Archive for Avon Bulbs

Snowdrops at the Royal Horticultural Society Spring Show

Posted in bulbs for shade, flower show, snowdrops, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2017 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The Royal Horticultural Society February Show at Vincent Square in London.

In February, Michael and I went on a two week snowdrop trip to England.  My first two posts on the trip featured cutting edge snowdrops, click here to read it, and our six day stay at Colesbourne Park, click here.  After touring the countryside, we journeyed to London to help Alan Street of Avon Bulbs, one of the most respected snowdrop sellers in the world, “moss up” for the RHS Show at Vincent Square.  When Alan invited us, we weren’t really sure what mossing up involved, but everyone said that it was quite an honor to be asked to participate.  We enjoyed every minute!

Nursery News:  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.

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Unfortunately, it was impossible to get one photo of the entire Avon exhibit, but this picture shows about a third of the presentation from one corner.

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This is what we started with at about 10 am on Monday morning.

“Mossing up” is how Alan refers to setting up the Avon exhibit for the RHS Show.  Starting with the bare boards above, layer upon layer was slowly and carefully added to achieve the finished look of snowdrops displayed in a natural looking, mossy garden.  Although the snowdrops and the materials, including name tags, pieces of styrofoam, newspaper, used net bulb bags, potted plants, rustic wood, dried leaves, and the centerpiece of crystal glasses hand-etched with snowdrops, couldn’t have been better organized, it still took all day to create the masterpiece that was the display.  Here’s how we did it:

.The process started with the careful placement of the largest elements: the shelf for the crystal, the carex and mondo grass, and the metal buckets wrapped in wreaths of rustic woven vines, using thick styrofoam to elevate them.

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Next Alan Street, Avon’s Nursery Manager and the creative genius behind the exhibit, placed each pot of snowdrops.

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After the snowdrop pots were placed, Micky Little, Nurseryman at Avon, and my husband Michael, elevated the center of the exhibit by stuffing the spaces between the pots with balls of net bulb bags.  Next we all carefully inserted balled up newspaper between the pots along the edges to serve as a base for the moss.

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True “mossing up” happened next as Maxine Grice, the Office Administrator at Avon, and all the rest of us surrounded the snowdrops on all four sides of the exhibit with bags and bags of moss very carefully inserted between the pots.

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Dried leaves covered the area around the center and then lichen covered sticks were carefully added.  Only then did every pot get a label, after which the whole exhibit was reviewed for exposed edges and missing labels.  We finished around 4 pm with Michael using a pump sprayer to slowly moisten all the moss.

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Another view of the finished exhibit.

When we were done, we had created Alan’s vision of snowdrops naturalized in a woodland setting.  It was gorgeous to behold and deservedly won a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society.  Here are some of the individual snowdrops that I thought were especially beautiful in the exhibit:

I have it in my collection now, but for years ‘South Hayes’ was at the top of my list.

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‘Grave Concern’ has now migrated to the top of my must have snowdrops.

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A classic snowdrop, ‘Mighty Atom’, with gorgeous rounded petals, my favorite look.

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‘Trumps’, a vigorous and eye-catching flower.

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‘Phantom’ is aptly named.

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A new must-have, ‘Jonathan’, look at those beautiful leaves and large striking flowers.

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‘Diggory’ is recognizable anywhere.

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‘Alan’s Treat’ selected by Alan Street and a play on his name.

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‘Philippe Andre Meyer’ is gorgeous.

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Another for the acquisition list, ‘Walker Canada’, so elegant.

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Alan sent me this photo yesterday of his newest and probably his most exciting snowdrop selection ‘Midas’, a yellow-marked snowdrop with a green ovary (the little cap) and extremely rare yellow markings on the outers.   Keep your eyes open for a record-breaking price!

Next year’s RHS Spring Show is scheduled for February 13 and 14, 2018, and we hope to be there to moss up once again.  Thank you so much to Alan, Maxine, and Micky for allowing us to participate in an unforgettable experience.

Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  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.

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Snowdrops in the Pipeline

Posted in bulbs for shade, New Plants, snowdrops, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

 

Galanthus 'Pieces of Eight'

‘Pieces of Eight’ is a new snowdrop found by renowned snowdrop hunter Veronica Cross.

Michael and I just returned from two weeks in England visiting famous snowdrop venues and meeting the rock stars of the galanthus world.  We found our way to Welford Park, Painswick Rococo Garden, Colesbourne Park, Avon Bulbs, East Lambrook Manor Garden (Margery Fish), Rodmarton Manor, the RHS Spring Show at Vincent Square, North Green Snowdrops, and Gelli Uchaf Garden in Wales. 

And, even more fun, we spent time with Sir Henry and Lady Carolyn Elwes at Colesbourne, Alan Street at Avon and the RHS Show (plus Maxine and Mickey), Simon Biddulph at Rodmarton, Phil Cornish in his garden, John Morley at North Green, and Julian and Fiona Wormald in their Welsh garden.  Thank you to all our wonderful hosts.

Nursery News:  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.

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Galanthus 'Pieces of Eight'‘Pieces of Eight’ combines a very bold form of the ‘Trym’/’Trumps’ type marking with the fuller, rounder look that I prefer in a snowdrop.  I predict a big price on UK eBay if that hasn’t already happened.

1,500 photos later it is hard to know where to start especially since it is time for me to focus on shipping snowdrops.  However, I thought it would be easy and fun to highlight some of the amazing snowdrops that are coming down the pipeline or have been very recently introduced.  So here is a sneak preview of developments in the snowdrop world.

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Galanthus 'Neckless Wonder'Matt Bishop named this snowdrop ‘Neckless Wonder’ because it has no pedicel attaching it to the stem—not an endearing name but certainly descriptive.  It is fun to be able to look straight into the flowers.

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Galanthus 'Fiona's Gold' nivalisAlthough ‘Fiona’s Gold’, a G. nivalis cultivar, has been around for a few years, it really stood out for its bright yellow color.  Most of the yellow snowdrops we saw looked anemic compared to what I am used to in the states because they need sun to turn gold, and there isn’t any over there.  Michael and I expected terrible weather (and dressed for it), and we weren’t disappointed.  It was freezing cold, damp, and raining or snowing most of the time we were there.

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Galanthus 'Compu.Ted'This charming snowdrop called ‘Compu.Ted’ was in the Avon RHS display.  I was so busy helping to set up the exhibit and taking photos that I didn’t have a chance to ask Alan Street about the name.  Edit: According to Emma Thick, it is one of John Sales’s snowdrops named after his grandson who works with/likes computers.  Thanks, Emma!

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Galanthus 'Miss Prissy'‘Miss Prissy’ with her outward facing stance really stood out.  I wonder if she is named after the spinster hen in Looney Tunes.

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Galanthus 'Joy Cozens'‘Joy Cozens’ is not new but it was the first time I saw an orange tip in person—it really is orange!

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Galanthus 'Anglesey Orange Tip' elwesiiI was also thrilled to see this thriving clump of ‘Anglesey Orange Tip’.  None of the flowers opened while I was there so I don’t know if they maintain their orange hue.

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Galanthus NGZZZ-R-OVXVXPI thought this un-named snowdrop at North Green was gorgeous.

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Galanthus gracilis 'Andreas Fault' Matt BishopA lovely G. gracilis cultivar named ‘Andreas Fault’ by Matt Bishop.  Is it named for the San Andreas Fault in California or did Andrea do something wrong?  Edit: According to Janet Benjafield, it is named for Andy Byfield by Matt Bishop, a teasing name.  Thanks, Janet.

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Galanthus 'Long John Silver'Veronica Cross, sticking with the Treasure Island theme, calls this beauty ‘Long John Silver’.  Edit:  According to Janet Benjafield, Treasure Island refers to a patch in Veronica’s garden that yielded these new snowdrops.

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Galanthus 'Treasure Island'This is Veronica’s ‘Treasure Island’, a star money maker.  Unfortunately, it’s closed like many of the snowdrops I saw and photographed.  When it is cold, gray, and raining every day, you get desperate and take the photo anyway.  I never realized how lucky we American galanthophiles are with all our sun.

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Galanthus 'Grave Concern'Another gorgeous snowdrop—just look at those outers—from Alan Street and  named inadvertently ‘Grave Concern’.  Quite a somber name for such a beautiful flower, apparently it was found in a graveyard.

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Galanthus 'Golden Fleece' plicatusMy only sighting of the record holder for most expensive snowdrop, ‘Golden Fleece’.  A little out of focus as I was on the east coast of England with the wind howling in from the North Sea and snow was falling.  I always wonder if the name is a play on words.
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Galanthus 'Midas' seedling‘Golden Fleece’ is going to be given a run for its money by another yellow Trym-form about to hit the market, ‘Midas’.  This is actually a ‘Midas’ seedling as the real thing wasn’t open yet.
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Galanthus 'Dragonfly'Veronica Cross gave us ‘Wasp’ and now this beautiful and more substantial insect ‘Dragonfly’.
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Galanthus 'Dragonfly'A swarm of ‘Dragonflys’ at the Avon RHS Show.

Who knows when any of these gorgeous snowdrops will be available in the US, but at least we know what’s coming.

Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  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.

Top 25 Snowdrops Part Two

Posted in bulbs for shade, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News: 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.

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Galanthus 'Walrus' CadwaladerNumber 12: ‘Walrus’, a very striking double common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) with narrow green outer segments arching like the tusks of a walrus and very green and regular inner segments forming a rosette, selected in the 1960s.

In Part One of this post, I explained that although the basic ornamental characteristics making up snowdrop plants may seem limited, over 1,000 cultivars (some say as many as 1,500) have been selected.  For gardeners who are just starting to add snowdrops to their collection, the choices can seem daunting.  However, a recent survey conducted by Avon Bulbs, the well-respected British snowdrop nursery, can help with the process.

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Galanthus nivalis 'Walrus'‘Walrus’ looks very pretty from the top, and it is easy to see the ‘tusks’ that give it its name.

During the 2012 and 2013 snowdrop season, Avon Bulbs asked its customers from all over the European Union to choose their three favorite snowdrops.  Avon then produced a ranking of its customers’ 25 favorite snowdrop plants.   In Part One of this post, which you can read here, I profiled Numbers 13 through 25 and provided a photo or  link to a photo for each plant.  In this post, I will show you the top 12 snowdrops.

Note: When I don’t have my own photo, I have linked to photos provided on the wonderful website Judy’s Snowdrops, which I highly recommend as a source for snowdrop information.

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Number 11:  ‘South Hayes’, first seen in 1992 in Primrose Warburg’s garden and probably a seedling of ‘Trym’ (number 3), one of the most sought after snowdrop bulbs for its distinctive pagoda-like shape and very unusual dark green markings, for photos click here.

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Number 10:  ‘John Gray’, a beautifully marked, full and perfect flower hung on a graceful, long arching pedicel (flower stem), first offered for sale in 1967, for photos click here.   It is interesting to note that the snowdrop “bible”, Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop et al., first published in 2001, says the following about ‘John Gray’:

There can be no doubt that a survey of galanthophiles’ favourite snowdrops would place ‘John Gray’ in the top ten, a position it would maintain among the current wide range of cultivars despite its age.

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Galanthus 'Atkinsii'Number 9: ‘Atkinsii’, an early-blooming and quite vigorous hybrid with large, robust flowers sporting a heart-shaped marking on the inner segment, originated in the 1860s.  Available CSG.

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Galanthus 'Atkinsii'A close up of ‘Atkinsii’, which Snowdrops says has “elegant elongated flowers that suggest the drop-pearl earrings of Elizabeth I.”

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Number 8: ‘Three Ships’, an early flowering Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus) with lovely rounded, well-proportioned flowers displaying a wonderful puckered texture on the outer segments, found in 1984, for photos click here.

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Galanthus 'Augustus' CadwaladerNumber 7:  ‘Augustus’, the plump, well-rounded flowers with great texture are set off perfectly by the lovely pleated leaves of a Crimean snowdrop for an overall great presentation, named prior to 1976. 

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Galanthus plicatus 'Augustus'A close up of ‘Augustus’ showing its elegant textured petals and large inner mark.

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Number 6: ‘Mrs. Macnamara’, an early-flowering giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) combining all the fine characteristics of a classic snowdrop, frequently mentioned as a favorite on garden blogs, for photos click here.

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Galanhtus 'Wendy's Gold' 1 entranceNumber 5: ‘Wendy’s Gold’, a Crimean snowdrop (G. plicatus) cultivar with beautiful yellow markings on the ovary and inner segments.  Available CSG 2013.

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Galanthus plicatus 'Wendy's Gold'Alan Street from Avon Bulbs sent me this photo of a clump of ‘Wendy’s Gold’, saying that mine would look like this some day!

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Galanthus 'Diggory' Number 4: ‘Diggory’, a snowdrop I would recognize anywhere for its squared-off pear-shaped flowers, heavily quilted texture, and large green inner mark. 

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Galanthus  plicatus 'Diggory'This clump of ‘Diggory’ shows its unique look and the pleated leaves characteristic of a Crimean snowdrop.

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Number 3: ‘Trym’, the first snowdrop selected for the combination of its unique pagoda-like shape and large marks on the outer segments, it is obviously still very popular even though other snowdrops like its descendant ‘South Hayes’ now exhibit this form, for photos click here.

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Galanthus 'Magnet'Number 2:  ‘Magnet’, a very vigorous classic snowdrop selected in the 1880s with a long and slender pedicel allowing the flower to sway in the slightest breeze.  Available CSG. 

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Galanthus 'Magnet'A close up of ‘Magnet’ showing its arching pedicel.

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Galanthus 'S. Arnott'Number 1:  ‘S. Arnott’, large rounded, sweetly scented flowers with a heart-shaped green marking on the inner segment.  Available CSG.  The book Snowdrops has this to say about ‘S. Arnott’:

In fifty years time it will be interesting to see which of the newer snowdrops described in these pages will still be going strong, having established a reputation as a first-class garden plant with an unquestionable constitution, admired by everyone.  Such is this classic snowdrop.

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Galanthus 'S. Arnott'‘S. Arnott’ displays its “unquestionable constitution”.

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It is interesting to note that six of the twelve top ranked snowdrops are descended from the Crimean snowdrop, G. plicatus.  And seven of the top twelve display what I would call a traditional snowdrop look with nothing “newfangled” about them.  As with numbers 13 through 25, the top twelve ranked snowdrop bulbs show that, in the long run, classic and vigorous garden plants are more highly valued by knowledgeable collectors than the latest hot snowdrop off eBay.  I find this refreshing in a horticultural world that often seems to discount the tried and true in favor of the latest fad.

Carolyn

If you are looking for more information on snowdrops, I highly recommend the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum galanthus thread where galanthophiles from all over the world meet to obsess about snowdrops, click here.

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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.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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.

Top 25 Snowdrops Part One

Posted in bulbs for shade, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News: 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.

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 CSG.

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.

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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.  Available CSG.

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.

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Number 23:  ‘Mrs. Thompson’, selected in the 1950s, produces desirable mutations often with 5 outer segments, for photos click here.

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

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.

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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.  Available CSG.

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.  Available CSG.

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

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Number 18: ‘Robin Hood’, first mentioned in 1891, large flowers with an X-shaped mark, for a photo click here.

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Galanthus gracilisNumber 17: Galanthus gracilis, a species snowdrop with unusual twisted leaves and elegant markings on the flower.  Available CSG 2013.

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

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

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Number 14: ‘Colossus’, a very early flowering form of the Crimean snowdrop, G. plicatus, with large flowers and beautiful dark green, pleated, glaucous leaves, for photos click here.

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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 CSG.

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.

Carolyn

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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.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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.

The Un-Common Snowdrop

Posted in bulbs for shade, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Nursery News: 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.

Hybrid hellebore & G. 'Brenda Troyle'All snowdrops are great companions for hellebores.

I have written a lot of 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.  I have never, however, talked in detail about any of the snowdrop species from which cultivated snowdrops, now numbering over 1,000, have been selected.  I hope this post will be the first in a series discussing each of the more important snowdrop species.

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.

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Galanthus nivalis & Arum italicum 'Pictum'Common snowdrops pair well with snow crocus (just visible in the background) and really bring out the silver patterning on the leaves of Italian arum, which look fresh all winter.

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G. nivalis and C. coum 'Rose'Common snowdrops are a wonderful companion for the leaves and flowers of winter-blooming hardy cyclamen.

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Galanthus nivalis & Heuchera 'Creme Brulee'Common snowdrops look great paired with native coral bells, many of which keep their bright leaf colors all winter.

Brian Capon in his very handy book Botany for Gardeners defines a species as a “group of individuals sharing many characteristics and interbreeding freely.”  Generally these individuals are growing in the wild and have a defined native range.  There are 20 types of snowdrops that meet this definition and constitute the genus Galanthus, but only three of them have given rise to most of the named snowdrops: G. nivalis, G. elwesii, and G. plicatus

Here I want to discuss Galanthus nivalis otherwise known as the common snowdrop although it is by no means common in any sense of the word and would be one of the first snowdrops I would add to my collection if I had to start over.  In fact, it has received a coveted Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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G. nivalis CressonCommon snowdrops naturalize quickly in the mid-Atlantic U.S. generally by producing bulb offsets.

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The common snowdrop has the largest native range of any snowdrop species and is the species most widely grown by gardeners.  It is native to western, central, and southern Europe from France to the part of Turkey in Europe.  It was first mentioned in print in the 16th century when it was already being grown as an ornamental plant. 

Linnaeus named it Galanthus nivalis in 1753.  According to another fascinating book, Plant Names Explained (Horticulture 2005), gala means milk, -anthus means -flowered, and nivalis means snowy or snow-like.  Common snowdrops fill our gardens here at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, which is part of an old estate called Wayside dating back to the 1600s (we live in Wayside Cottage which formerly housed the gardener).

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Galanthus nivalis/Common SnowdropGalanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop

Common snowdrops are generally 4 to 6 inches tall.  The narrow, straplike leaves are green with a glaucous center stripe giving an overall gray-blue appearance.  The flowers have three outer petal-like segments and three smaller inner segments.  They are pure white with a bright green v-shaped mark around the notch (called a sinus) on the apex of the inner segments. 

Common snowdrops flower here in February and March no matter what the weather and prefer moist deciduous woods with deep organic soil.  However, they are not picky about cultural conditions and will naturalize freely in a wide range of garden settings, including the dry woods of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  They pair beautifully with native coral bells, snow crocus, Italian arum, hardy cyclamen, and hellebores.

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Galanthus nivalisA natural mutation at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, if you look closely these flowers have four outer segments (petals).

Because common snowdrops generally spread through bulb offsets rather than seed, the flowers in colonies are theoretically identical.  However, natural variations occur as you can see from the photo above where the flowers have four outer segments.  Often these mutations are not stable and do not persist as was the case with the flowers pictured.  However, sometimes ornamentally interesting and stable changes occur, and, if they are noticed by a sharp-eyed galanthophile, they enter cultivated gardens and even become a named cultivar available for sale.

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G. 'Flore Pleno'A clump of double common snowdrops

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Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'double common snowdrop

I want to highlight three cultivars of the common snowdrop to give you an idea of the range available.  The double common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ (or sometimes G. n. f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’), is the oldest known snowdrop cultivar, first illustrated in 1703 and described in a prominent gardener’s dictionary in 1731.  Although it is sterile, it spreads vigorously from bulb offsets and is tolerant of a wide range of cultural conditions.  I have been told that in England it is often more abundant than the straight species. 

‘Flore Pleno’ has a lovely flower and has the advantage of being less expensive than the rest of the double snowdrops available so it is great for naturalizing.  It is the parent with G. plicatus of the Greatorex double series of snowdrops to which ‘Dionysus’, ‘Hippolyta’, ‘Ophelia’, and several other double snowdrops belong.  ‘Flore Pleno’ was also given an Award of Garden Merit by the RHS.

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G. 'Viridapice'the green-tipped snowdrop ‘Viridapice

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G. 'Viridiapice'‘Viridiapice’

One of my favorite snowdrops is the green-tipped common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Viridapice’.  It was originally found near an old farmhouse in northern Holland by a member of the Hoog family, owners of the venerable but now defunct Dutch bulb nursery Van Tubergen.  It is a vigorous and large-flowered snowdrop characterized by a beautiful and strikingly prominent green marking on the apex of the outer segments and a large single mark on the inner segments. 

Unfortunately,  the name ‘Viridapice’ was applied over the years to a number of different green-tipped common snowdrops, some of which are quite inferior.  I acquired my strain from the old Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, and I am happy to report that it is a superior strain and one of the best naturalizers in my garden.

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Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart'the double common snowdrop ‘Blewbury Tart’

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Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart'‘Blewbury Tart’

Finally, I want to highlight a newer cultivar of the common snowdrop, because I love it and because it was discovered by the only person I know who is more excited about snowdrops than me, Alan Street of Avon Bulbs in England.  In 1975, Alan noticed ‘Blewbury Tart’ in a churchyard in the village of Blewbury in Oxfordshire, England, where he grew up, and collected it with the permission of  Vicar Hugh Pickles. The famous galanthophile Primrose Warburg helped to name it because she called it Blewbury Muffin when Alan gave it to her, thus inspiring the name ‘Blewbury Tart’.  

I asked Alan if there was a special anecdote that I could relate here.  He told me that when he first exhibited it in 1985, a prominent British journalist said it looked like a “squashed fly on a windscreen”.   Nevertheless Avon offered it for sale in 1992.  It is an unruly double with an outward-facing dark green inner rosette encircled by three narrow outer segments.  It looks like it is having a bad hair day and always makes me smile when I see it.  Alan relates that another prominent British galanthophile, Ruby Baker, considers it a favorite.

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Although I don’t expect most gardeners to share my obsession, whenever I write about snowdrops I hope to communicate some of the enthusiasm that snowdrops arouse.  Maybe you will add them to your garden this year!  All four snowdrops profiled are available from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

Carolyn

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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.

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