ISSUE 64  |  Loft Living

DIY: An Instant Carpet of Snowdrops

March 19, 2013 4:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

Next year’s snowdrops? Get them now. Even before the snow melts, they spread with gay abandon and can be transplanted while in bloom. (Does this explain England’s national obsession?) If someone gives you a flowering clump, you can plant your own snowdrop carpet. It’s instant gratification:

Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

Above: Beg, borrow, but try not to steal….People with large drifts of snowdrops should be happy to share them. If not, buy them now in the green—with flowers and leaves attached. If you are given a clump, plant it as is, in a moist spot with some shade.

For US gardeners: retail might be the best choice as not all the neighbors have snowdrops. We can get next year’s Galanthus Elwesii from White Flower Farm; 25 bulbs for $16.95 (shipped for fall planting).

Above: Do not let your snowdrops dry out after planting. Dried out bulbs—in the ground or in a bag—are not ideal. Moisture is.

Above: Drifts of snowdrops (galanthus nivalis) cover escarpments and valley floors all over the Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire. If you have established clumps in your garden, divide them now: dig up, split, dig in.

Above: Snowdrops may be increased by division or by seed, with the help of ants. The green seed pod above the flower continues to grow after pollination and will hit the ground as the plant weakens. The spreading of seed needs little encouragement in a woodland setting like this. The beauty of dividing clumps in flower is that you can see what you are doing. They will look perfectly respectable if you don’t forget to look after them (if it is dry, that is).

Above: Galanthophiles are people who enthusiastically collect snowdrops but they share other traits, such as infinite patience and sometimes great rewards. These two qualities are linked. It can take years of nurturing to develop a good stock from seed. Last year a single bulb was sold on Ebay for £725 (the equivalent of $1,138 US at the time). Why was it so special? See World’s Most Expensive Snowdrop.

Above: The garden at Painswick is home to many different varieties, but Galanthus Atkinsii (available for £3 per bulb with a minimum order of 10 from Pottertons Nursery) takes pride of place. Originally bred by retired nurseryman George Atkins (who lived in a cottage on the estate), it is a large, early-flowering variety.

Above: The Eagle House at Painswick overlooks the garden in the valley below and was built in the early 18th century, in the Rococo style. It was not a universally popular design movement: One critic describes the follies here as “pompous,” intended for “vulgar” assignations. They are perfect for gazing out on acres and acres of snowdrops.

Above: Galanthus Atkinsii (ten bulbs for £18 from Broadleigh Gardens), intent on colonizing every nook and cranny.

For more, see How to Plant Spring Bulbs.