Plant Focus – Galanthus (Snowdrops)

This week’s Plant Focus falls on Snowdrops. Despite the first blooms being reported back in early January, for the most part they are in full bloom at the moment (in Scotland) and showing no signs of stopping soon. Many will be familiar with the term ‘Galanthophile,’ i.e. one that spends a considerable amount of one’s time on one’s knees trying to get a better glimpse of the underparts of this group of plants. Well that’s what I was for a few hours yesterday.

Snowdrops or ‘Galanthus‘ fall into the same family as daffodils and appear from their bulbs usually from January to March. They are typically planted ‘in the green’ which means planting in March with the leaves still on the bulbs once the flowers have died down. Hence now is the perfect time of year to think about where you would like them.

I’ve collected together some images of a few varieties of snowdrops so that you may remain thoroughly vertical and comfortable in your chair.

I must admit, I felt a slight sense of inappropriateness while I was pulling back the petals of the flowers so that we may sneak a glimpse behind that soft, white curtain.


 

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

 

This is Galanthus ‘S. Arnott.’ growing well amongst some leaf litter on a corner plot. This has quite large blooms in proportion to the greenery present and was probably one of my favourites. It’s also easily available.


Galanthus plicatus ‘Durris’

 

This is Galanthus plicatus ‘Durris’ also growing well amongst leaf litter in a slightly more open spot. It has small blooms on very tall stems with thicker leaves.


 

Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’

Galanthus 'Hybrid Double' (1)
Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’
Galanthus 'Hybrid Double' (2)
Underneath Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’

This snowdrop, a hybrid double, I assume of dubious origin reveals a thickly packed underskirt of petals. This one was growing under conifer litter and wasn’t doing quite so well, but did have a nice spot where it caught the dappled winter sunshine. You can buy various types of these easily.


 

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

Galanthus 'Atkinsii'
Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

This little one, I found nestled amongst some Rhodendrons. It’s Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ and I get the impression this small clump hasn’t been there long as I’m led to believe it’s quite vigorous. Still the foliage looks healthy but it’s location meant I would have had to encounter the gardeners’ wrath if I wanted a sneaky peak underneath.


 

Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant’

 

This was a very robust grower, with large elongated flowers held proudly over lucious, daffodil-green foliage. This is Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant’ and is a lovely plant. Granted it doesn’t have the daintyness associated with other varieties, but this is a sturdy beast as its name suggests. This is a signature plant of the Cruickshank Botanical Garden, being bred there in the 1980s, and it’s a little tricky to get a hold of, but if you can, it’s well worth it.


 

Galanthus woronwii

 

With thick, shiny bright-green leaves and small flowers both of a squat nature, Galanthus woronwii does brighten up a dark corner of the garden. It isn’t one of my favourites but it is quite different from the rest and would easily add variety to any collection.


Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’

Galanthus 'Lime Tree' (1)
Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’
Galanthus 'Lime Tree' (2)
Underneath Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’

Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’ has more yellowy-green markings on the flowers. The white petals stick out at a wider angle than the others mentioned here which I assume is where the ‘Tree’ part of the name came from. This variety, I would say, is ‘architecturally’ interesting! It seems to be growing well in quite a sunny spot.


 

I was hoping to come across Galanthus ‘Grumpy,’ it being so wonderfully named and fully appropriate to the little face which we would find peering out at us, but alas I did not find it. One for next time.


 

What to plant Snowdrops (Galanthus) with?

I found some wonderful planting combinations on my trip. They work really well with most other low growing spring flowering plants, I think. They work well with the subtle coloured crocuses, Helleborus, primroses and cowslips and I think equally well in great contrast with vibrant coloured hybrid primulas, irises and crocuses.

Here’s some pale, muted planting options:

 

And now prepare yourself for the more vibrant colourful ones:

 

Snowdrops are such humble plants, not asking for much, not being particularly showy or demanding and they both blend in and stand out. However, most importantly, they appear in some of the coldest months of the year and subtly signal that spring is just around the corner and for that, we are forever grateful.

Do you have a favourite snowdrop?

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