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Horticulture Hacks: Snow Drops

Nurtured in Norfolk’s gardening expert Martyn Davey answers all your questions and gives his top horticulture hacks.
If you would like any horticulture query answered please do e-mail our head grower at 
martyn@nurturedinnorfolk.co.uk to add your thoughts to our horticulture hacks.

 

Dear Martyn,

I have been admiring the snowdrops that have been growing in the hedge row and garden near me and I wonder how to produce such a display in my small garden. Could you please advise me on what to plant and how to get the best from them? When is the best time to plant snowdrops can I just dig some up and move them now they are in flower?

J. Marsh

 

Dear Reader,

Snowdrops do seem to be even earlier than normal this year, they are a welcome assurance that the brighter days of spring are on their way. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are surprisingly varied in height, flower size, shape and even colouring. Given a moist soil they will multiply into drifts and provide plenty of plants to share with fellow gardeners.

Where possible purchase or you may be given freshly-lifted snowdrops when the foliage is just dying back in late spring, this is the best time to plant them when they are just starting to die back into the bulbs. If it is not possible to plant in late spring, buying just after flowering when the leaves are still green, (‘in the green’) is the next best way of establishing snowdrops. These are available from nurseries by mail order in bundles, or in individual pots.

Snowdrop bulbs are very prone to drying out, so if sourcing bulbs from a nursery or garden centre is the only option, buy them as soon as they are available and plant immediately. Plant snowdrops in a partly-shaded position in a moist, but well-drained soil with leafmould or garden compost incorporated. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer.

As with all spring flowering bulbs there are no requirements to prune or train snowdrops. Simply allow the foliage to die back naturally and replenish the bulb ready to flower again the following year.

The main method in the garden to make more snowdrops is to lift and divide clumps as the foliage turns yellow. Split the clumps into smaller pieces with as little disturbance as possible. Bulbs can also be planted singly at the same depth as they were on the soil.

Snowdrops will often set seed which can be collected and sown fresh as soon as they ripen the seed pods will turn yellow – orange when ripe. Germination should take place as the temperatures start to rise after winter.

Snowdrops are popular with gardeners and there are numbers to choose from, here are just a few;

Galanthus plicatus AGM – an easy species to grow. It is free-flowering and reaches a height of between 10 and 18cm.

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus AGM – an elegant variety of Turkish origin. It has blue-grey leaves (glaucous) and reaches a height of between 9 and 18cm.

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ AGM – a popular but choice form, with delightful elongated flowers. It reaches a height of 21cm.

Galanthus nivalis is the common snowdrop a perennial growing to 15cm, with narrow, grey-green leaves and solitary, nodding, fragrant white flowers 2.5cm in length, the inner segments marked with green at the tip. To many people this is still the most impressive snowdrop when planted on mass.

Some rare snowdrops can sell for thousands of pounds other for just a few pounds but it is important to never take bulbs from the wild.

 

Jobs for this week:

  • Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover, tomato, cucumber, leek and chard seed can be sown indoors now with some heat to get the season started early.
  • Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’
  • Prune Wisteria shoots back all the young growth from last year can be cut back to four buds from the main stem now. Avoid cutting off the developing flower buds.

Martyn Davey – Head Grower 

EDP Gardening Expert Columnist