Posts Tagged ‘Winter blooming bulbs’

I am a member of the Victoria Horticultural Society and as a member have the opportunity to go to events they sponsor.  The presentation that was put on in November was by Dr. John Grimshaw, the Garden Adviser to the Colesbourne Park gardens  in Glouchestershire in Great Britain.  Colesbourne Park was the ancestral home of John Elwes (1846-1922), the discoverer of the Snowdrop(Galanthus elwesii) which is named after him. He was a notable plant collector who was supposed to go on a trip to Cyprus in 1874 but had to change plans at the last moment. Instead he ended up going to Turkey. In Turkey he visited  a mountainous area near Smyna (modern day Izmir) in April where he discovered Galanthus elwesii, a little garden gem.  This Galanthus is called the ‘Greater’ or ‘Giant Snowdrop’ and is the first Snowdrop to bloom in the Victoria area.

 aGalanthus elwesii blooming.

Galanthus elwesii blooming.

I was surprised when photographing Galanthus this week that this was the form that bloomed first, I had assumed the Common Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) was the first. G elwesii is the most robust of the Snowdrops which are commonly seen in yards, naturalized along roadways and in the lawns of older homes here.

Naturalized along a country road.

Naturalized along a country road.

This species is larger in all parts; it’s leaves are wider and more notably glaucous, and the  broad petaled flowers are larger in all ways. It is an attractive glistening jewel ranging in height between 5 to 9 in (12-25cm) and  here it tends to the taller side. Everyone knows the dainty hanging 3 petaled blossoms with the noticeable green markings on the tepals or inner petals.

Fully opened Ganathus elwesii

Fully opened Ganathus elwesii

The other species commonly found here is the more delicate G. nivalis (Common Snowdrop) which appears to bloom about a week later. It has much narrower and greener leaves and stands only up to 6 in (15cm). at the most. It is originally found in a wide area of Europe from Spain through to the Ukraine and has naturalized in many areas in between. Being that it comes originally form Europe is was the first Snowdrop to be written about by John Gerard  in 1597 in his famous ‘Great Herbal’.

Naturalized Common Snowdrops

Naturalized Common Snowdrops

There are in all 19 named species found in Europe and western Asia which happily cross with each other. This has given us an astounding 250 cultivars, hybrids and clones. Many of these are extremely rare and expensive to obtain. Many plants in the Victorian age had passionate followers and Galanthus was no exception, mad Galantophiles collected and wrote about the plants. Surprisingly these dainty plants pack a potent honey scent , so they would make an enjoyable small bouquet.

Could this be a cross between nivalis and elwesii?

Could this be a cross between Galanthus nivalis and elwesii?

Fortunately for us these are easy plants to grow. Snowdrops like rich humus soil which is moist but well drained. They like open sunny positions mush like areas they would naturally grow. Snowdrops do tolerate cool shady places especially if they are grown in a very hot climate. Galanthus can have problems with botytis and gray mold if they are kept in a too damp location,(I have never seen this here). They will quickly multiply and produce clumps which can be lifted and divided when the flowers are spent and leaves are starting to yellow.  This is easily accomplished by replanting the bulbs singly at the same depth they grew in. these dainty plants can fit into almost any garden scheme, rock gardens,  early spring ground cover, early spring color and any niches that need filling. By carefully selecting where and what kinds of galanthus to plant, flowering will start in january and continue though March and into early April. Galanthus are hardy to -20c -Zones 4-8 but prefer cool winters.

Links for the Week.

Colesbourne Park


Henry John Elwes, an interesting and important man in garden history. Look under the History link.


Galanthus elwesii


Galanthus nivalis


Until we meet again, same place, same time.

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