Winter Whites.

A change of colour is good for the soul so why settle for the blue when you can have white – and this is the season to be white; not the white of the heavy snows causing havoc in central Europe at the moment but the white of snowdrops in the garden.

The unusual weather of one year does not confirm climate change but recent years certainly point towards a trend. Last winter and early spring were certainly dreadful for us with “The Beast from the East” and the almost unprecedented snow falls of March. Summer brought a prolonged drought and then we had a long, marvellous and most enjoyable autumn. Winter has been exceptionally mild – we have had only one mild frost here in Waterford – and the snowdrop season has come in on the gallop with many cultivars flowering ahead of their normal dates.

snow (8)
The garden on the 2nd of March of this year – not the white I like to have in the garden
snow (11)
Snow makes for pretty pictures but I could live happily without it.
snow (1)
This upright Irish Yew was bowed over by the weight of the snow; it later opened and the branches splayed in all directions. I had to reduce the size by over a half and it is growing well again. 

I cut grass here in the last week of December and again at the start of this year. This is very unusual here for we normally have a very high water table in winter; consequently, very soft ground; so that the lawnmower would leave heavy tracks in the grass and do more harm than good. These past few weeks have not only been mild here but have also been dry and we have been able to be in the garden almost every day.

It is a regular comment of mine that snowdrops can be especially enjoyed at this time of the year because this can be done at leisure, as it is a time of the year when, generally, work is simply not possible in the garden and is a time of enjoyment and the absence work. Conditions are different this year but the enjoyment of the snowdrops is as good as ever.

Here is a quick overview of the snowdrop year to date…just the highlights!

The first snowdrops in the open garden come in mid-November with Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’, G. ‘Faringdon Double’ and G. ‘Castlegar’

galanthus 'barnes'
Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ – an early form of Galanthus elwesii which has only one mark on the inner segments rather than the two which are normally in G. elwesii. 
galanthus elwesii var monostictus 'barnes' (1)
Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ 
galanthus 'faringdon double' (2)
Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ has attractive glaucous foliage and rather then three outer segments and three inner segments has multiple inner segments – and, so, it is a double snowdrop. 
galanthus 'faringdon double' (4)
The double inner segments of Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ 

Early December brings ‘Castlegar’, ‘Colossus’ and ‘Mrs. Macnamara’ – two of which have Irish connections, one more than the other!

galanthus 'castlegar' (11)
A favourite snowdrop of mine – Galanthus ‘Castlegar’. It was noticed by the late Dr. Keith Lamb in the Castlegar estate in Co. Galway and later brought into the trade by the late David and Ruby Baker. It is one of the Irish snowdrops that are especially treasured by Irish snowdrop enthusiasts. 
galanthus 'castlegar' (6)
Galanthus ‘Castlegar’ comes into flower in early days of December each year. 
galanthus 'colossus'
At the moment, Galanthus ‘Colossus’ represents the great joy and the heartbreak of growing snowdrops. For many years it thrived in our garden so that we had a clump of several hundred and then than clump went into decline – overcrowded snowdrop are prone to disease and attach from pests. That clump is now recovering and the ones pictures above is a separate little pinch – planted away from the main clump for insurance! 
galanthus 'colossus' (3)
Galanthus ‘Colossus’ 
galanthus 'mrs. macnamara' (1)
Galanthus ‘Mrs. Macnamara’  is one of those widely loved snowdrops. It is a good size, reliable and simply beautiful. Mrs. Macnamara was the mother-in-law of Dylan Thomas and was the owner of The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, Co. Clare. I suppose this illustrates an aspect of snowdrops which appeals greatly to collectors, that sense of connection and background which add an interest to the plant beyond its simple beauty. 
galanthus 'mrs. macnamara' (11)
Galanthus ‘Mrs. Macnamara

This season brought several snowdrops into flower ahead of their normal time. I suppose such changes in flowering times and patterns is to be expected as our climate changes. I haven’t, to date, noticed that it has had any detrimental effects on the plants.

galanthus 'ivy cottage corporal' (1)
Galanthus ‘Ivy Cottage Corporal’ flowered earlier than usual this season
galanthus 'ivy cottage corporal' (2)
Galanthus ‘Ivy Cottage Corporal’ with its two basal mark resembling the stripes on a corporal’s uniform. 
galanthus 'lapwing'
Galanthus ‘Lapwing’ looks especially good in a group
galanthus 'lapwing' (5)
The markings on Galanthus ‘Lapwing’ are said to resemble the fluttery wings of the lapwing. 
galanthus 'ailwyn'
Galanthus ‘Ailwyn’ is a very attractive double snowdrop
galanthus 'ailwyn' (9)
Galanthus ‘Ailwyn’ lifted to show the arrangement of extra inner segments. 

And the season continues and will continue to the end of March, treasure after treasure, joy after joy. It is good, I feel, that we can find joy in such simple things as these flowers.

Just a few more – for there is always a few more!

galanthus 'benton magnet'
Galanthus ‘Benton Magnet’ – which originated in the garden of the artist Cedric Morris 
galanthus 'atkinsii' (2)
Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ is a very old snowdrop cultivar which originated from the garden of James Atkins, and early snowdrop enthusiast. It is a testimony to its beauty that it is still admired and grown a century after being named. 

Enough! There is always the temptation to go on and on, to show all and every snowdrop in flower in the garden. Enough is enough…for the moment.

12 thoughts on “Winter Whites.

    1. The snow of last March was an exceptional weather event here and was a shock to us all. The previous such event had been in 1963 – yes, I remember it! LOL

      Liked by 1 person

    1. These would be considered the early season snowdrops. Mid-season is marked by the flowering of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, and there are many, many more yet to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your snowdrops are well out. Ours are only starting to show though there are flower buds on the daffodils. Iris Katherine Hodgkin is well in bloom and Hellebores.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely blog Paddy and much appreciated. My own are springing up under the influence of the mild weather.Always welcome—the snowdrops and your comments and pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

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