Gelli Uchaf Snowdrops – Early Season

This page represents an initial effort at an “in the cloud” record of snowdrops 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.

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. So I’ve tried to illustrate just how this visual impact of the plants changes from when the first flower is about to “Open”. 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 fairly good correlation relative to other snowdrops 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 “chipping” 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.
  • 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 this, 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 do indeed fall into the garden worthy category – at least for this wet 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 (following the Fibonacci sequence) working well without any recourse here to the artificial chipping of bulbs for propagation, which I’ve never had the time or enthusiasm to carry out.
  • 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. Typically an early season individual flower will last for about 3 to 4 weeks, but as a clump becomes larger, the spread of flowering times means at least a good 2 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 individual cultivars separate and easily labelled, as well as providing the moist but free draining conditions which most snowdrops prefer, and also providing shade and generally drier conditions through the summer months. 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 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, 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. October 9th 2017. (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.

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G. plicatus “Three Ships”.  Acq. 2012. November 25th 2016 to late December. A named species cultivar. 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. ________________________

G. elwesii “Peter Gatehouse”. Acq  2014.  December 7th 2016 to January 17th. A species cultivar, not very vigorous here. October 29th 2017 (3 rd to flower)__________________

G. plicatus “Florence Baker”. Acq. 2012.  December 14th 2016 to February 23rd. A cultivar of this species. Quite vigorous and floriferous, but tends to flop over, particularly after frosts.

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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. One of our favourite snowdrops. Early, sturdy and floriferous.________________________

G. “Sutton Courtenay”. Acq. 2014.  December 17 th 2016  to February 23rd. A single flowered hybrid. One of our favourite snowdrops, with characteristic olive green ovaries.

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G. elwesii “Fieldgate Prelude”.  Acq. 2013. December 18 th 2016 to February 23 rd. A cultivar of this species.

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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 leaves hardly obvious. (December 4 th in 2017 – 6 th to flower) _______________________

G. nivalis “Melvillei”. Acq. 2012. (10 th to flower in 2016). December 21 st 2016 to February 18 th. ______________________

G. elwesii  “Zwanenburg”. Acq. 2012. December 22 nd 2016 to February 18 th. A cultivar of this species. Sometimes 2 flowers per scape.______________________________

G. elwesii “Fenstead End”. Acq. 2014. December 24 th 2016 to February 23 rd. A cultivar of this species. _________________________

 

G. “Atkinsii”. Acq. 2003.  24 th December 2016 to 24 th February. A single flowered hybrid. 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. A species snowdrop, with distinctive wide glossy green leaves._________________________

G. plicatus “Colossus” ? Acq. 2012.  December 26 th 2016 to mid February. Bought as this cultivar, but atypical markings.__________________________

G. “Ding Dong”. Acq. 2012. December 26 th 2016 to late February. A single flowered hybrid. One of our favourites._________________________

G. “Lapwing”. Acq. 2012. December 26 th 2016 to February 24 th. A single flowered hybrid. One of our favourites._________________________

G. “Reverend Hailstone”. Acq. 2013.  December 26 th 2016 to late February. A 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.  _________________________

G. “Lime Tree”. Acq. 2012.  December 26 th 2016 to late February. (20 th to flower).__________________________

G. “John Gray”. Acq. 2011.  December 28 th 2016 to late February. __________________________

G. “Acton Pigot No. 3”. Acq. 2013.  December 29 th 2016 to February 10 th. A single flowered hybrid.____________________

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

“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.

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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.

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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.

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G. plicatus type.(RB YI4). Acq. 2011. January 1 st 2017 to late February. _____________________________

G. ? (14-2). Acq?  January 3rd 2017 to late February. (30 th to flower)

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G. “Lyn”. Acq. 2012. January 5th 2017 to February 23 rd.

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G. “Galatea”. Acq. 2012.  January 6 th 2017 to late February. A single flowered hybrid. 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.

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G. nivalis (12-2) Unknown. January 8 th 2017 to late February. ________________________

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. Single flowered hybrid___________________________

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._______________________

G. “Brenda Troyle”. Acq. 2012. January 9th 2017 to late February. Single flowered hybrid, one or more leaf margins explicative._____________________

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. 

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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._____________________

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 GYR. Acq. 2015. January 13 th 2017 to late February. A local form of the native species.____________________________

G. nivalis WHSH GA. Acq. 2014. January 13 th 2017 to late February. Local variant of native species.  ____________________

G. Unknown. 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.________________________

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._____________________

G. Unknown. Acq.? January 15 th 2017 to late February.

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G. elwesii “Cedric’s Prolific”. Acq.2010. January 15 th 2017 to late February. A vigorous cultivar of the species. One of our favourite snowdrops.

 _____________________

 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

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