If your garden is a canvas, then come the start of the year it can feel pretty blank, which is why, as the snowdrops begin to bloom in February, gardeners are forgiven for removing a layer and allowing themselves to dream about the beginnings of spring.
The ‘galanthus’ plant – so named after the Greek for milk ‘gala’ and ‘anthos’ flower – has 20 wild species and more than 1,000 cultivars grown all round the world. These tiny, perfect, white flowers can attract hordes of fans and collectors.
Snowdrop fairs are held across Europe, and entice crowds of galanthophiles who emerge from hibernation and come blinking into the late winter sunshine on the search for ever rarer cultivars.
Kent will play host to a number of snowdrop walks and talks as well as two of the biggest snowdrop sales this month: the Snowdrop & Plant Fair at Hole Park in Rolvenden on February 9 and The Snowdrop Sensation at Great Comp Garden on February 19, which is being organised by Mr Snowdrop himself, Joe Sharman.
The owner of Monksilver Nursery, Joe is a well-known name on the snowdrop circuit. He has been responsible for the introduction of some really quirky cultivars, including galanthus elwesii ‘Grumpy’, which he discovered in British explorer Sir Vivian Fuch’s Cambridge garden. This distinctive snowdrop appears to show a face with a turned down mouth!
In 2004, Joe was among a number of people who were given a rare variety discovered in E A Bowles’ garden at Myddleton House, near Enfield. He was the only one who managed to propagate the bulb and his fame was sealed within the galanthus world when one of a single bulb sold for £357 – a record sale for snowdrops at the time. That record has since been surpassed with a single bulb selling for £1,500 on ebay in 2015!
As the sums of money prove, galanthomania is big business for some and it also remains highly contagious for others. Well-known garden writer Val Bourne admits that she was bitten by the galanthus bug some time ago. Forever on the search for new and exotic specimens, Val will travel many miles for a rare snowdrop and she is coming to Kent this month to deepen her quest.
Hever Castle and Gardens have invited Val to launch their Snowdrop Walks and give a talk entitled The Wonderful World of Galanthophilia on Saturday February 8. Like many visitors to the castle this month, Val will get the chance to float across a heavenly cloud of snowdrops on the estate, which boasts in excess of 80,000 galanthus blooms.
Val says that her favourite snowdrops include the following: “Lady Beatrix Stanley, a double that bulks up really well and is really good value, while the Greatorex Doubles with Shakespearian names like ‘Titania’ and ‘Hippolyta’ are strong, tall hybrids with dark-green markings.”
And while for many, the chase is centred on the newest variety, Val is always interested in the most horticulturally worthy. She says: “The pixie-hatted green snowdrops raised from ‘Trym’ are very popular at the moment but we will have to see where 2020 takes us.”
If you’re looking for inspiration for your blank canvas, then why not investigate the wonderful world of galanthophilia and take a snowdrop walk in the county this month.
The search for snowdrops
Hever Castle and Gardens are excited to welcome Val Bourne to the Estate to launch their self-led Snowdrop Walks for February 2020. If you want to find out more about this tiny spring flower then please visit Hever Castle on Saturday February 8 to hear Val’s talk The Wonderful World of Galanthophilia at 1pm. The Castle and Gardens re-open to the public from February 8. The grounds open at 10.30am and the castle at midday. Go to www.hevercastle.co.uk
Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden, Kent will be hosting a Snowdrops & Plant Fair on Sunday February 9 from 11am to 3pm. Entrance is £4 which includes access to the gardens. For more information visit www.plant-fairs.co.uk
Great Comp Garden in Platt, near Sevenoaks will host Snowdrop Sensation Sunday on February 19 plus a pre-booked talk by galanthopile Andy Byfield in the Stables Theatre. Its Snowdrop Sale runs from 10am-12pm and the garden remains open until 4pm. Go to www.greatcompgarden.co.uk