Long ago I was a bit of a Galanthophile. I didn’t grow that many different cultivars, but I worked in gardens where they were grown and spent a bit of time in February tramping around and looking at other people’s snowdrops.
When I moved to my ‘dream garden’ here in 2011 I had grand plans to buy 3 cultivars a year. It worked in the first year, and then I just got so caught up in buying (expensive) things for the rest of the completely empty 1/2 acre plot that I ditched that.
Now, recognising that I only have about 10 more years left in this garden, I’m feeling increasingly that it all has to happen NOW (or never)! But it’s really, really hard to buy plants – never mind snowdrops – in my part of France and at this time of year I find it excruciating to look at other people’s blogs and inevitably experience galanthus envy. So this year I decided to go back to my 3-a-year rule – after all, by the time I leave that could be 30 cultivars added … There’s a kind of madness in this reasoning, isn’t there? But I’m a gardener – I can’t stop!
I currently have only G. nivalis, G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’, G. woronowii and G. plicatus ‘Warham’ here, having lost G. plicatus and G. ‘Sam Arnott’ by 2017 when the summers started becoming much hotter and drier with a a drought of about 2 months annually. I’ve learnt something – my normal ‘no water’ regime (well, at least minimal watering) does not work for fussier snowdrops. That these 4 types still thrive here is a testimony to their toughness.
However I didn’t take Brexit into consideration. The nurseries that I previously bought from are no longer shipping to Europe. This is good and bad. I’m doing a lot more research to find good French, Belgium or Dutch sources, but it becomes problematic and plain ‘bad’ when I look at snowdrops. My French gardening magazine is showing the odd perce-neige on its pages at the moment, commenting (rather smugly) that the English, Scots and Irish like to plant them ‘in the green’, whereas in France we plant them at the ‘proper’ time, in August. Now, like lilies, snowdrops don’t like to dry out completely. And the ‘miffier’ they are as cultivars, the less they like to dry out.
So – hours of research later, I have come up with four sources in Europe:
- Belgian nursery Cool Plants. Although most cultivars are out of stock now.
- An Irish grower, Field of Blooms. Most of his bulbs are at least 10€ each, whereas a less specialist grower would be charging down to 5€ for those that bulk up more quickly.
- A Belgian grower, Koen van Poucke. A very kind lady who emailed me her price list immediately after I’d requested it.
- A Dutch grower/garden, De Boschhoeve. I’m probably going to buy from her. She has three nice ‘starter’ collections and a good list, although it worries me that the first, most interesting starter pack contains only one bulb each of 8 cultivars. Do I spend 88€ and get two bulbs of each (2 packs) or opt for starter pack two and get 2 bulbs each of three cultivars? Why are snowdrops so expensive now? It was certainly the English, rather than the Dutch, who created this absurd consumer bubble.
I have since realised that my ‘local’ (2 hours away) nursery, Jardin d’Adoué, is offering 2 cultivars – ‘Sam Arnott’ and ‘Hippolyta’ – ‘in the green’. I’m due to receive my first order from them (by post, ordered online) tomorrow – I’m quite excited because they are a nursery specialising in plants that ‘do’ in our region. Very cold winters, lots of rain/snow (increasingly the former!) and very dry, hot summers.
Hey – maybe next year the plant export issues from Britain will have been sorted. Meanwhile, English and Scottish nurseries will have lost their European customers.
Hopefully in the next few days the wretched rain will have stopped and I’ll be able to get out there again! Here’s what the garden looked like in mid-January:
Stay safe and have a good week!
18 thoughts on “Snowdrops and ****** Brexit!”
Looks like you have had a lot of winter rain. Do you store it in cisterns for summer?
We have indeed Eliza. Flooding in many parts of France. We are working on the water storage. Old dust bins can be useful!
How exiting Cathy, de Boschhoeve was in my small former village where I lived! I ‘know’ the owners and they have a very very nice garden…if I can help you with the language…but most Dutch people speak English…so I suppose no problems!
How lovely! I am in contact with her now – yes, she does have some English. Looking good! Wish I could see their garden.
Ahhhhh, you’re speaking my language 🙂
First of all that’s a lot of water! But it looks like it’s nothing too unusual, I would just prefer it be less muddy. I suspect it’s all field runoff?
Second, I suspect your flore pleno is really Hippolyta. It’s too neat and regular to be flore pleno which makes sense since flore pleno suffers in the drier parts of my garden. Even here where it’s not as hot or dry as your climate the nivalis only do well in shaded, heavier soils.
Have you considered a few hundred bulk elwesii? Here they can cost as little as one or two named drops, and if they’re wild collected you’ll usually get a wide variety which may include fall bloomers, green tips, all the fancy things that normally would cost you much more. They don’t mind heat and drought and many of mine will rot if they’re in a damp spot during a rainy summer, so I’ve started only planting them on slopes. I think you might be able to find a spot with a little slope to it 😉
G.plicatus sorts such as ‘Diggory’ and ”Primrose Warburg’ also don’t mind drought.
-and now I’ve gone on far too long. Good luck!
Always lovely to have your expert comments (and your humour!!). The water is from the little Apance river that runs outside our garden gate. This is only a little way into the garden. Previously it’s been much higher. But being careless and not endlessly cleaning has benefits. There’s a wire fence there and I’ve just let it catch debris over the last 9 years. Result is the chateau grounds next door (summer grazing meadow) is truly flooded and we’ve got less! Re ‘Hippolyta’ ( or whatever). I had a load of so-called nivalis from Peter Nyssen or Avon Bulbs back in 2012. I planted them at the back of my border, underneath a hazel, just for effect. Only noticed this year that half of them (the strongest half) are double. Pathetic me never to have noticed before! But they are really bulking up now and I went in for a closer look. Usually I’m rather picky about treading on wet borders. These are all growing in the summer shade of hazels, although in a hot part of the garden (we don’t get rainy summers although 2020 was better than normal).
Now, there is another picture of a double in this day’s post which I think might be ‘Ophelia’ (although I’m still publicly saying ‘Flore Pleno’) – only because that was the only variant/cultivar that survived from my previous garden. If only I could walk around here with someone knowledgeable like you to advise! Sigh.
Yes – I have plenty of slopes – but they are WAY too dry in our hot summers. Bottom of the garden would be best for them but, having had several tricky falls down there in winter months, I decided that winter flowers had to be near the house.
I would love your advice on growing on special galanthus in a pot to bulk them up a little (I know they don’t like pots, but wary of planting immediately in to open ground). Any fine thoughts?
Just one negative: in Europe it’s against the law to sell wild-collected bulbs of galanthus. And I totally agree that’s appropriate. Some of my favourite bulb suppliers in the UK were regularly prosecuted in the 80s/90s for that practice. I guess with Brexit they will once again be free to strip English woodlands of nivalis. Fortunately the Turkish and eastern European mountain slopes and woodlands will still have some protection!
Would love your advice on the pot culture, Frank! And note – my response is even longer than your comment,
Our snow has all gone too Cathy and we have water standing everywhere. Never seen it melt so quickly! I have never been a galanthophile as the plain old sort have never thrived for me so I lost interest. They are lovely to see though, and I would love a simple pot of them on the outside table, but our garden centres are closed! Hope you share photos of your order when it arrives. 😃
Our garden centres are open, Cathy, but not sure it’s such a good idea! The water is now slowly going down. When the river floods its nearly as pretty as the snow. Going into the nearby vet yesterday she referred to the little river as Chatillon’s ‘pond’ – it gets huge with flooding. Unfortunately the ‘pond’ never lingers long enough or freezes so that we can skate on it. That would be my dream!! At school in Canada they used to flood the front lawn so we could skate on it at recess and lunch. I shall certainly show my order when it arrives although it might not be pretty!
This Brexit nonsense is all very frustrating. Although I rarely buy plants, some of my favourite specialist seed and bulb suppliers are unable to supply me directly and their UK counterparts can’t obtain the stock!
Thanks for commenting – what I’m noticing in France is that some of my favourite nurseries are becoming conduits for UK products – for instance Thompson & Morgan seeds and David Austen roses are now stocked by Promesse de Fleurs – I guess they’ve arranged for a large commercial import. While DA has always had a French website for several years, I suspect they didn’t actually fields here for stock, and that’s the issue now. I miss my T&M seeds, my Sarah Raven seeds! Some things (like dark coloured zinnia seed strains) are tricky to source in Europe!
I can’t imagine how it must feel for a gardener to know they will only be gardening in a particular garden for a limited time… Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post and seeing your lovely photographs – your lakes look very pretty!! ☀️😀There is a lot to be said for not going down the special snowdrop route…it would save both expense and disappointment! Frank has made a good point about the double snowdrop which does look neater than the average floro pleno – but I haven’t got my books to hand so I can’t check for Hippolyta. I start my specials off in a deep pot that I sink into the border. Hopefully the plant passport issue will be gradually sorted
Pot sunk in the ground – excellent Cathy!!! Thanks for that. I think Frank is right too, having investigated in books. Imight have ‘Hippolyta’ arriving this week so in future will be able to check. Maybe I’ll just stop at the ones I ordered this week – we’ll see!
I shan’t try and sway you either way!
Cathy I’m worried your faith in my skill is much misplaced, I’m far more enthusiastic than I am knowledgeable! Actually I have cut back on many of the snowdrops I grow in containers because of the bad luck I’ve had with bulbs drying up in the summer or wasting away, I think my soil mix does not drain well enough. So I suppose that’s my first suggestion, make sure the mix drains well 🙂 -unless it drains too well… The nivalis seem to like a damp soil almost year round, and the hybrids are somewhere in between. I’ve spoken to more skilled growers and they go with a well draining, gritty mix which they water regularly and then allow to go dry in the summer. Still the nivalis types do not like those conditions, and need more summer moisture. I think you could do well with it though. Maybe your pots could winter up near the house and then summer down in the shade by the river!
Even single bulbs or in the green plants are thrown out into the open garden. If they don’t do well after a year or two I try moving them into a shadier or sunnier spot, or if it’s a real treasure I evict someone similar who is doing well, and plant the newest goodie somewhere near where they were growing and hope they do as well! In your garden it looks like under the hazels is a great starting point!
When I mentioned wild collected elwesii, of course I meant those collected and imported legally. I’m sure you know that but I just wanted to point it out and even though the cross-borders trade in potentially endangered snowdrops is regulated under CITES and require a ton of certificates, there are sustainable collections in Turkey which are allowed and which are the source of many of the Dutch companies bulk elwesii sales. The ‘wild collected’ bulbs I spoke of growing here were all purchased through various Dutch sources and I’m only guessing based on their appearances(dried roots and some dried foliage still attached) and the wild variability (some fall bloomers, various inner markings, green tipped, occasional other species mixed in) that they’re wild collected. Some of them don’t adapt well to my rainier climate, but it sounds like they might be perfect for you!
-and there I’ve gone on way too long again, but if Paddy can get away with it then I don’t feel guilty at all 🙂
Hi Frank. Do you know, it was only after my response to you that I started adding things up and realizing that you were talking about the snowdrop farms in Turkey – bit like salmon farming but a less polluting product! I have a huge amount of faith in you and people like Paddy!! Don’t be too modest.
I need to do a lot of googling to find a link to a source – your idea was wonderful! Already had the pictures in my head of G. elwesiii under my 4 hazels. Normal sources for me are about 5 euros the bulb. Clearly more work required on my part. Thanks so much for your advice. Please keep on freely giving it to me and others,
I have wondered how Brexit was affecting gardeners. Glad you found some resources. Your snowdrops are lovely, Cathy, and the photos of your garden are wonderful. We too have had a terribly wet winter. I’m anxious to get some weeding and mulching done underway to just as it starts to dry we get standing water again. I worry summer will be completely dry. Have a good week.
How frustrating it must be for not only you Cathy but for many British nurseries too and others in the horticultural business. What I can’t get my head round at all is that people in Northern Ireland are having major issues buying some seeds from the main UK seed companies. Oh well less of politics and more of snowdrops 😄 Good luck with expanding your snowdrop collection. I’m already addicted. I attended a Plant Heritage Zoom lecture on snowdrops at the weekend. The speaker was German and she mentioned De Boschhoeve as a good European source for buying snowdrops. I have a couple of books on snowdrops which mention other sources. I could always send their details to you by email if that would be useful?
Oh – how interesting. Her garden does look lovely from the pictures I’ve seen and she was great to deal with. Thanks for the book selection – I do already have quite a long list that I can’t afford … I daresay that won’t stop me if I really decide to go for it!