Galanthus nivalis: who doesn't love snowdrops?
Better known to most of us as the humble common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis is a clump-forming bulbous perennial that grows to heights of just 15cm (6” in ‘old money’). It has narrow strap-like leaves which are a glaucous silvery green in colouring, and beautiful white flowers which hang downwards and nod gently in the breeze.
A closer look at the flowers (not easy when they point downwards!) reveals delicate green tips to the usually hidden inner segments. The flowers, which have a gentle fragrance, usually appear in mid- to late January and can last well into March or until the temperatures begin to rise.
G. nivalis can be introduced into a garden either as bulbs or ‘in the green’ (small potted clumps of ‘actively’ growing plants). Both formats are widely available at good garden centres and online plant retailers depending on the time of year. They aren’t cheap, but in my view they are worth every penny for anybody who wants to enjoy their garden in the winter. Please don’t be tempted, however, to take clumps of snowdrops from the ‘wild’ as, in most circumstances, it is illegal in the UK to uproot any wild plant.
Snowdrops will cope with pretty much any position and almost any soil providing it is not too dry or too shaded by large evergreen trees or shrubs. They spread slowly by producing small ‘baby’ bulbs around the parent plants, and 'migrate' to other areas when moles and other wildlife disturb the clumps and redistribute the bulbs haphazardly.
This can be a slow process, however, so we can artificially create a more widespread display by dividing mature clumps into smaller groups which can be repositioned as required. This is best done whilst the plants are in the green (or still in flower), and we can help them get a good start in their new home by enriching the soil with some leaf-mould or compost.
For maximum impact, I prefer to plant snowdrops in drifts, weaving them through mixed ornamental borders and around the base of favourite trees. They can also look magical when planted in lawns, even if it means that we might have to delay the first mow of the year. I have fond memories of an elderly gentleman in my childhood village using snowdrops to spell out his initials (F.D.) in his front lawn. We always looked out for them on our walk to school.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like snowdrops. They are a brilliantly optimistic little plant, and are absolutely at their best in the New Year.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.