Am I becoming a Galanthophile?

by Pat Hunter

G. nivalis
The Lane side

When I moved to my present garden, snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, were growing in one large patch under the beech hedge. Over the years I moved them first to the shrubbery, but then decided to move them to the lane side.

I have, over the following years, bought elwesii and woronowii, but no named hybrids, other than Sam Arnott which has now bulked up well, grows in good clumps, is allowed the privilege of a good garden border and smells wonderful early in the year.

G. elwesii

Last November, I thought I would like to learn more about a plant that can spread so rapidly around my garden, obviously happy with my conditions. I decided to book for 2 snowdrop days in 2020. My thoughts ran along the lines of, if I book 2, maybe I won’t lose both to bad weather. I booked for the Alpine Garden Society Snowdrop Day at Lilleshall and the Hardy Plant Society Galanthus Day at Tuxford Academy near Retford.

The first event started with snowdrop sales from nurseries specialising in snowdrops before 3 lectures and a hot lunch. The snowdrop sales, as a non Galanthophile were an eye opener, the numbers of varieties (can you tell the differences, really?), the prices, and the number of sales. The most expensive I saw was £500, one was sold as I stood looking at £200! There are people around with deep pockets.

The lectures were good and I definitely came away with increased knowledge. The first talk was from Ian Young who writes a brilliant Bulb Log on a weekly basis about his 900sq.m garden in Scotland which is stocked with many woodlanders and bulbs, but he was not keen to know every snowdrop by name! The second talk was on Poculiform(cup shaped)snowdrops, this is where the inner segments are the same as the outers, so a 6 petal snowdrop? The third talk was “Snowdrop Potential” what is to come, pink snowdrops? The breeders are onto it!

As we have had such a mild Winter I have had no problem attending both events. The second event was the day after storm “Dennis” hit, but as this impacted more on South Wales and Herefordshire travelling East was no problem.

This day also started with snowdrop sales from private member sellers, the costs I thought were comparable to the nurseries, members received payment less a percentage to subsidise the day. I bought a snowdrop!

There were 2 lectures before eating your sandwich, then 2 gardens to visit nearby in the afternoon.

The first lecture was about snowdrops in France and some specials that have been found in the wild. The second was from a lady who gardens near Heidelberg in Germany. She gave a talk on 6 months of snowdrops. This was my favourite of all the lectures as I try to make my plantings span the year, so anything that can cover 6 months in different varieties is worth noting. I made a note of a few names here to spread to either end of the season. From the superb photography here it was also obvious she has some good companion planting in her garden.

I must mention here that there is a large free raffle during the day and I won a snowdrop. It is marked at £50! I now have the pressure of keeping it alive. I hope my theory/reason for attending the day is proved right and snowdrops like my conditions.

The 2 gardens in the afternoon were brilliant early Spring  gardens. The Beeches had a snowdrop collection along a wall top, brilliant for viewing these little gems and Church Farm had plenty of snowdrops, many were named clumps around the garden.

So……last weekend I decided to visit a Yorkshire snowdrop garden.  Bridge Farm House at Great Heck, apparently has 150 varieties of snowdrop. A great mix of Spring plantings, Hellebores, Corydalis, Cyclamen coum along with named Galanthus clumps.

Am I a Galanthophile?  Well, we are now well into Hellebore season, I LOVE them………..


Plant of the month: February

Ypsilandra thibetica. Ticks a lot of boxes!

I know this isn’t the most obscure of plants to be talking about in February but I love it. First of all it comes out in February when there is very little else in flower in the garden (alright there are loads of snowdrops and they are great to see but I don’t find them quite as exciting as some).

Secondly they are just gorgeous to look at. Delicate, detailed and lightly shaded. A flower like this has no business flaunting itself at this time of year, but it does.

And nothing eats it! It looks just ripe to be lunch for something – OK maybe not the slugs and snails at this time of year, but not even pigeons, pheasants or any of those indiscriminate gobblers that spend so much time hanging around in our garden.

Generally it seems pretty bombproof. Once all the plants around it get into gear, frankly we just forget about it, as it becomes lost and neglected under a mass of other leaves. I’m thinking that’s why I’ve never propagated it – division is the way to do it, but first I have to remember it’s there.

We grow it on a raised bank, which suits the plant, because it likes to be moist but well drained, plus it suits us because at that time of year we don’t care to get down to the ground level to admire it. I believe it’s scented too, but I’ve never got close enough to confirm that.

If it were only a little bigger, I’d say it’s a candidate for the perfect early spring plant.

Conservation scheme update February 2020

Our West Yorkshire group is fortunate in being an active member of the Conservation Scheme. We have 25 growers, two being newcomers in 2019, and a wide selection of plants from the Conservation List.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

Briefly, the aim of the scheme is to identify and preserve some of the plants in danger of being lost, for a variety of reasons. Members are relied on to suggest plants that might be of interest. These are then considered at the annual meeting of coordinators from HPS groups across the country. Growers will, hopefully, produce propagations from their plants and these are brought to this meeting, where the are redistributed to other groups.

Being a grower can be an interesting venture. A chance to obtain a free plant and observe how it grows in your garden. Success will allow propagation and a chance to share it with others. However, failure to thrive or loss of a plant does not mean disaster, but an opportunity to learn more about it and pass on that information.

A list of all the Conservation Plants is on the main HPS website. If you wish to try any plants on the list, please email me your requests at or see me at one of our meetings. I will be gathering a list by April 2020 to forward to the national group, to allow growers time to raise new stock for the annual September meeting.

Thank you to all our growers who provided a good selection of plants for the exchange in 2019. I hope 2020 will again be good growing season.

Jill Lister