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 currently have growing here.
Why bother with such a thing?
The main reason was that any other sort of simple physical record of these bulbs here 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.
- 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 helped my 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. Also as of 2020, there’s clear evidence that left undisturbed, many forms’ flowering times creeps a little earlier each year – possibly because replacement bulbs tend to end up nearer the soil surface. 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” in these lists relates to the point at which the first flower bud of a variety emerges from the spathe and begins to turn towards horizontal. (Shown in bold italics in the description). 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 record 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.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 final list runs from the middle of February until the end of the season, in the middle of March, 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, as well as 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 very 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 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).
As I created this last of my 3 season lists, I discovered that for several of these later flowering snowdrops I don’t have any useful photos. Perhaps because at this time of the year, much more is happening in the garden to distract one’s eye. Perhaps also because after 2 solid months of snowdrop focus, photography, WHSH visits and computer work I was becoming a little fatigued! Hopefully by the end of the 2020 season, many of these missing photos can be added, and the list will hopefully become more complete.
(Our snowdrop silk scarf design above – see separate web page for more details).
Middle of February to early March
G. “Curly”. Acq. 2012. February 15 th 2017 to mid March. A smaller single flowered hybrid with faint green tips to the outer segments.
G. plicatus “Washfield Rectory”. Acq. 2012. February 16 th 2017 to mid March. A “clone” of the species, but probably the same as the more commonly described “Washfield Warham”, which is listed at the end of the Mid Season snowdrops. This dates back to about 1916 when a fine late flowering G. plicatus was spotted and sent by Revd. Digby of Warham, Norfolk to E. A. Bowles, the eminent bulb expert. In fact it’s thought that it was brought back to the village originally by a Captain Adlington on his return from the Crimean War.
G. Seedling of John Long. Acq. 2017. February 18 th 2017 to mid March. A single flowered hybrid with an unusually kinked pedicel, just before attachment to the ovary. Will this be a consistent feature?
G. “Straffan” ? SP4. Acq. 2010 February 17 th 2017 to late March. An elegant single flowered hybrid. I think that is G. “Straffan”, which we acquired years ago, before we kept good records! It is a late flowerer and typically produces a second flower scape, as you can see from the second photo, which extends the flowering season.
G. nivalis sandersii group “Lowick”. Acq. 2010. February 18 th 2017 to mid March. A very weak growing snowdrop here, as can be seen from the once moved plants below, 7 years after acquisition! ______________________________
G. nivalis WHSH WTSWW TE. Acq. 2016. February 20 th 2017 to mid March. A local form of the native species.
G. nivalis WHSH FNLF. Acq. 2016. February 20 th 2017 to mid March. A local variety of the native species.
G. elwesii “Miller’s Late”. Acq. 2012. February 23 rd 2017 to mid March. A late flowering clone of the species, with wide leaves.
G. lagodechianus. Acq. 2017. February 23 rd 2017 to mid March. A single flowered species. No photos yet!
G. Unknown 2-2. Acq ? March 4 th 2017 to late March. A single flowered hybrid with wide plicatus type foliage.
G. nivalis WHSH OCF. Acq. 2016. March 4 th 2017 to late March. A local form of the native species.
G. “Fieldgate Superb”. Acq. 2015. March 4 th 2017 to late March. A single flowered hybrid, usually 2 flower scapes per shoot.
G. “Polar Bear”. Acq. 2017. March 10 th 2017 to early April. A single flowered hybrid with wide foliage and smallish flowers which are held nearly horizontally.