Gelli Uchaf Snowdrops – Early Season

This page represents an initial effort at an “in the cloud” record of snowdrops (Galanthus species and hybrids) here at Gelli Uchaf. When we acquired the derelict property that is now our home, there was no garden, no flowers save a few old daffodils on our track banks, and certainly no obvious snowdrops for several miles around us. Created just after the first snowdrops emerged in October 2017, this page shadows a huge effort I made during last year’s snowdrop season to photograph, label and record the majority of the different snowdrops which we have growing here.

Why bother with such a thing?

The main reason was that any other sort of simple physical record of these bulbs can easily be lost or damaged. And to be of value to any garden (or blog) visitors, some sort of order and accessible database of photographic images had to be created. Perhaps also for anyone thinking of trying to grow a few different snowdrops for the first time, a little of the simple slant of this record might be helpful.

Perhaps it might also help to hint at the appeal of galanthophilia (love or even obsession, with snowdrops) which seems to afflict a small, but growing number of gardeners. The fact that so many frankly only subtly different variants have names associated with the people who found them, or places of origin, links the real appeal of snowdrop sharing – human stories of loved places and the planting of these bulbs to illuminate the scene during the darkest months of the year, when much else outside is dormant or lifeless.

Candles of hope, hinting at the exuberance of spring, a few weeks ahead. And tough enough to cope with whatever winter chucks at them. Googling “thermogenesis in snowdrops” was indeed the cue for me deciding to start a blog of life here, back in early spring 2011, after finding the blog of Carolyn Walker – a confirmed fellow galanthophile. and nursery owner in Pennsylvania.

Being quite a novice as far as snowdrops are concerned (say 17 years…), I decided a few things were important for these records:

  • Many available images of snowdrops show just single photos of the flowers fully open so that you can see the inner segment markings, but often not the rest of the plant. Very appealing to showcase a flower. BUT!!!  In many years in our damp upland climate, the occasions when the flowers actually open perfectly like this can be extremely limited. Perhaps just a few hours in total during the season. This is also why getting decent photos of them in situ in the ground is tricky, in poor light. Or wind. Or rain. Or all 3. Last year a camera upgrade with a greater ISO range helped this project. Also the appeal of these earliest of flowers, for me, is much more tied up with the impact of the whole plant – foliage and flower – in persuading me outside, daily, whatever the weather, through the winter months to see the progress of their appearance. (Even sun all day on December 18 th 2017, couldn’t persuade many of the flowers of G. “Mrs. Macnamara” to open, below)So I’ve tried to illustrate just how this visual impact of the plants changes from when the first flower stem, or “scape”, pushes up through the soil. Inevitably with taking so many photos, some aren’t as good as I’d like, and some varieties don’t yet have a good selection of images available for me to use, in spite of taking nearly 6,000 photos in the 2017 snowdrop season alone.
  • For similar reasons, when the flowers first appear is very important to me. Which is why I’ve listed them not alphabetically, but in order of appearance (in 2017). Having recorded opening sequences for a couple of years, there seems to be a reasonably good correlation for most varieties, relative to other cultivars, from one year to the next, give or take a few days – even with weather differences. If you want to plan for a long season of snowdrops within a garden, having a good idea of relative flower opening times is very important. Though even within a single garden considerable variation in flower opening times will be the result of subtle micro-climate differences, and other factors around the garden. Of course if you want to search these records more quickly for a particular snowdrop, you can just type in the name in the search box at the top right of this page, above the header photo.
  • My definition of first flower “opening” (shown in bold italics in the description)  in these lists relates to the point at which the first flower bud of a variety emerges from the spathe (the spear like sheath which protects the flower as it is forced up through the earth) and begins to turn towards horizontal. This is really when the snowdrop flowers start to have an impact on the scene (from a human perspective!) And this change from vertical to horizontal nearly always happens very quickly, in less than 24 hours, and often overnight provided ambient temperatures are high enough.
  • I might add more detail on leaf and flower form with time, since such minutiae of detail do help with cultivar identification, but to people with no knowledge of this terminology, I think it would just make things more complicated for this sort of simple guide. (How often do the snowdrops look like those below, outer segments spread wide? Not very often here in 2017!)
  • Gradually I shall highlight those varieties that seem particularly garden worthy, at least in our garden. As with all groups of plants, nurseries rarely record this very important detail, but how vigorous or floriferous a variety turns out to be in our conditions, is what I’m interested in. Not simply how unusual a flower is. Since it is when snowdrops flower en masse that they really wow me. To be fair to the nurseries, although some older named cultivars may have good anecdotal information on vigour, the rush to get the latest new form onto the market for serious galanthophiles, (probably by very carefully slicing or “twin-scaling” the bulbs to bulk them up more quickly), means that this feedback from gardeners on how they perform in the ground may simply not be available. Perhaps another reason to avoid the latest, most expensive offerings?  Sadly a significant proportion of the named snowdrops which I’ve tried to grow, take so long to bulk up here that I don’t think they fall into this critical garden worthy category. Like G. elwesii “Peter Gatehouse” below…
  • Some snowdrops remain unnamed or unidentified in these lists and increasingly there will be several with the WHSH prefix, which indicates that they are part of my Welsh Historic Snowdrop Hunt project. For more information on the ideas behind my WHSH project, please click here. I’m extremely grateful to all the people who so far have allowed me to visit, photograph and collect sample bulbs and also given me the fascinating human stories that usually accompany “old” snowdrop sites. Most of these varieties do indeed fall into the garden worthy category – at least for this wetter part of the world.
  • Anyone looking for expensive rarities or the latest named cultivars in this list will be disappointed. I have a very modest upper maximum price for buying a snowdrop bulb – not much more than a nice bottle of wine (and I don’t drink anyway). It really is more important for me to have reliable good doers which create an extended season of interest, and anyway, if a new variety is expensive and a good doer, then quite quickly it will become more affordable. The wonders of time and biological multiplication (generally following the Fibonacci sequence) working well without any recourse here to the artificial “twin-scaling” of bulbs for propagation, which I’ve never had the time or enthusiasm to carry out. Yet.
  • To make the lists more manageable I’ve somewhat arbitrarily grouped the flowers into 3 seasons, and this initial list runs from the very early flowering types, sometimes in October, to the middle of January for when the first flowers appear for the individual varieties. To illustrate the fact that snowdrops are really very variable in height, flowering time, markings and form, all the flowers below are different varieties which were in bloom here on New Year’s day 2018, when many would think the snowdrop season hadn’t even begun…
  • Typically an early season individual flower will last for up to 6 or 7 weeks, but as a clump becomes larger, the spread of flowering times means at least a good 2 or even 3 months of flower interest is possible from a single cultivar. Different bulbs at deeper locations in a clump will tend to flower later and some cultivars frequently produce 2 flowers per bulb, at different times, which obviously extends the flowering season. Later flowering forms don’t tend to last in flower for as long, since temperatures are higher, and the flowers are more likely to be pollinated in warmer weather, which brings their flowering to a speedy close. 
  • For those intrigued by some of the photo backgrounds, many of the named cultivars are growing in the retyred matrix part of our garden. There are also over a million bulbs elsewhere in the garden growing in a more natural setting. The tyres have proved to be an ideal setting for keeping named individual cultivars separate and easily labelled and providing the moist but free draining conditions during active growth, as well as the shade and generally drier conditions through the summer months, which most snowdrops prefer. In nearly all the examples growing here, the snowdrops are succeeded by perennial plants, mostly chosen for their potential appeal as nectar or pollen sources for our diverse native insect population, later in the year. The bulbs growing in the tyres receive a couple of scatterings of wood ash from our stoves during the year, a single scattering of seaweed meal in early winter, and get mulched with year old, homemade, twice chopped (with our lawnmower to aid decomposition) leaf mould straight after cutting back the other herbaceous perennials in about late October. This is around the time that the early season snowdrop shoots are nosing through the ground. In the rest of the garden the snowdrops get similar treatment, but just natural leaf fall, with no mulch. Fallen leaves are never removed from most of the garden, just the paths.
  • Currently, named varieties are lifted and split about every 3 to 4 years within the tyres, once there are a few flowers per cluster, with the aim of eventually creating a bolder impression of what the varieties can look like en masse. Though like many gardening plans, one needs a patient approach towards this goal. Some cultivars are so slow to bulk up that this effect will probably never be seen. At least by me! This lifting and moving can only be done in spring, since the perennial plants prevent access during the bulb’s dormant period. Many snowdrop experts would say bulbs should only be moved when dormant, in summer, but provided I do it during a period of damp or wet weather, with minimal root disturbance, I only get a minor drop off in flowering the following year. However we are “blessed” here with a typical range of 1700 to 2100 mm of annual rainfall, which is much higher than many parts of the UK. (G. “Grumpy”, below).

(Our snowdrop silk scarf design above – see separate webpage for more details).

EARLY SEASON TO MID JANUARY

G. reginae-olgae “Cambridge”.  Acq. 2012. October 29th 2016 to December 9th. An  autumn flowering species cultivar, which always flowers before the quite narrow leaves have developed. Not very vigorous, but the prompt for the start of the snowdrop season. (October 9th 2017 – 1st to flower, October 20th 2018 – 1st to flower)

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G. elwesii form (November flowering) ex Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers. Acq. late 2017. October 16 th 2017 . (2nd to flower 2017) An unnamed species cultivar flowering notably early and with the typical wider, blue green leaves of this species. Inner segment markings vary quite a lot with G. elwesii snowdrops. Here it is an extended and wide inverted U shape.

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G. plicatus “Three Ships”.  Acq. 2012. November 25th 2016 to late December. A named species cultivar, with folded leaf edges (plicate) typical of the species. The name implies being around on Christmas morning, (from the carol – “I saw Three Ships…”) but in 2017, it was already over by then. (November 8 th 2017 – 4th to flower).

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G. elwesii “Mrs.Macnamara”  Acq. 2010. December 5th 2016 to February 20th. A named species cultivar. (November 12 th 2017 – 5 th to flower) Currently our favourite snowdrop of all! Early, vigorous, floriferous and stands cold or snowy weather well.

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G. elwesii “Peter Gatehouse”. Acq  2014.  December 7th 2016 to January 17th. A species cultivar, not at all vigorous here. (October 29th 2017  – 3 rd to flower, November 5th 2018, 2 nd to flower)__________________

G. plicatus “Florence Baker”. Acq. 2012.  December 14th 2016 to February 23rd. A cultivar of this species. Quite vigorous and floriferous, but the tallish flowers tend to flop over, particularly after frosts. (December 17 th 2017 – 15 th to flower)

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G. Unknown. ex CG STC. Acq 2017. December 4 th 2017. A locally collected snowdrop. (8 th to flower in 2017) 

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G. “Bess”. Acq. 2012.  December 16 th 2016 to February 26th. A single flowered hybrid. Very sturdy and erect flower held close to the pedicel, and very attractive thick blue – green leaves. Deep green inverted heart shaped marking, but flowers reluctant to open fully early in the season. (December 6 th 2017 – 11 th to flower). One of our favourite snowdrops. Early, sturdy and floriferous.

 

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G. “Sutton Courtenay”. Acq. 2014.  December 17 th 2016  to February 23rd. A single flowered hybrid, with flowers hanging attractively like lanterns. (December 5 th 2017. 8 th to flower). One of our favourite snowdrops, with characteristic olive green ovaries and interesting inner segment markings.

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G. elwesii “Fieldgate Prelude”.  Acq. 2013. December 18 th 2016 to February 23 rd. (December 22 nd 2017 – 22nd to flower). A cultivar of this species, a seedling of G. “Mrs. Macnamara” with interesting markings, but not as vigorous here as the parent, and with much finer leaves.

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G. “Castlegar”. Acq. 2012.  December 20 th 2016 to February 18 th. A very short single flowered hybrid, when first emerged, with the leaves hardly obvious. Quite a thin and distinctive splayed V shaped inner segment marking. Most bulbs here seem to produce a second, later flower scape, extending the season of flower considerably. The flowers do extend in length as they mature and are longlasting. (December 4 th in 2017 – 6 th to flower)

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G. nivalis “Melvillei”. Acq. 2012. (10 th to flower in 2016). December 21 st 2016 to February 18 th. ( December 17 th 2017 – 13 th to flower). One of the tallest forms of the native species, and always our earliest G. nivalis form to flower. But the overall effect is of quite thin flowers held way above the leaves.______________________

G. elwesii  “Zwanenburg”. Acq. 2012. December 22 nd 2016 to February 18 th. A sturdy cultivar of this species, though tends to flop after Sometimes with 2 flowers per scape, and very wide leaves. (December 31 st 2017 – 41 st to flower).______________________________

G. elwesii “Fenstead End”. Acq. 2014. December 24 th 2016 to February 23 rd. ( December 20 th 2017 – 18 th to flower). An attractive cultivar of this species, with narrower leaves and strong inner segment markings.

 

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G. “Atkinsii”. Acq. 2003.  December 24 th 2016 to 24 th February. A single flowered hybrid. (December 17 th 2017 – 17 th to flower). An over 100 year old hybrid, and a favourite snowdrop. One of our very first unusual forms, which got me hooked on snowdrops. 

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G. woronowii. Acq. in 2009, but moved several times, since not thriving in deeper shade. December 26 th 2016 to late February. (December 21 st 2017  – 21 st to flower). A species snowdrop, with distinctive wide, glossy, bright green leaves.

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G. plicatus “Colossus”.  Acq. 2012.  December 26 th 2016 to mid February. (December 16 th 2017 – 13 th to flower). Wide leaves, and usually 2 flower scapes per bulb, extending the season of interest. Bought as this cultivar, but possibly ours have slightly atypical markings, and it’s not particularly large in our garden either! However it’s growing beneath Helianthus “Lemon Queen”, which is quite a thug like plant with a very vigorous root system.

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G. “Ding Dong”. Acq. 2012. December 26 th 2016 to late February. A single flowered hybrid. (December 17 th 2017 – 16 th to flower). One of our favourites. Early, long outer segments and bold inner segment markings._________________________

G. “Lapwing”. Acq. 2012. December 26 th 2016 to February 24 th. ( December 22nd 2017 – 25 th to flower). A single flowered hybrid. One of our favourites.

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G. “Reverend Hailstone”. Acq. 2013.  December 26 th 2016 to late February. A tall, strong, single flowered hybrid. (December 4 th 2017 – 7 th to flower). ________________________

G. elwesii “Long ‘drop”. Acq. 2014. December 26 th 2016 to February 10th. A really lovely cultivar of this species of snowdrop, with curving spathes, over flowers on long pedicels.  (December 22 nd 2017 – 23 rd to flower).

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G. “Lime Tree”. Acq. 2012.  December 26 th 2016 to late February. (20 th to flower). Very similar to G. “Atkinsii”, but flowers aren’t quite as strong, and also flowers a little earlier than the G. Atkinsii in a nearby tyre. ( December 21 st 2017 –  20 th to flower).

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G. “John Gray”. Acq. 2011.  December 28 th 2016 to late February. A large flowered single hybrid, whose only failing here is the weight of the flowers often pulls them down to nearly ground level. ( December 20 th 2017 – 19 th to flower).

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G. “Acton Pigot No. 3”. Acq. 2013.  December 29 th 2016 to February 10 th. (December 5 th 2017 – 10 th to flower). A single flowered hybrid, with slightly olive green coloured ovaries, and quite pointed outer segments. The flowers seem slightly more attractive to slugs here, than most snowdrops, and the flower stems tend to flop. ____________________

G. Unknown ex CGL. Acq. 2017. December 22nd 2017 . (26 th to flower). An impressive large flowered, large leaved probable elwesii X plicatus hybrid snowdrop from Keith Brown’s garden, but possibly ex Woodpeckers garden in Warwickshire originally. Green tipped outers and one leaf with plicated (folded) leaf edges.

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G. elwesii “Hiemalis Group”. Acq. 2014. (as G.caucasicus HG)  December 30 th 2016 to February 10 th.

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G. elwesii “Frinton Advent”. Acq. 2017. December 25 th 2017 to early February (35 th to flower). An early form of this species.

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G. nivalis “Llo ‘n’ Green”. Acq. 2015.  December 31 st 2016 to February 23 rd. A French cultivar of the native species. One of our favourites. 

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G. “Lady Beatrix Stanley”. Acq.2011.  December 31 st 2016 to February 23 rd. An old (1940’s) and distinctive short, neat, double flowered hybrid, with distinctive split inner segment markings. (December 26 th 2017 – 36 th to flower).

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G. rizehensis. Acq. 2012 (3 bulbs.). December 31 st 2016 to late February. A green leaved species. One of our favourites, which seeds well. (December 22 nd 2017 – 24 th to flower). 

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G. “Sir Herbert Maxwell”. Acq. 2015.  December 31 st 2016 to February 21 st. A single flowered hybrid.____________________________

G. nivalis “Anglesey Abbey”. Acq. 2012. January 1st 2017 to late February. A distinctive variety of the species with bright green leaves, and only very faint inner segment markings. (December 23 2017 – 29 th to flower).

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G. plicatus type. (RB YI4). Acq. 2011. January 1 st 2017 to late February. (January 1st 2018 – 48 th to flower.)_____________________________

G. ? (14-2). Acq ?  January 3rd 2017 to late February. (30 th to flower). A single flowered hybrid. (December 28 th 2017 – 39 th to flower).

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G. “Lyn”. Acq. 2012. January 5th 2017 to February 23 rd. A single flowered hybrid, very similar to G. “Atkinsii”, and G. “Limetree” with elegant long teardrop flowers. More vigorous than G. “Limetree”. (December 23 rd 2017 – 28 th to flower.)

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G. “Galatea”. Acq. 2012.  January 6 th 2017 to late February. A single flowered, dating from the 1880’s  hybrid. Long pedicel, and similar to G. “Magnet”, but flowers earlier. ( December 28 th 2017 – 37 th to flower). One of our favourites.___________________________

G. NBB? Acq ? Poss seedling of G. Benhall Beauty. January 7 th 2017 to late February.(Front 3 flowers only above.)

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G. “Jaquenetta”.  Acq. 2010. January 7 th 2017 to late February. The first of the “Greatorex” doubles to flower here, with fat buds, large flowers with faint green tips to the outer segments, small ovaries and wide blue green leaves. December 23 rd 2017 – 30 th to flower. (December 23 rd 2017 – 29 th to flower.)

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G. nivalis (12-2) Unknown. January 8 th 2017 to late February. December 22 nd 2017 – 27 th to flower.________________________

G. “Shropshire Queen”. Acq. 2015. January 8 th 2017 to late February.

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G. “Benhall Beauty”. Acq. 2010.  January 8th 2017 to late February. (Basal mark blurred single flowered hybrid). One of our favourite snowdrops.____________________________

G. “Fly Fishing”. Acq. 2016. January 8th 2017 to late February. (December 17 th 2017 – 14 th to flower). Single flowered hybrid, on a very long pedicel. Seems to be very vigorous so far.___________________________

G. Unknown LMC Poss GU seedling, found outside tyres in the lower apple garden. December 22 nd 2017. A single flowered hybrid, initially assumed to be G. Atkinsii, but with wider blue green leaves, and lacking the spathe curling over the flower. A bit like a taller version of G. “Bess”.

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G. WHSH. (W of GR). Acq. 2016. January 8th 2017 to mid February. Local G. nivalis.

(40 th to flower)____________________________

G. “Byfield Special”. Acq. 2012. January 9th 2017 to late February. Single flowered hybrid, with well rounded flowers on long arching pedicel. (January 3 rd 2018 – 54 th to flower.)

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G. nivalis WHSH LDFS. Acq 2017. December 25 th 2017 to . A local quite tall and early form of the native species. 

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G. “Brenda Troyle”. Acq. 2012. January 9th 2017 to late February. Single flowered hybrid, one or more leaf margins explicative, short and quite chubby flowers. (December 24 th 2017 – 32 nd to flower)_____________________

G. WHSH Ex PW. Acq. 2016. January 9 th 2017 to mid February. Single flowered hybrid.

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G. plicatus “Edinburgh Ketton”. Acq. 2014. January 10 th 2017 to late February. A form of G. plicatus. (December 31 st 2017 – 43 rd to flower).

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G. “Kildare”. Acq. 2012. A single flowered hybrid, with green markings on the outer segments. January 11th 2017 to late February. One of our favourite snowdrops.___________________

G. nivalis WHSH PYC  Acq.2016. January 11 th 2017 to early March. Local origin species variant, one of the earliest WHSH nivalis forms, from near Kidwelly.  (December 30 th 2017 – 40 th to flower.)_____________________

G. elwesii “Gabriel”. Acq.2015. January 11th 2017  to late February. A species cultivar of the var. monostictus (single inner segment markings) form.

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G. nivalis WHSH GYA. Acq. 2015. January 13 th 2017 to late February. A local form of the native species. (January 4 th 2018 – 62 nd to flower).____________________________

G. nivalis WHSH GA. Acq. 2014. January 13 th 2017 to late February. A vigorous quite tall local variant of the native species. (January 3 rd 2018 – 51 st to flower) ____________________

G. nivalis WHSH BDL 1. Acq 2016. January 1 st 2018. 49 th to flower. A local variety of the native species from a site with the widest variation in snowdrops yet encountered in my WHSH project.

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G. Unknown. 32 -1 Acq.? January 13 th 2017 to late February. 50 th to flower.____________________

G. nivalis WHSH PYB. Acq. 2013. January 13 th 2017 to late February. Local variant of native species. One of our favourite snowdrops. _________________________

G. “Honeysuckle Cottage”. Acq. 2013. January 14 th 2017 to late February. A single flowered hybrid of G. nivalis and G. plicatus. Very tall and upright.________________________

G. elwesii “Epiphany” Acq. 2015. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A species variant with a single inner segment mark. ________________

G. “The Apothecary”. Acq. 2015. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A single flowered G. plicatus X G. nivalis hybrid. (December 28 th 2017 – 38 th to flower)_____________________

G. nivalis Lac de Balcere. Acq. 2017. January 3 rd 2018 to  (59 th to flower). A French origin form of the species.

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G. “Benton Magnet”. Acq. 2017. January 5 th 2018 to (67 th to flower). A vigorous shorter flowering form with long pedicel.

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G. Unknown “Not Trymming”. Acq. 2015 (as Trymming, but clearly isn’t!). January 7 th 2018. (68 th to flower). A single flowered hybrid.

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G. Unknown ex WHSH MGF – MB, ex RB. Acq. 2017. A very vigorous early double flowered snowdrop with almost no ovary. January 7 th 2018 to (70 th to flower).

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G. “Bertram Anderson”.  Acq. 2012  January 15 th 2017 to late February. A very large, single flowered hybrid with bold inner segment marking, and often 2 scapes per bulb.

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G. elwesii “Cedric’s Prolific”. Acq.2010. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A vigorous cultivar of the species. Distinctive very pointed flower scape which grows tall before the flower eventually emerges. Faint green tips to the outer segments. One of our favourite snowdrops.

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 G. “Maximus”? Acq. 2013. January 15 th 2017 to late February. ____________________

G. nivalis WHSH TNE. Acq. 2010. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A local native species variant. _________________

G. nivalis “Sibbertoft White”. Acq. 2012. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A cultivar of the species with very faint or no green inner segment markings. (60 th to flower).____________________________

G. “Robin Hood”. Acq. 2010. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A single flowered hybrid with inner segment markings over more than the apical half, which are diffused or blurred. The flowers are held very tightly on a short pedicel close to upright. (January 3 rd  2018 – 56 th to flower). 

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