Top 25 Snowdrops Part One

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.

Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart'Number 25: ‘Blewbury Tart’, for a profile of this wonderful double snowdrop selected by Alan Street at Avon Bulbs, click here.  Available in 2019 CSG catalogue.

Our current snowdrop catalogue is on line here.

Snowdrops plants generally feature a little white flower with green marks on the inner segments (petals).  Sometimes the marks are yellow or nonexistent or on the outside and inside, sometimes the flower is mostly green, and sometimes the flower is double or spiky or otherwise aberrant.  The leaves can be gray-green or bright green or pleated.  Although that is definitely an oversimplification, from those few characteristics, sharp eyed galanthophiles have selected and named over 1,000 cultivars of snowdrop plants, some say as many as 1,500.


Galanthus 'Brenda Troyle' Cresson gardenNumber 24: ‘Brenda Troyle’, a vigorous older variety from the 1930s grown for its cupped outer segments and strong honey fragrance, profiled here.

Many people believe, myself included, that there are way too many named snowdrop cultivars, and a lot of them are virtually indistinguishable.  But ‘it is what it is’ as the saying goes, and collectors just have to deal with the plethora of choices.  However, making choices just became a whole lot easier for me when I discovered that the well-respected British snowdrop nursery Avon Bulbs conducted a survey among its customers to rank their 25 favorite snowdrops.  Alan Street from Avon has graciously allowed me to use the survey.  I want to thank Julian Wormald at the Welsh blog thegardenimpressionists for giving me the idea for this post.


Galanthus 'Mrs. Thompson'Number 23:  ‘Mrs. Thompson’, selected in the 1950s, produces desirable mutations often with 5 outer segments.


Galanthus nivalis & Arum italicum 'Pictum'Number 22:  Galanthus nivalis, a straight species, the common snowdrop is a great naturalizer, profiled here.  Available in 2019 CSG catalogue.

Snowdrop plants are covered by CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.  CITES prevents shipment of snowdrop bulbs over international borders without expensive and time-consuming permitting.  CITES has curtailed the availability of a wide range of snowdrop plants in the U.S.  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is working to increase the choices, and I have added “available CSG” to indicate which plants from the Avon ranking we sell or have sold (although many are sold out).  Unlike U.S. galanthophiles, Avon’s customers throughout the European Union have access to the full range of snowdrop bulbs available, both through purchase from bulb companies and by trading with fellow enthusiasts.


Galanthus 'Straffan' by Jonathan ShawNumber 21: ‘Straffan’, an indestructible Irish snowdrop selected in the late 1800s and the third oldest snowdrop still being sold, photo Jonathan Shaw.

Avon asked all their customers ordering in 2012 and 2013 to pick their top three snowdrops.  From their answers, Avon compiled a weighted ranking of the top 25 choices.  The snowdrop plants that made the list all have beautiful and sometimes unusual flowers.  However, it is clear from the list that Avon’s customers valued vigorous garden plants, no matter how long they have been around, over the newest and most sought after cultivars.  In this post I will profile Numbers 13 through 25, providing a short description and a photo (or a link to a photo on the wonderful website Judy’s Snowdrops).  In the next post, I will cover 1 through 12.

.Galanthus 'Hippolyta' photo Paddy TobinNumber 20: ‘Hippolyta’, a lovely Greatorex double snowdrop selected in the first half of the 20th century.


Galanthus 'Anglesey Abbey'Number 19:  ‘Anglesey Abbey’, a highly variable form, sometimes almost pure white with the inner and outer segments the same length (poculiform).


Robin HoodNumber 18: ‘Robin Hood’, first mentioned in 1891, large flowers with an X-shaped mark.  Available in 2019 CSG catalogue.


Galanthus gracilisNumber 17: Galanthus gracilis, a species snowdrop with unusual twisted leaves and elegant markings on the flower.


Galanthus 'Merlin' in Cresson gardenNumber 16: ‘Merlin’, an old variety from the 1890s with a solid green inner mark.  Available in 2019 CSG catalogue.


Galanthus 'Cowhouse Green'Number 15: ‘Cowhouse Green’, lovely virescent (greenish) snowdrop with a pale green wash on the outer segments.


Galanthus 'Colossus' plicatusNumber 14: ‘Colossus’, a very early flowering form of the Crimean snowdrop, G. plicatus, with large flowers and beautiful dark green, pleated, glaucous leaves.


Galanthus 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'Number 13:  ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, an elegant double snowdrop that multiplies quickly, named in the 1980s but distributed since the 1950s.  Available in 2019 CSG catalogue.

Although it is entertaining to read about single snowdrop bulbs selling for almost $1,200 on eBay, it is nice to know that when it comes right down to it, gardeners value the tried and true plants that have withstood the test of time.



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16 Responses to “Top 25 Snowdrops Part One”

  1. Are you going to tell us the three you have picked? With over 1000 to pick from, it would be hard unless one based it as you say the customers had done, by how well they perform. That is always a determining factor for me even though my few snowdrops are just a common variety.

    • Donna, Well actually I wasn’t part of the survey, but I will have to give it some thought. Although galanthophiles in the EU have many more choices, it isn’t quite 1,000 because many of those are not available for sale. Sometimes with all the snowdrop hype, it seems like gardeners might lose track of what’s really important in a garden plant. It was refreshing to see that the survey participants had maintained their cool and chosen only snowdrops that were good performers. As we both know, new is not always better, and it is usually best to spend limited garden dollars on plants, including snowdrops, with a proven track record. Carolyn

  2. Amongst these, I like Blewbury Tart and Merlin the best. Maybe the bit of green sets them apart. I love how the snowdrops look beside the arum leaves.

    • Deb, They are two of my favorites too. I don’t currently grow ‘Merlin’, the photo is from Charles Cresson’s garden, but I would love to have it. ‘Blewbury Tart’ is a winner from every perspective: it stands out and multiplies rapidly, for a snowdrop anyway. I have added ‘Cowhouse Green’ this fall and can’t wait to see it bloom. I think arum is the best plant to combine with snowdrops. Carolyn

  3. Says:

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  4. They’re all amazing. Hard to believe Snowdrop season is just around the corner. That’s something to look forward to!

  5. I took part in their survey and mine were Merlin, Robin Hood and Wendy’s Gold. I have Blewbury Tart, I loved it when I bought it and it is increasing nicely, but these days I look at it and wonder, why did I buy it? I now prefer my snowdrops to be more simple. This is a wonderful time of year for those who love snowdrops, lots more opening each day.

    • Pauline, ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is coming up in part two as number 5. I know some gardeners are purists about snowdrops, some don’t even like doubles. But I love all different kinds, they show each other off nicely, variety being the spice of life and all that…. Carolyn

  6. I really love the names of snowdrops….and now I am smitten with Merlin and Colossus!!

  7. Thanks for yet another great post from you Carolyn, I can see Blewbury Tart being heavily advertised over here in Britain too and I’d love to have a few myself. I am still waiting for many of the snowdrops I bought in the green last spring, they were a bit dry by the time they reached me but perked up once in the ground. I hope they have survived and will come up again but they are much later than the bulbs I planted autumn 2012.
    I also like the fact that snowdrops come in such amazing variety, singles and doubles and with different foliage – I like unusual ones and I am certainly no single purist, I would love to have all the ‘nature’s accidents’ 🙂

    • Helene, I have had 100% success with snowdrops planted in the green even when they have come from the US West Coast. My customers have also reported back that the plants I have shipped to them came up and bloomed the next spring. However, the snowdrop plants should be sent with all their roots in tact and never dry out in transit. I wrap each plant individually in a moist paper towel and seal them in an airtight Ziploc plastic bag. Then they are mailed Priority Mail and get there in two days. They do have to be potted or planted immediately though. Nevertheless, I think your plants should survive—the bottom line is that they are quite tough. I am glad you like all of nature’s accidents as do I, that’s what makes collecting snowdrops fun. Carolyn

  8. I cant believe that there are some snowdrops that sell for $1,200 on Ebay. It is pretty but that would be one expensive bulb!

    • AAT, It does seem pretty incredible especially since each one will become more plentiful and the price will come down dramatically. I just saw ‘EA Bowles’ on UK eBay selling for much less than it’s previous record setting amount. But as with all collectors, they want to have it now and don’t want to wait if they have the money. Carolyn

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