The Spring Thaw!

It began in the first week of October, reached its peak in mid February and should be finished by mid March. This is the annual snowdrop season when interest in the garden is almost completely provided by this one species. Being one of the very few plants in flower it is the one to catch the eye and the attention during these otherwise bleak winter months.

Galanthus reginae olgae 'Tilebarn Jamie' (4)
Galanthus reginae olgae ‘Tilebarn Jamie’ flowers in the first week of October – in the glasshouse as this Greek species does not thrive in our open garden as our summers are not dry nor hot enough. In the glasshouse it can be well “baked” and will flower within a month of being watered in early September.

The reason they endear themselves to people are simple and obvious – they flower when little else is in flower and in spite of the worst weather conditions of our gardening year. However, at this end of their six month season, I do not regret their passing and look forward to the flush of new growth which comes with warmer days.

I wonder if the current interest in snowdrops echoes the era of tulip mania when bulbs sold for enormous sums of money. We see similarly exorbitant prices nowadays on snowdrop bulbs. Even the more common and cheaper varieties sell for around €10 per bulb while more newly introduced and novel varieties may cost several hundred euros per bulb. I imagine that it is a bubble sure to collapse at some stage – the prices are based on current interest rather than on any intrinsic value in the snowdrops themselves, a pure supply and demand situation: there are many people interested in snowdrops at the moment and the small supply of new and interesting varieties does not match the demand and this leads to high prices.

Galanthus plicatus ‘E. A. Bowles’ is a rather special snowdrop. It was found in the grounds of Myddleton House, the home of the renowned gardener and garden writer, E. A. Bowles and is unusual also for its shape – with all six segments of the same size. It is presently one in very high demand and, consequently, of a high price so when a friend sent it as a gift it was especially welcome and greatly appreciated.

Of course, in parallel to this snowdrop market traditional gardening practices continue apace where gardeners share their snowdrops with other enthusiasts and friends and snowdrops received in this manner have a value far beyond their monetary price.

A phenomenon I notice with people new to growing/collecting snowdrops is that they often have the most recently released snowdrops – which come at a high price – but might not grow the old reliable varieties which have proven themselves as good garden plants, grown for decades and longer, and still worth their place in the garden among the newcomers.

The thaw will continue for this year; it will soon be time to lift some bulbs to post to friends and to look forward to our post woman bringing packages of new snowdrops for our garden and then we will have six months to dream of how they will look when they flower in the next snowdrop season!

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A random selection of snowdrops which have proved themselves in the garden and which are not expensive!

Paddy Tobin

2 thoughts on “The Spring Thaw!

  1. Yes mine arrested on the point of turning.I felt they were not as good a show as usually though they were lovely.some bunches were not very floriferous so I will do a lot of dividing. But I’ll get another week or two from the display

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The end of the season seemed to rush in rather suddenly, Peter, but it is simply the beginning of another. Hope the gardening is going well with you.


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