Plant Profiles: Snowdrops Update

Plant Profiles: self-sown snowdrops in my garden's gravel path
The snowdrops petals are opened wide, which means the temperature was above 10oC.
This allows the release of their scent and detection by foraging bees who won't fly below that temperature. 

It's time to update my Snowdrops Plant Profile, as there have been developments since last year. As you can see I have some snowdrops which have self-seeded themselves in the gravel path whilst I wasn't looking. They also deserve to join the ranks of Against the Odds, just like the wall-grown ones I found at Painswick Rococo Garden a few years ago.

I showed them to Naomi - she of snowdrop book and Snowdrops on Tour fame - as I wanted to know how long it takes to get from seed to flowering bulb. She peered at them and said:

From seed to flower, snowdrops take about 5 years. But many nivalis are clonal by preference – have you got yourself a hybrid? Are there other actual seedlings around? (Looks like nivalis to me but hard to tell from a pic!).

I confirmed it must be plain old Galanthus nivalis as there are several clumps just inches away. However, her remarks stuck with me and whilst I was out taking some more snowdrop photos in the front garden, I spotted this...

...can you see it bottom left - that double snowdrop amongst the singles?

I do have both in my garden, but none of them were planted in the same clump. So this must be a hybrid. Naomi's reply to my excited email clinched it:

Aha! J You know that Flore Pleno is infertile on the female side but it produces fertile pollen, right? 

I shall be keeping an eye on these to see what happens. As for my gravel-bound clump, I shall keep them there for a while. They're not in the way at the moment, and they're obviously quite happy where they are. Once they've bulked up, I'll have a think about where to move them to.

In the meantime, I need to pot on my special collection from last year into something a bit larger and permanent looking. I dithered and left them in their original pots as I was worried about them hybridising if I planted them out in the garden. Thank goodness Anna's recent post reassured me I can keep them happy in pots.

I've also found this fantastic website which has lots of cultivation notes (including how to grow them in pots) and other information about Galanthus. I particularly like the snippet in the growing from seed section on the role of ants in seed dispersal.

Here are more snowdrops from my front side garden. As you can see some of them have hopped 'over the fence' into the public land next door :)

Now, did they clone themselves and the clump creep under the fence, or are they self-sown (or ant-sown) from seed? Are there more hybrids lurking in there? I shall have to inspect them carefully...

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  1. I haven't entirely followed about the varieties - but given that I've never yet got snowdrops to grow from one year to another, let alone persuade them to spread (!) . . . and given that not being an expert I like any snowdrop as long as it's not lumpy and large . . . would you be able to suggest one to buy? I generally buy them in a pot then plant them out so it would be good to know what to go for.

    Esther Montgomery

    1. Hi Esther, the ones you buy tend to be Galanthus nivalis and I'd recommend you persist with that one as they're the cheapest. The key thing to do when you Plant them out is to keep them well watered to help get them established.

  2. ID snowdrops is very difficult, they are all lovely.

  3. There's a small clump of snowdrops growing in the garden in gravel here VP and I've seen them growing out of drystone walls in Cumbria. They obviously don't read the books. I would stress that snowdrops grown in pots require much tender loving care. Will your pot/pots of specials be out in the open or under cover? Mine all come into the greenhouse for the winter where I can keep the temperature above freezing if needs be. Thanks for the mention :)
    P.S. The most informative site I've come across on the subject of snowdrops is :

  4. Hi Anna - mine are outside and have done well so far. I'm not sure if they need to come under cover most winters (unless it's extremely cold) here in the south west as snowdrops have their own natural antifreeze. Ensuring they have enough nutrients and moisture post flowering seems to be more critical to their future well being, but I'm happy to be told differently :)

    Thanks for the link - I see Hodsock Priory also link to Judy's page from their snowdrop page.

    1. I'm glad to hear that yours are flourishing VP. As long as your 'drops are in large frost proof pots they should be fine but my single specimens in small plastic pots ( 9cm square and 12.5cm deep) need some protection once the temperature drops below freezing. 'Judy's Snowdrops' is a really excellent resource :)

  5. How exciting that you might actually be breeding snowdrops, you might even have to name one!! it seems to be a good year for 'nivalis', mine are clumping up nicely now, but I've not noticed them jumping fences or seeding around yet. I will have to keep a closer eye on them.


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