New Snowdrops for 2012

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops to the US only.  For catalogues and announcements of local events, please send your full name, mailing address, and cell number to and indicate whether you are mail order only.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Who said all snowdrops look alike?  Some of my favorites: top row, L to R, ‘Wendy’s Gold’, ‘Blewbury Tart’, ‘Hippolyta’, ‘Flore Pleno’; middle, ‘Jaquenetta’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Lady Elphinstone’, ‘Augustus’; bottom, unknown, ‘Ophelia’, G. plicatus subsp. byzantinus, ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’.


Our current snowdrop catalogue is on line here.


This article includes photographs and colorful descriptions of the 5 new snowdrops I am offering for sale in my 2012 Snowdrop CatalogueFor entertaining descriptions of most of the remaining 13 varieties offered in the 2012 catalogue, click here.

The hundreds of snowdrop cultivars out there range from a classic like ‘Atkinsii’ pictured above to…(see next photo)

In Snowdrops or The Confessions of a Galanthophile, I described my transition from someone who grows snowdrops to someone who is obsessed with them.  In Snowdrops: Further Confessions of a Galanthophile, I explained that most snowdrop cultivars can be appreciated as much for their colorful history as for their ornamental characteristics.  That history is contained in Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis, and John Grimshaw (Griffin Press 2006), commonly called the “snowdrop bible”.

Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart' at Carolyn's Shade Gardens…this crazy, modern double cultivar, ‘Blewbury Tart’, which looks like it’s having a bad hair day (I love it!).

The information in Snowdrops is not only interesting but also crucial to keeping straight all the available snowdrops.  Snowdrops describes over 500 cultivars, and the authors admit that it is now out-of-date, and a second volume is required (for details on Snowdrops 2, click here).  Snowdrops description of the cultivar along with the actual origin of the snowdrop plant in question both contribute to its provenance: the history of its ownership documenting its authenticity.  If a collector is purchasing an expensive plant, provenance is very important.

Snowdrop prices range from the very affordable (but no less desirable) common snowdrop, G. nivalis, pictured above with Italian arum and snow crocus, to…(see next photo)

…the highly collectible (with a price to match) ‘Wendy’s Gold’.

‘Brenda Troyle’, a new snowdrop from Charles Cresson in my 2012 catalogue, is a perfect example of how this works.  True ‘Brenda Troyle’ is a vigorous snowdrop admired for its well-proportioned, rounded flowers with flared and cupped outer petals (segments) and a strong fragrance of honey.  It received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1960 for “outstanding excellence for ordinary garden decoration or use.”  Customers who attended Charles Cresson’s snowdrop seminars last year loved it.

Charles Cresson’s authenticated ‘Brenda Troyle’

But Snowdrops explains that ‘Brenda Troyle’ is very mixed up in the trade.  In fact, it is even unclear whether it was named after a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Pirate or a staff member at an Irish nursery.  In cases like this, it is very important that the snowdrop display the desirable characteristics of the cultivar as Cresson’s stock does.  It is equally as important that the original stock was purchased from a reputable source and kept labeled since its purchase.  Charles got his plants from a bulb company started by the venerable Hoog family of Van Tubergen fame and conserves his whole snowdrop collection with the utmost care.

Galanthus ‘Tiny’

‘Tiny’ is a snowdrop that does not suffer from an identity crisis as Snowdrops states that almost every galanthophile in the U.K. grows it.  It is a diminutive form of the common snowdrop, G. nivalis, easily distinguished by its narrow leaves and elfin stature.  It is quite charming in a clump, which develops rapidly with this vigorous cultivar.  It also flowers later, extending the snowdrop season into late spring.

The subspecies byzantinus of G. plicatus is easily distinguished from subspecies plicatus by the two marks on its inner segments.

Unique provenance adds significantly to the desirability of a snowdrop as is the case with the Turkish snowdrop, Galanthus plicatus subsp. byzantinus.  This subspecies has beautiful wide pleated leaves and lovely plump flowers joined in an elegant overall habit.  It comes from a small area in northwestern Turkey, but is uncommon even there.  Subspecies byzantinus is an exceptionally good form of G. plicatus, hard to come by even in the U.K.

The elegant habit of G. plicatus subsp. byzantinus.

But the part of its provenance that is really exciting is that these plants originated from one of the most celebrated and important American snowdrop collections, the gardens at Winterthur.  As Henry Francis du Pont added plants to Winterthur, snowdrops became a focus.  In the 1930s, he purchased the parents of these very bulbs from Barr & Sons, a renowned bulb house that operated in Covent Gardens, London, from 1882 to 1956.  When Charles Cresson worked at Winterthur in the early 1990s, he was given plants of this unique snowdrop, and we are offering the offspring of those plants in the 2012 catalogue.  Now that’s provenance!

The Greatorex double ‘Hippolyta’ (photo by and used with the permission of Paddy Tobin).

The final two new snowdrops were both hybridized in the mid-twentieth century by the legendary but enigmatic snowdrop breeder Heyrick Greatorex and are known as Greatorex doubles.  Snowdrops makes an unflattering reference to a story that he spent World War II in a local pub.  However, further research reveals that, in addition to serving in WWII, he fought in World War I, was wounded at Lagincourt, and received the Victory and British Medals—a very distinguished record indeed.  If you would like to read more about him, click here.

Galanthus 'Hippolyta' photo Paddy Tobin‘Hippolyta’ (photo by and used with the permission of Paddy Tobin)

‘Hippolyta’ is the shortest of the many Greatorex double snowdrops, which Heyrick Greatorex developed by crossing the double common snowdrop, G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’, with the species G. plicatus to create large and vigorous plants.  He named them after characters in Shakespeare’s plays, Hippolyta appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Although some of the Greatorex doubles are confused, ‘Hippolyta’ consistently produces neatly doubled, rounded flowers, combining a tightly compact inner rosette with cupped and flaring outer petals (segments)—a charming arrangement.  It received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1970.


The Greatorex double ‘Dionysus’

The final member of the five new snowdrops in my 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue is ‘Dionysus’, also a member of the acclaimed series of double snowdrops developed by Heyrick Greatorex (although not a Shakespeare character).  ‘Dionysus’ is one of the taller and earlier flowering doubles in this series.  It has fewer inner segments  than other Greatorex doubles, and  they feature a large, deep green, inverted heart-shaped mark.  Evidently Heyrick Greatorex described ‘Dionysus’ as one of the best of his doubles for cultivation in the open garden.  Charles got his bulbs from the well known Oregon bulb authority Jane McGary.

Obviously, I find everything about snowdrops fascinating and hope I have communicated some of my infatuation to you.  If you are in the U.S. and want to order from the catalogue, just follow the directions for mail order.


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69 Responses to “New Snowdrops for 2012”

  1. OK you are killing me here…how and what to choose…they are all gorgeous…I definitely want Tiny and Blewbury Tart….so I will have to get my order in to you…I absolutely love snowdrops and need a few more in my garden 🙂

    • Donna, How did you read that so quickly? I just pushed the publish button. I am so happy that I communicated my enthusiasm to at least one fellow gardener. Maybe you are a galanthophile in the making. FYI, there are three ‘Tiny’ left and seven ‘Blewbury Tart’. Carolyn

  2. What a superb post, you obviously love snowdrops as much as I do!! I usually add a few more special ones each year, but will have to stop soon as I don’t have much more space with the right conditions. They certainly are addictive once you start collecting!

    • Pauline, Believe it or not, every year I think I am over my fascination with snowdrops and that lasts until the first one blooms. It is much easier to control your collection here in the US because the large variety of snowdrops you have in the UK are simply not available here due to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Snowdrops cannot cross international borders without onerous permitting and are often turned back anyway. Carolyn

  3. I love snow drops!!! I am addicted and frustrated!! When I look online England has soooo many selections and we have so few compared to them. Yours are wonderful!! How long have you been collecting??

  4. Glad I got my order in early!

  5. What beautiful snowdrops. I especially like Blewbury Tart. I’ve found a nursery here in the UK that sells it. So all I’ve got to do now is find the pennies to buy it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Carolyn, these snow drops are beautiful and it is funny your opening statement of “Who said all snowdrops look alike?” So very true and you gorgeous images illustrate that so well. I think I have been deleted in your email list somehow. This happened to another WP blog I visit regularly too. I re-subscibed, but that put me right into spam. Can you check in WP to see if you can reinstate my email address?

  7. Love the photo of the common snowdrop with arum italicum – just goes to show that you don’t need to find fancy cultivars to appreciate how gorgeous these bulbs are! I am wary of making further comments as I remember last year offending one of your readers with what appeared to be gloating over the UK’s proliferation of snowdrop cultivars. Perhaps now finding myself in India, where I doubt you EVER see a snowdrop, is my just punishment…

    • LL, I love it when you UK gardeners gloat–you certainly have much to be happy with in the snowdrop area. You are safe now in India, although I think Lady Beatrix Stanley, after whom a famous double snowdrop is named, tried to grow them there when her husband was Governor of Madras. Carolyn

  8. Beautiful. all. I do so love the doubles… but then there are the singles in drifts… (this is how it starts, yes?)

    Do they do well with a dry, but humus soil being bulbs? Or do they prefer a little more water retention, like primroses?

    • Julie, Galanthophilia coming on…. The common snowdrop, G. nivalis, grows from one end of my property to the other—dry, average, moist and everything in between. I don’t have as much giant snowdrop, G. elwesii, but it is doing well in average and dry. All the rest are in average soil amended with compost. However, several are in places that get hot in the summer, and they seem to thrive. Carolyn

  9. I like the “Wendy’s Gold” snowdrop – I’m looking forward to seeing the new Hellebore next month!

  10. I didn’t realize that there were so many different snowdrops! Very interesting. Love that blewberry! If I saw that elsewhere, I wonder if I would have recognized it as a snowdrop!

  11. How beautiful! This is the rare occasion when I miss living in Germany. No Snowdrops in Florida… can’t you hybridize one for me in zone 9b ? 😉

    • GT, So the name of your blog reflects your move—you have gone tropical, what a change. All countries in the E.U. can freely exchange snowdrops so Germany must have amazing collections too. Sorry, no snowdrops for zone 9b but lots of other interesting plants. Carolyn

  12. These are stunning! The doubles are simply beautiful! Even though they are primarily green and white, they have so much depth…wonderful!

  13. Carolyn, I’m rather astounded. Last year when you talked about your snowdrops was the first time I had ever heard of anything other than the common snowdrop. Now I find there’s years of history behind all the different varieties. I think it’s one of the things I like about gardening so much, there are always always new plants to discover, even when you think you know them all.

    • Marguerite, I really don’t know of another plant whose individual histories and origins are as well-documented as snowdrops. I was able to type “history of Greatorex double snowdrops” into Goggle and come up with a detailed account of Heyrick Greatorex, his life and work, written for a local British conservation district. Most of the credit goes to the authors of the snowdrop bible who have collected much of this information into one fascinating book. Carolyn

  14. Hi Carolyn, I am not from the snowdrop privileged country, but i love it the first time i saw it freely growing in the mountains of Turkey. From then on, can you imagine i always read articles about them and really followed blogs posting them! I think that is how contagious these snowdrops are. I see it only once in person. And i didn’t know there is this golden variety, how magnificent. If only I live in the temperate climes.

    • Andrea, When my husband looked at the collage at the beginning of the post, he said “you know I am really beginning to appreciate them.” Seeing a whole mountainside of wild snowdrops would be an incredible site, and one I am sure I wouldn’t forget. Carolyn

  15. This is the one flowers I would love to have but sadly it is too hot and dry here!! Well, I will have to enjoy yours! 🙂 Thank you for this post. Lovely photos.

    • Barbie, Diana at Elephant’s Eye once told me she was growing them, but I am not sure how that would work. I know they need a cold period so would have to be refrigerated for a certain amount of time. Last year I sold a bunch to a lab in Southern California that wanted to use them for research. Charles told them how to grow snowdrops out there. Carolyn

  16. Carolyn, glad to see the start of snowdrop season, you know I am obsessed. I have been drooling over the photos on the forum at the SRGS, and now am very glad to see your post. I was lucky enough to receive a couple of bulbs of Blewbury Tart and Lady Beatrix Stanley last May, not just keeping my fingers crossed they will bloom this year, and were not misnamed. Wish I was in the States and could order from you, that would be amazing.

    • Deborah, JohnW on the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum Galanthus thread (required reading for all galanthophiles) is from Nova Scotia. He said that Canadian galanthophiles were getting together and ordering from Colesbourne this year. You should send him a message on the forum if you want to join in. Carolyn

  17. You have such a great variety of snowdrops and they sure do add to the winter garden. I tried galanthus one year and while they bloomed that year the bloom was sparse and they have not spread. I then saw a lot of leucojums on blogs in the south and figured I’d try them. In my garden they have done a lot better and are all up and looking nice. No blooms yet but in another month or so. I’ll have to enjoy your galanthus. So darned pretty and look to be good spreaders too.

    • Tina, Leucojums and snowdrops are closely allied, but summer snowflake is much easier to get started from dried bulbs. I am not sure about snowdrops where you are but your problem may have been the bulbs you planted. They don’t like to be dried and sometimes never recover. Carolyn

  18. I love feeling your love for these adorable and dependable plants. Yay Carolyn!

  19. I remember reading one of your posts about snowdrops awhile back, as it impressed me so much with the beauty of different cultivars of snowdrops. That ‘Blewbury Tart’ blows my mind – I love it!

  20. Carolyn:

    Your unidentified galanthus with two tiny green dots on the sinus could be G. nivalis ‘Sibbertoft White’ – if it is a nivalis.
    Lovely collection and photos.
    Jim Fox
    Bellevue, WA
    P.S. Please pass on my greetings to Charles. Glad his ‘drops have done so well.

    • Jim, I think that my unknown snowdrop is ‘Sibbertoft White’ too and have it labeled that way in my description of my collection. However, I got a lecture from John Grimshaw that I couldn’t call it that unless I was absolutely sure so I didn’t dare label it as such publicly. Glad you agree though. Will give your best to Charles. Carolyn

  21. Sigh. I think I am too far south for snowdrops to prosper. I am able to grow Leucojum, which has a similar look but not nearly the variety of cultivars or romantic history of Galanthus. They are quite charming, if not an entirely satisfying substitute.

    • Deb, I am glad you appreciate the romantic history. I was under the impression that where there was leucojum there was galanthus. Where are you and what is your zone? Carolyn

      • I am in north central Alabama, zone 7b with hot, humid summers and short, wet winters. I also have heavy clay soil, definitely on the acid side! I don’t know anyone that grows galanthus here. I think it might do better in north Alabama, up in the mountains.

  22. Hi Carolyn, Gosh, I wish you shipped to Canada. I would definitely love to order some of these snowdrops. They are all exquisite!!

  23. Beautiful, Carolyn! Right now the Snowdrops you sent me are blanketed in snow. I’ll keep you posted on their development in the coming months. Thanks!

  24. Carolyn, I only have Nivalis and I can see a hint of white just starting to show. As a rule they don’t come in to full bloom in our garden until late February and often as late as early March. You really do have a fantastic range of them. I often encourage my daughter who makes and sells jewellery to start her own blog about it. She said to me it has to have a proper www. address before you get results regarding hits and comments. Time I showed her Carolyns shade garden.

    • Alistair, G. nivalis is one of the later-blooming snowdrops. You could have many different kinds where you are with them blooming from October to April. There are galanthophiles all around you because they post in the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum, and some are actually from Aberdeen. Here is a link to the Galanthus thread.

      Re your daughter, a WordPress blog is actually a website, it is just interactive. The static parts like my catalogues etc are on the right sidebar just like a website. The URL, which is, seems to function just as well as one with the www. I am not sure I understand the significance. I think you can get the www if you want. Hope that helps.


      • Thanks Carolyn, I will encourage her to consider a wordpress blog. I think she mistakenly thinks that because you pay for the www. thing it carries more clout.

      • It is all ancient history now, but I think I got a choice of URL. I am not sure what the differences are. You have a blog which you pay for (mine is free) so maybe www is available on that. I think Diana at Elephant’s Eye knows about all this.

  25. I want to add some snowdrops to my garden. Should I plant them spring or fall? Aren’t they bulbs? I don’t know much about them.

  26. i’m really astonished to hear that galanthophiles hate Blewburry Tart. I saw it at Cathy Portier’s in Belgium and instantly fell in love with it.

  27. Did I miss Lady Beatrix Stanley’ in your catalog? Now that is a wonderful double. Wendy’s Gold is another great one. Can’t wait to get my snowdrops from you.

  28. OK, now I don’t have to kick my self for not ordering!

  29. Carolyn, I decided to nominate you, congratulations, you thoroughly deserve it 🙂

    Take care, Helene

  30. I ama fan, I admit, of snowdrops and can’t have enough. The first ones I saw this year were in Leiden (NL) in the botanical garden. Do you know more about the lady trying to cultivate in India?

    • Lula, There are a lot of galanthophiles in the Netherlands. Some of them post on the Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum.

      All my information comes from the book Snowdrops. Lady Beatrix Stanley (1877-1944) grew snowdrops and other bulbs at her home Sibbertoft Manor in Northhamptonshire, including the gorgeous double snowdrop bearing her name. Her husband became the Governor of Madras. Snowdrops states that: “Whilst there she struggled against the Indian climate to create an English garden in Ootacamund (Allan 1973).” Carolyn

  31. nancy brennan-hill Says:

    My regular old snowdrops started blooming in January and are still in bloom. I planted 400 bulbs last year and I don’t think any of those are up yet. I gave 100 bulbs from the same batch to a friend who says that hers are not up either. I thought that most snow drops came up in January – February time frame. When I went back and checked the label I was surprised to find that it says February – March for blooming.

    • Nancy, It is hard to answer this question because I don’t know where you are located or what kind of snowdrops you planted. In the mid-Atlantic, snowdrops bloom anytime from October until late March depending on the species and cultivar. “Regular old snowdrops” to me means Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop. They are some of the latest snowdrops to bloom, normally from the end of February through March. This year because of the unseasinably warm weather, they are blooming now. Another “common” species is Galanthus elwesii, the giant snowdrop. It blooms anytime from January on (although some of mine start in November) and can be distinguished by its wide blue leaves, larger flowers, and greater height. Two other considerations: bulbs often bloom later the first year they are planted. Also snowdrops don’t like to be dried, and you could have gotten a defective batch. Good luck, Carolyn

  32. […] I am no expert on Snowdrops, I just know you can depend on them to lighten up your garden every Winter without fail.  These ones planted 26 years ago have not received one iota of attention, in fact this is going to be the first year in which I will be dividing them.    There are so many varieties of Snowdrops, Galanthus to give them their proper title.  No doubt you are well aware that you should plant them in the green, you know, buy little pot grown ones  in Winter or early Spring, and there you go instant effect.  However I have heard on a couple of occasions recently that planting the dry bulbs has been found to be quite acceptable, not so very sure about this though.  Don’t you at times just wonder how they manage to survive the very severe frost, how very often do we find ourselves with a mild spell in Winter, the Snowdrops open and a couple of days later the temperature drops to minus 10c.  Well fear not I am informed that the petals have their own built in antifreeze which gives the required protection.  Is this really the case? as I say I am no expert, but I know a lady who is.  Well she is not on this side of the Atlantic, but all which she knows is more than likely to comply with the conditions here in the UK  —Link–Carolyn  […]

  33. Why are none of these ever available in the U.S.? Is there a way to have any shipped here?

    • David, Although snowdrop cultivars are propagated and not collected in the wild, they are still covered by CITES, the international convention on trade in endangered species. They can’t be shipped across international boundaries without extensive and expensive permitting. I do mail order all the varieties that are listed in my snowdrop catalogue but my mail order season is over. Carolyn

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