On a Chalk Hillside March 2023

Published: March 2, 2023
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Posted on 02.03.2023 |
Updated on 03.03.2023 |
Added in Sheila May’s Blog

Snowdrops 

It is two years since I talked about snowdrops and the famous snowdrop gardens that inspired my love of the little plants, so I thought I would write about some more gardens and plants that we saw last February and this, and the snowdrops in my garden.  When I wrote about them in 2021 we were in another Covid lockdown and so could not visit, but last year we managed to get to two gardens on two consecutive days before weather/health issues stopped visits, and this year we visited the same two in the same way, but exactly one week later, as the winter cold/wet had made the snowdrops that much later.  However, the severe drought/heat of the summer had not affected the snowdrops at all, and the displays this year were magnificent.
One, East Lambrook Manor Garden, we used to visit for the snowdrops but stopped about 15 years ago as it changed hands/was getting a makeover, and then never went back to.   Well, when we went back last year what a development as far as snowdrops were concerned!  This is the view we were used to:-

Which looked much the same to our eye.  But elsewhere in the garden were lots and lots of pots of very choice snowdrops, quite a lot of which I had never seen before.  You may remember I said snowdrops needed quite a distinctive set of markings or shape for me to be able to easily distinguish them apart, and G. ‘Heffalump’ certainly had that – a double with lots of lovely green markings all the way round the inner tepals:-

Another very distinctive double – and rare I think – is G. ‘Franz Josef’ with not only a big green cross on the inner tepals but a big green mark on the outer ones too:-

Easy for me to distinguish from others was G. ‘Rosemary Burnham’ an Elwesii type with strong green markings both inside and out:-

Now I am not so sure I would be able to pick G.’Seagull’ out from others if it wasn’t well labelled, though it is taller than common snowdrops and heavily scented:-

I bought a bulb of the following snowdrop – G. ‘Alison Hilary’ with its distinctive X which I have kept in its pot all year, and which was beginning to show a snout on 2 January this year and was flowering on a very short stem on 13 Feb.  I planted it out under an acer in my gravel garden on 17 February.  This is at East Lambrook Manor last year:-

There are quite a few snowdrops with some version of this X on their tepals, but it is the only one I have here so I should be able to identify it!   Now the following one I LOVED for all its green markings – its delicate flowers are pagoda shaped – G. plicatus ‘Phil Cornish’:-

Another view of these enchanting flowers:-

Another plant I loved – which was in a large clump in the flower beds at East Lambrook Manor – was this double form of G. elwesii, now called G. ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley”’– such a beautiful shape of flower, and so distinctive:-

As I am so limber now, I even managed a photo of it from underneath to show you the markings!:-

This snowdrop is supposed to spread well, so I was on the hunt for a pot of it this year for my garden.  No luck, it was completely out of stock in every garden visited.  A bulb I did manage to purchase last year was G. ‘Augustus’ a Plicatus type snowdrop with searsucker texture to its tepals:-

Now, in this shot with its tepals not fully open it looks a lot more like its more choice/desirable/expensive cousin G. ‘Diggory’, but Augustus opens its tepals to show the inner ones, as you can see here in a clump that were in the ground rather than a pot:-

G. ‘Diggory’ however just keeps inflating to look like a balloon through which you can see the inner tepals.  In this shot below you can see the tepals are more strongely textured too:-

I would say when I win the lottery I’ll get a G. ‘Diggory’ , but unlike the G. ‘Alison Hilary’ bulb the pot containing G. ‘Augustus’ had NOT got a snout showing on 2 Jan this year and on investigation, the excessive wet had done for the bulb.  However, undeterred (or is that “foolhardy“) I bought two more bulbs of G. ‘Augustus’ when I went to the Yellow book Garden the day after visiting East Lambrook Manor this year, and learning from my experiences, the very next day planted them under the acers with the G. ‘Alison Hilary’.  Fingers crossed they all like it there as much as the G. ‘S. Arnott’ does.   Last year I also purchased two pots of “pot luck” snowdrop bulbs from East Lambrook Manor, which were a mix of up to 4 bulbs which the gardeners weren’t sure what they were.  I tried to choose pots where at least one of the flowers I could see (and not all were flowering) had a distinctive shape/colour.   Here’s a shot of my haul:-

So it will be interesting to see what they come up like this year.  Both of the pot luck pots have at least one snout showing on 13 February 23, and here is the pot with bulbs flowering on 13 Feb:-

On investigation, only a couple of bulbs had survived the extreme wet in each of these pots, and as with the other snowdrops from last year were planted out under the acer.  
You all know how hardy snowdrops are.  Well on 8 February I went down the garden at 1pm as it had been sunny enough to (almost) thaw the frost, and took a picture of the clump of G. ‘Ophelia’ I showed you at the end of the last blog piece.  The double flowers were bent to the ground (and had been frozen to the gravel earlier in the day).  

All the snowdrops under the acers were drooped to the ground with the frost.  By the next day they were a little perkier as it was not a hard frost, and here is the clump of G. ‘Ophelia’ on 13th Feb:-

I am now going to show you both Ophelia and Hypolita flowers turned up to show you that it is not just that Hypolita is taller stemmed than Ophelia I feel there is a difference in the shape of the outer longer tepals between Ophelia (fatter tepal) than Hypolita.  See if you can spot a difference.  First Ophelia, they Hypolita:-

Now I bet you all know what this snowdrop is called:-

Yes, Galanthus  ‘Grumpy’.  Given I crawl round all the snowdrops looking closely at each pot/clump and taking AGES at a snowdrop garden, with my husband very patiently hanging around trying to keep out of the way of us galanthophiles, and keep warm at the same time, I always take a photo of this elwesii type as it makes even him smile.  I have never yet managed to purchase a bulb of this, but it is on my list – maybe next year?  It takes a while for the markings to become this distinctive apparently, as the plant needs to establish.  Whilst I am mentioning purchases you may notice in the “haul” shot above a pot with some “in the green” bulbs in plastic bags?  At the second snowdrop garden we visited last year, open under the Yellow Book scheme, I bought four bulbs of this very distinctive snowdrop and planted them under my Acers near my established clumps of G. ‘S. Arnott’, and they have come up this year, snouts up at the beginning of January:-

The above photo was taken on 7 Feb last year, and as you can see the flowers were beginning to go over, indeed the ones I bought in bags had finished flowering.  Showing how different the snowdrop season is this year the bulbs in my garden looked like this on 13 February 23:-

Clearly not fully open yet, even though it’s a week later.  Here they are opened on 17 February:-

A snowdrop we were very taken with this year at East Lambrook Manor was G. elwesii ‘Marjorie Brown’, a large patch of which was flowering in a bed at one end of the garden – it has very distinctive wide glaucous green leaves, and a pure white flower from the outside – not getting too tall either, so we thought we would add it to our list:-

Naturally, they didn’t have any in their nursery, but we were lucky enough to pick up a couple of bulbs from Colesbourne Park when we went on the 18th February, together with a very tiny snowdrop called G. nivalis Scharlockii Group which as you can see has tiny green tips to its tepals:-

Currently, these three have been potted into taller pots pro tem til I decide on location for them.    Talking to Sir Henry Elwes at Colesbourne about when he lifts and divides his drifts of snowdrops he said that at Colesbourne Park they don’t move snowdrops “in the green” as they are still growing and more delicate than when the leaves have all vanished from above ground and the bulb is dormant and has a harder outer case.  They mark the clumps they want to split with a stick of one colour, and put a stick of another colour in a gap space so that when there is nothing to see above ground in the summer they can still locate the clump and divide it.  
Next month back to the progress of my hardy plant seeds growing during last summer’s heat.  

Sheila May

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