Y-fronts’, ‘Heffalump’, ‘Fatty Puff’ and ‘Ivy Cottage Corporal’ among the ranks this year.

Upshot of this activity is that the best, distinct and garden-worthy forms with inherent vigour are starting to become more widely available and cheaper after being twin-scaled, the technique that enables individual bulbs to be split to form new plants, and then grown on to be further bulked up by division. Even so bulbs can cost anywhere between £15-£30, so always buy in flower, or ‘in the green’ as divisions from reputable sources. Or why not visit a snowdrop festival or a National Garden Scheme ‘snowdrop garden’ – there are many venues taking part around the country in the next few weeks.