Nursery News: The 2015 Snowdrop Catalogue, featuring snowdrops and other winter interest plants like cyclamen and hellebores, is posted here, and we are taking orders now for mail order and pick up at the nursery in late February or early March.
The over 1,000 types of cultivated snowdrops all originated from just 20 snowdrop species found in the wild and making up the genus Galanthus. This post is the second in a series of posts profiling the important snowdrop species, which are all great garden plants in their own right.
In the first post I discussed the common snowdrop, G. nivalis, and you can read that post by clicking here. I have written a lot of other articles about snowdrops, covering among other topics their ornamental characteristics, fascinating history, the importance of provenance, and profiling many cultivars. For links to all my previous snowdrop posts, click here. In this post, I will discuss G. woronowii.
Much of the information in this post comes from Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop et al. (Griffin Press 2006) which is absolutely indispensable if you are researching or collecting snowdrops. I have also used documents produced by Kew Gardens and the Tbilisi Botanical Garden in the Country of Georgia.
Although a few sources have randomly assigned the common names green snowdrop, Russian snowdrop, and Woronow’s snowdrop to G. woronowii, it really has no regularly used common name. So why am I calling it the Sochi snowdrop? Because in the early 20th century, Russian botanist A.S. Losina-Losinskaya collected a new species of snowdrop in southern Russia around Sochi on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. In 1935, he named these snowdrops Galanthus woronowii in honor of Georg Jurii Nikolaewitch Woronow (1874-1931). Several sources confirm that G. woronowii is still abundant in the mountains and forests above Sochi, the resort town on the Black Sea where Russia is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics beginning February 7.
G. woronowii is found in northeastern Turkey, Georgia, and southern Russia mainly around the eastern part of the Black Sea. For a map of its range, click here for a report by Georgia’s Tbilisi Botanical Garden. It grows in an extraordinary variety of habitats from deciduous and even evergreen woods to rocky slopes, cliff ledges, and river banks. It thrives in both shallow rocky soil and deep organic loam in areas with cold winters and abundant precipitation. According to Kew Gardens, Georgia harvests 15 million G. woronowii bulbs every year for export to the western European horticultural trade. Kew along with Tbilisi and the CITES* authorities have been monitoring this harvest from wild populations and cultivated sites, click here.
*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which covers snowdrops.
G. woronowii is grown for its beautiful, glossy green leaves and lovely white flowers. It is the only commonly available snowdrop to have bright green leaves as opposed to the blue-gray leaves of the other common species. The leaves persist longer than other snowdrop foliage and form a lovely but temporary, thick and attractive groundcover. The flowers, which have a small green mark covering one third or less of the inner segments, are the last snowdrops to bloom in my garden in late March and early April. I really appreciate the way they extend the end of the snowdrop season.
The identification of G. woronowii is confused in the horticultural trade where it is often called G. ikariae, a much less common snowdrop from the Aegean Islands of Greece. However, while G. woronowii has light, glossy green leaves folded in the center and a small green mark on the flower, G. ikariae has dark, matt green leaves and a mark covering more than half the inner segment. I have been told that all the G. ikariae sold in the U.S. is actually G. woronowii.
Unlike the other three more common snowdrop species, G. nivalis, G. elwesii, and G. plicatus, not many cultivated plants have been selected from G. woronowii, possibly because it only became available in large numbers in the 1990s. Snowdrops lists only ‘Green Flash’ selected for its green marks on its outer as well as its inner segments. Other sources add ‘Cider with Rosie’, ‘Green Woodpecker’, and ‘Boschhoeve’, all with green marks on their outers.
Nevertheless, a cultivar of G. woronowii has caused more excitement than any other snowdrop when, on February 16, 2012, one bulb sold for 725 pounds ($1,185) on eBay, surpassing the previous record of around 360 pounds ($508). G. woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ appeared as a seedling in a Scottish garden and is named after the owner. It is considered so special because instead of the usual green ovary (the “cap” to which the petals are attached) and segment marks, ‘Elizabeth Harrison’s’ are an intense yellow, looking beautiful with the bright green leaves. For the U.K. Telegraph story on ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ and a photo, click here; for today’s story in the Telegraph about another snowdrop, ‘Humpty Dumpty’, reaching 195 pounds, click here.
I won’t be adding ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ to my collection anytime soon, but I do treasure the patch of G. woronowii in my garden.
Nursery Happenings: We are now taking orders, for mail order or pick up in late February or March, from the 2015 Snowdrop Catalogue, featuring snowdrops and other winter interest plants like cyclamen and hellebores. To access the catalogue, please click here.
Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.
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