A Day in the Life of an Avon Bulbs Snowdrop

Our 2021 Snowdrop Catalogue is on line here, and we are currently taking orders.

 ‘EA Bowles’ was one of the very lucky snowdrops selected to be displayed on the Avon Bulbs table at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show in February.

My post Exceptional Snowdrops and Gardens: England February 2018 gave an overview of our recent trip to England.  To read it, click here.  As promised, I am going to focus more closely on some of the venues that Michael and I visited:  in this post, Avon Bulbs, one of the most respected snowdrop nurseries in the world.

We visited Avon in February 2018 and 2017 and were very privileged to be hosted during both visits by Alan Street, known through out the snowdrop world for the exceptional snowdrops he has selected and named.  During both years, we also helped set up the Avon exhibit at the Royal Horticultural Society Early Spring Plant Show in London.  For a post about our 2017 RHS experience, read Snowdrops at the Royal Horticultural Society Spring Show by clicking here.

Nursery News:  Our 2018 Discounted Hellebore Offer has been emailed to all our customers and orders are due before April 7.  Our first open house sale featuring hellebores and early spring shade plants is Saturday, April 14,  from 10 am to 3 pm.

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 and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Alan Street standing among Avon’s free range planting of ‘S. Arnott’.  Alan advises snowdrop enthusiasts to let the flower heads form and drop their seeds, as you never know what you will get.


Avon has a beautiful woodland full of “wild” snowdrops plus other winter-blooming plants like the winter aconites, hardy cyclamens, and spring snowflakes in this photo.  They are all allowed to mix and match, which has resulted in some amazing snowdrop selections.

The title of this post should really be “years in the life of an Avon snowdrop” because that’s how long it takes to evaluate, select, and name a truly special snowdrop.  Although Avon propagates many snowdrops selected by others, it has introduced some wonderful cultivars found in the woods on its own property.  I thought you might like to see where and how this happens plus which lucky snowdrops go on to the RHS show.


A swarm of ‘Wasp’ in the Avon woods.  The woods are filled with masses of named snowdrops, and, when the bees go from flower to flower, magic happens.


A group of seedlings in the Avon woods from the very prolific ‘Trym’, results in….

.….’Trympostor’, first shown by Avon in 2011.


The appearance of a seedling like this one pairing a green ovary (the cap at the top of the flower) and yellow markings on the outer segments results in….


….the introduction in fall of 2017 of ‘Midas’, a spectacular and ground-breaking snowdrop with yellow on the outers as well as the inners and….


…., to be introduced in the near future by Avon, ‘Bitter Lemons’.


‘Sprite’, another Avon introduction, seen in the Avon woods.


‘Phantom’ also originated at Avon.


An un-named seedling currently under evaluation by Avon.


Also under evaluation, a yellow ‘Trym’ from Olive Mason.


If a woodland seedling looks promising, it might be potted up for further evaluation in the greenhouse.


All snowdrops are eventually chipped and grown on in pots in Avon’s production beds.


Avon production beds


Alan Street holds one of the pots from the production beds.  In it is ‘Alan’s Treat’, which he selected and named—a play on his own name.


Plants chosen for sale in the catalogue are individually potted, usually in their third year after chipping, and stored in this cold frame.


From the cold frame, they are loaded onto carts for transportation to the various snowdrop venues where Avon sells its plants.  This particular cart is bound for the RHS show and contains snowdrops for sale on the bottom shelf and snowdrops for display on the top two shelves.


The Avon truck arrives in London, and Michael helps Alan unload the carts and roll them into Lindley Hall where the snowdrop portion of the RHS show was staged.


All the materials are ready for us to create the display.  Unfortunately, the Avon table was in an out-of-the-way corner with poor lighting and a terrible background for photos.  I am not sure what the RHS was thinking!

.There was a three-tier effect with four snowdrops displayed in the metal stands shown to create the upper tier.  It was very hard to get the pots to sit in the stands but perseverance paid off!


The middle tier featured pots raised up in attractive metal buckets wrapped in woven vines, here ‘Rosemary Burnham’, a show-stopping virescent (green) snowdrop.


The lowest tier pots sat on the table and were covered by leaves, here ‘George Elwes’, a stately snowdrop selected at Colesbourne Park.


Alan waters the display while Michael continues to level the pots in the stands.


The only way to get an overall photo was to take it from a balcony overlooking the table.

Some snowdrops displayed by Avon at the RHS show in addition to EA Bowles at the top:




‘Gloria’, a gorgeous poculiform (all segments are outers) snowdrop.


‘Sprite’ is a very eye-catching snowdrop.


‘Veronica Cross’


‘Moortown’, I think this was my favorite.


We are so grateful to Alan Street for sharing his RHS adventure with us among many other things!



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name, location, and phone number to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are mail order only.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

13 Responses to “A Day in the Life of an Avon Bulbs Snowdrop”

  1. Frances Robb Says:

    Just wanted you to know that I got this. Fingers crossed.

    Frances >

    • Frances, I know it’s confusing, but the email announcing the blog post comes from my blog host WordPress, not me (so has no bearing on whether you are getting my emails). When you respond to that email, it shows up as a comment on my blog. It’s easy to comment that way, and I wish more people would do it. Carolyn

  2. That is way too many snowdrops. There are enough for a blizzard. I had not seen those round plain white ones in the first picture before. As much as I am not a fan of snowdrops, those are pretty excellent. I got my first snowdrops this year by accident. They just showed up. I have no idea where they came from. Now that they are just a common type, I find the others to be more intriguing.

  3. egnaro rewolf Says:

    Please send catalogues et al Paul Held ……. Thank you

    • Paul, You are on the list to get all mail order catalogues. You just haven’t gotten anything because no mail order emails have gone out. Snowdrops are sold out and the only other mail order item is mini hostas, and they are not ready. Carolyn

  4. What does the term “chipped” mean? (“All snowdrops are eventually chipped and grown on in pots”, or “plants are … individually potted in their third year after chipping.”)

    And , what is the purpose of the black plastic milk crate type baskets that are standing on end on both front and back of the row in Avon’s production beds?

    Lovely, lovely, thank you for sharing!

    • Snowdrops naturally increase by producing offset bulbs. However, to speed up the process, you can chip or twin scale the bulbs, which essentially means slicing an individual bulb into multiple pieces and growing the pieces on to flowering size. It generally takes three years. I am not sure what the black plastic crates do. I would guess hold together the medium in which the pots are sunk while being stored.

  5. What an amazing experience! And what gorgeous snowdrops! I love how they let them mingle in the woods to see what happens. I have a couple different kinds, but I can’t let myself become a true collector right now as my wallet would surely protest. Those varieties with yellow on them are so pretty and tempting though…

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