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NOTES ON SNOWDROP CULTIVATION

 

I have gardened here at Snape Cottage for 30 years, and people are generally very impressed with the health of our snowdrops.

We are fortunate to live on a hillside sloping south-east, with moist ground (spring lines run throughout the garden) which also drains freely.

Some healthy clumps of Galanthus nivalis growing in the deeply-shaded ditch in our lane stand in water for much of the year!

I grow the elwesii types on a raised bed which faces south-east, or along a west-facing stone wall (so more open than the woodland areas).

  They are all, however, covered with dense cover during the summer and autumn when the thousands of perennial plants grow up around them.

All the other varieties (well over 400 now......) grow happily in mixed borders around the perimeter of the garden, in more woodland conditions.

Others have been planted in meadow grass under apple and hazel, and have established very happily

 

In the border, I often use a hellebore as a "marker" plant - planting different snowdrops 8" away, at north, south, east, and west of the hellebore.

  The hellebore leaves are cut off at ground level in December (in an ideal world), enabling the snowdrops to emerge and flower in all their glory along with the

hellebore flower stems.

 

Again, in an ideal world, the garden receives an annual generous amount of blood, fish and bonemeal, plus an equally generous 3" mulch of our own compost,

 and any new snowdrops are planted carefully 3" apart and 3" deep with a mixture of sand and bonemeal to start them off.

In my opinion, some people don't feed their gardens sufficiently to sustain the plants that grow there.

Clumps of each variety should be carefully lifted and divided (replanting 3" apart and 3" deep with sand and bonemeal) when necessary

- usually 3 or 4 years depending on rate of increase -but I have to say that some of my clumps

 remain quite happily where they were when planted 30 years ago.  Those naturalised in grass are never disturbed and steadily increase

If you want to keep your snowdrop varieties true to type, then you should deadhead them in March/April after flowering to stop them seeding.

However, I have areas here where I let them get on with it, and some interesting seedlings are appearing

 

Don't forget to label your snowdrops carefully!  I use a Brother P-touch 2430PC labelling machine and aluminium labels.

I advise you to do the same when your parcel of bulbs arrives, planting as soon as possible,

 not allowing the bulbs to dry out and storing them in cool, frost free conditions until you can get them in the ground

 

As you may have discovered, Snowdrops can lead one very rapidly down the slippery slope of addiction,

but - although it can be expensive - it is a reasonably harmless vice, and forges many friendships and happy hours

  walking round gardens for hours on end, in freezing conditions or driving rain,

bent double in an effort to read barely decipherable writing on broken labels.

The upside is the prospect of a hot drink and a piece of cake as soon as you can get back indoors

 

Snowdrops and their plants of association 

have the strength and determination to push through the ground regardless, at a very low point of the year,

often in very inhospitable conditions or circumstances,

and for me their reappearance  has come to symbolise the turn of winter

 

We are relieved and thrilled to greet them as old friends year after year, bringing the prospect of spring

 and warmer, more settled days ahead

 

They are also reminders of all the special gardening friends with whom we have shared happy times, plant knowlege, and bulbs over the years

The current interest in them means that the torch is being handed down to future generations, which can only be a good thing