The Avon Bulbs Snowdrop List
There is probably not another list that offers such a range of Snowdrops for sale. It is the culmination of many years of collecting, maintaining, cosseting, twin scaling and nurturing that Alan Street, the head nurseryman at Avon Bulbs, has put into the collection. The number of snowdrops offered has broken the 100 mark. It might be said that snowdrops are all the same with white petals and green foliage but the keen eye can spot the differences between habit, size, markings and time of flowering.
The snowdrops are available “in the green” and can be ordered from January for despatch in February for immediate planting. These will have already flowered and will not flower again until the following Spring.
Planting Snowdrops “in the green”
All snowdrops (Galanthus species and cultivars) prefer cool, moist conditions in the spring and a surprisingly dry summer dormancy in the shade. Aim to provide a spot for them in good angled Spring sunshine where the rain can reach them when you plant them but also somewhere that will be more shaded in summer and where the soil will be drier due to the umbrella effect of the leaves above shedding the rain away and the roots of the trees and shrubs drawing away most of the remaining moisture. Dig a deep but narrow planting hole probably 4-6″ deep (an asparagus trowel is a great implement for the job) loosening the soil at depth and introduce your snowdrop into this at a depth slightly greater than it was previously planted (where the stem turns green!) Firm in and water the soil remembering to label the spot. If planting more than one of the same variety, plant the next about 4″ away ideally. They will clump up in time.
Dormant snowdrop bulbs are also available in August, an early opportunity to obtain bulbs directly from the twin scaling process. These again need to be planted straight away on receipt from Avon Bulbs.
Planting Dormant Snowdrops
Do not delay the planting of dormant snowdrop bulbs, the sooner they are planted the better. If planting them directly into the ground consider their position as outlined above. We recommend using the smallest size of aquatic mesh pots so containment and identification will be made easier, this being filled with an improved soil based potting medium and a little extra sharp sand around each bulb. Label carefully and water very sparingly until the autumn. If planting in pots these should be plunged to keep the roots safe from extremes of heat and cold. If growing under glass give plenty of ventilation at all times and preferably move the pots outside to a shady spot after flowering to prolong the growing season.
The Snowflake Fairy
Robed in white comes Snowflake Fairy, braving wintry winds and ice, pearly “Maid of February,” whom the glistening frosts entice. Gladly welcome Snowflake Fairy, on your terrace give her room. She alone in February braves the cold to shed her bloom. —Elizabeth Gordon
What can give us more hope that the end of winter is near than to see the young shoots of snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) emerging from the frost-covered ground? We can be well assured that spring is just around the corner by the very sight of their blooms standing out against the melting snow or brown earth. Often the first bulbs to bloom, snowdrops are not only beautiful, but easy to grow.
Snowdrops are in the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), and there are only a dozen cultivated species, mostly native to the deciduous woodlands of Europe and western Asia. Snowdrops are often confused with snowflakes (Leucojum spp.), to which they are closely related. Snowflakes are not only later-blooming but also much larger. Although both plants have white, bell-like flowers with green-tipped segments, the snowdrop has green tips only on the inner flower segments; the three larger outer segments are unmarked.
Woodland settings are ideal for snowdrops, and they will return year after year if given winter low temperatures that reach at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but no colder than 30 degrees below zero. Snowdrops are equally effective whether they are naturalized in large masses, tucked in small pockets in rock gardens, or grown in colonies under early spring-flowering shrubs.
Snowdrops can be easily forced indoors as well. In the fall, plant four bulbs 1 inch deep in a 4-inch pot. Put the pots in a cold frame, unheated greenhouse, or refrigerator, where the temperature range is between 35 and 43 degrees. Approximately 10 to 12 weeks later, check to see if buds have developed. If so, bring them into a cool, bright indoor spot, making sure the compost does not dry out.
For outdoor displays, plant bulbs as soon as they are available in the fall. Place in a sunny or semi-shady site, in moist soil with a large proportion of humus. The site should be well drained, with a neutral to alkaline pH level. Set bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart, or scatter them for a more naturalized look. Water regularly when they are in bloom. Little fertilizing is needed. When flowering has finished, let the leaves dies back naturally. The leaves continue to produce food for next season’s bulbs.
Snowdrop bulbs can remain undisturbed for many years and will multiply by themselves; however, they also can be propagated by division. The best time to move or divide snowdrops is when they have just finished flowering. Lift the bulbs and the soil around them so as not to disturb the roots, and replant immediately in sections of no fewer than four or five bulbs. Be sure the newly transplanted bulbs receive a thorough watering.
The following two species are the most readily available from retail outlets, and there are fine displays of these in the Graham Bulb Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden:
Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
This species has 1/4-inch, blue-green leaves and 6- to 9-inch stems that support a single flower, 1 inch in diameter. Flowering from January to March, the common snowdrop blooms slightly earlier than the giant snowdrop. Native to almost all of Europe, it can be found growing in woods and by streams. Among the choicest varieties are ‘Atkinsii’, which is very early blooming, and ‘Flore Pleno’, which is double-flowered.
“In mild winters, these can be found in bloom in late January, but more typically in February and March in the Chicago area, well ahead of any other bulbs,” said Dr. Jim Ault, director of ornamental plant research. The white, bell-shaped flowers are a sure sign that spring is not far off.
Giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii)
As its common name implies, this species has relatively large flowers that are 1 1/2 inches long and borne singularly on 6- to 12-inch long stems. The basal leaves are 8 inches long and 3/4-inch wide. Flowering from February to April, this species withstands hot weather better than G. nivalis. Native to Yugoslavia, Romania, the Ukraine, Greece, and western Turkey, the giant snowdrop prefers scrublands and woods.
One of the earliest spring flowers to blossom, the snowdrop flower is always a welcome sight that pepper the countryside with their delicate, white heads. Flowering from January to March, snowdrops vary in height, size and shape but never differ in their beauty.
Do you have any in your garden? We spoke to RHS chief horticulturist, Guy Barter, to find out how to keep these flowering favourites healthy for longer. Here are his top ten snowdrop gardening tips:
1. Strictly speaking, snowdrops are probably best lifted and divided as the foliage dies back, just before they disappear underground and become hard to find. They resent becoming desiccated so must be planted quickly after lifting.
2. Dried out snowdrop bulbs are notoriously hard to establish, but newly lifted bulbs can be stored in trays of moist, peat-free potting medium until late August, where re-planting straight away is not possible.
RHS/ Tim Sandall
3. Lifting and dividing while in leaf, ideally after flowering, is more convenient and less likely to be overlooked than waiting for the ideal moment. This is generally in May when there are so many other matters to distract the gardener.
4. Snowdrops spread quite fast so it is worthwhile dividing clumps every few years to increase their rate of multiplication. Divide into clusters of three to five bulbs if you are pressed for time and singling bulbs will take too long.
RHS/ Tim Sandall
5. Gardeners who are in a hurry to have lots of snowdrops, but don’t want excessive expenses, can master the rather technical art of ‘twin-scaling’. This is where bulbs are cut into several, two-scale segments and induced to form numerous little bulblets on the base of the scales, in a bag of damp vermiculite.
6. The leaves are vital to build up the bulbs’ food reserves and allow new daughter bulblets to form, so never trim or tie into bunches.
RHS/ Tim Sandall
7. Snowdrops are not hungry plants but applying a potassium-rich general fertiliser at about 50g per square metre in winter is helpful.
8. Wisley gardeners favour growing their potted snowdrops in John Innes No. 2 type potting media with up to 30% volume of coarse grit. Repotting should happen every two to three years. Tomato feed, rich in potassium, is used once in spring, to get the bulbs off to a good start and again after flowering. In fact, it is probably worth watering particularly precious bulbs in beds and borders with this fertiliser at the same time.
RHS/ Tim Sandall
9. Make sure to stop your pots from freezing in winter or getting too hot in summer. We ‘plunge’ (bury up to the rim) potted snowdrops into a bed of damp coarse sand that keeps root temperature equable. Sand beds should be covered with a cold frame in winter.
10. Snowdrops are relatively trouble-free but where disease occurs a cure is seldom possible. Unfortunately, they must be discarded immediately to reduce the risk to the remaining bulbs.
When do snowdrops flower?
Where to see snowdrops
You know spring is on the way when you see your first snowdrop, why don’t you go out and find some?
- Scotland – Lang Craig (Dumbarton) 600 acre native woodland with over 6km of grass and surfaced paths there’s plenty of space for you to hunt snowdrops.
- Wales – Marl Hall Woods (Llandudno) is home to a variety of trees including oak and pine and of course lots of snowdrops!
- North East England – Nunsbrough wood (Ordley) dominated by mature oak and ash there is a large riverside meadow which is home to wildflowers including snowdrops.
- South East England – Ashenbank wood (Cobham) is a site of scientific interest and is known for its beautiful shows of snowdrops.
- Central England – The Nuttery (Newnham) is a hazel Orchard with lots of snowdrops fitted around the trees.
- South West England – Avon Valley Woods (Woodleigh) the Trusts first ever purchase with lots of snowdrops to be seen!
Snowdrop desktop wallpaper
Download our snowdrop wallpaper to remind you what to look out for this month.
We offer a fine selection of snowdrops in pots sold in ‘the green’ in January and February. As well as the much-loved common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis, we also supply some of the superior and very distinctive named forms that are much sought after by enthusiasts or ‘galanthophiles’. We are slowly building up stock of some very choice and desirable varieties and, as a result, many of these are now being raised here at the nursery. Our list is constantly being updated so watch this space!
Snowdrops are an essential part of the winter garden, one of the earliest flowers to bloom in late winter and giving cheer on even the darkest days. No garden should be without them: they are perfect companions for hellebores, cyclamen, winter flowering shrubs or heathers. They can be planted in drifts in the shade of deciduous trees or naturalised in grass. Many galanthophiles grow them in pots and display them in a cold greenhouse in winter where their beauty can be seen at close quarters.
If you are able to visit us in January and February we feel sure that you will be impressed with the inspirational displays in our sales greenhouses, where you can select your snowdrops for purchase. Here you will also find some real treasures for the winter and early spring garden, many of them delightfully scented. Camellias, witch hazels, skimmia, mahonias, cornus and sarcococca are all well represented as well as our wonderful hellebores, cyclamen and spring bulbs.
You can also wander through our beautiful Nursery borders where you will discover drifts of snowdrops growing with hellebores and cyclamen against a fine backdrop of shrubs, trees and conifers. Alternatively if you can visit on John’s Garden open day in winter you will see how the nursery owner John Massey has used many varieties of snowdrops in his own private garden to stunning effect.
www.mistydowns.com.auVAN DIEMEN QUALITY BULBS
365 Lighthouse Rd Wynyard. TAS 7325
PH 03 6442 2012
email to: [email protected]
www.vdqbulbs.com.auTESSELAAR BULBS – Phone: 1300 428 527
357 Monbulk Road SILVAN VIC 3795
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470 Monbulk-Silvan Road Monbulk VIC 3793
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www.gardenexpress.com.au VOGELVRY BULBS and FLOWERS- Phone (03) 62613153
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Huge range of Spring and Summer flowering Bulbs
www.vogelvry.com.au HANCOCK’S DAFFODILS – phone (03) 9754 3328 fax (03) 9752 5877
2 Jacksons Hill Rd, Menzies Creek VIC 3159
Hundreds of different varieties of daffodils as well as other beautiful spring & autumn flowering bulbs for home gardeners. Free colour catalogues available. Tulips, Daffodils,Alliums, Freesias, Iris and many other bulbs.
www.daffodilbulbs.com.au LYNN’S RARE PLANTS
PO Box 7040 Leura NSW 2780
Rare woodland plants, Trilliums Epimediums, Arisaemas, plus much more.www.lynnsrareplants.com.au