Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
8th January 2011
Galanthus elwesii 'Hiemalis' .
I am fed up with winter, so rather than wrap myself in a horse blanket and wander about aimlessly like a desperate old man with a tin of tuna
trying to buy the love of a stray cat, I am going to pull myself together, cheer up and call it spring.
Time for a Galanthus-fest!
This has been the first of the spring flowering forms to open. The mild weather of the last couple of weeks has bounced it out of the ground
and finally put an end to the optimistic peering at bare earth wondering if anything will ever emerge. The name is almost meaningless nowadays
- it refers to any Galanthus elwesii with a single green mark that flower when the season is still (a fact I am disputing) winter.
Technically, they are the Hiemalis Group, but I don't really like group names, in the end they become meaningless.
It first appeared in Sir Frederick Stern's garden, and he called it Galanthus caucasicus 'Early Form'. Many years ago I grew (what I think was)
his clone, from Broadleigh Gardens. I can't remember where I planted it and I haven't seen it for years so I assume it is dead. One day I will
be digging around the place, find its label and have a wistful moment.
In the meantime, I replaced it with this one from Wisley in 2006 which is lopsided and later but still very welcome!
8th January 2011
Galanthus 'Reverend Hailstone' .
This has been the one that helped me through the snowy weather of December. The shoots appeared above ground just as the first snow fell.
Big fat glaucous shoots with the promise of flowers wrapped just out of sight in their milky tips. I have repeatedly had to change my trousers
after getting wet knees while bending down to inspect its daily growth. I was quite convinced that it would be the first to flower,
by a long way, but 'Hiemalis' made a sudden dash and beat it by four days.
Found originally at Anglesey Abbey, which has produced a number of large flowered cultivars, and named after the local Rector, it has increased well
since I bought it last spring (three flowers this year, only one last spring). 'Anglesey Abbey' itself has yet to appear above the ground.
Last year I spent a lot of time peering at the bare ground next to its label so I know it is just a late one to emerge.
8th January 2011
To understand 'Lyn' you have to understand 'Atkinsii', and to put 'Atkinsii' in context you have to understand 'Imperati'. It is a complex situation, and I will
do my feeble best to explain it.
The first serious recorded outbreak of Galanthomania ocurred in the last two decades of the 19th Century. A realisation that there was some significant
variability among snowdrops led to a hunt for larger flowered varieties that occaionally inspired behaviour not really becoming to a gentleman
(and it remains true to this day). Nurserymen were quick to sieze commercial advantage and imported bulbs of larger flowering plants, mostly from Italy,
and sold them as 'Imperati' (an old botanical name for plants collected near Naples and now sunk into Galanthus nivalis). It was a marketing
opportunity, and bulbs were planted willy-nilly.
James Atkins was a nurseryman who retired to Painswick in Gloustershire and who then introduced a large flowering early snowdrop that he is believed to
have found in Painswick churchyard, possibly originating as imported Italian bulbs, he originally treated it as an especially good 'Imperati'.
Sam Arnott, writing in 1899, records that it occasionally produces an additional outer segment, but other writers of the time do not mention it, so
it is possible that the clone was already confused in cultuivation. It is also possible that James Atkins distributed several similar clones
(he died in 1884 before that cycle of infectious Galanthomania hit its peak). By 1917 Sam Arnott is describing the four petalled form as 'Pseudo-Atkinsii'
and saying that it has been distributed as the real thing 'in error'. In 1948 E.A.Bowles is identifying Backhouse of York as the source of the four-petalled
If we jump forward to modern times, it has become clear that there are a number of different clones in circulation, all of which can trace their source back
to plants labelled 'Atkinsii' and in an attempt to clarify the situation, new cultivar names have been coined.
The process was started by Percy Picton in the 1970's. He named 'Moccas' , from Moccas Court in Herefordshire, as ' a very reliable variant, and without any of the tendency to mutate which can
occur in the original'. My stock of 'Moccas' came from Philip Ballard in 1988 (he lived just down the road from Percy Picton) and I am confident it is
the original clone. It occasionally produces flowers with four petals, so go figure!
In the following years a number of other clones have been named, and this is one of them. Found by Lyn Sales at Perrot's Brook, Cirencester it
is admirably demonstrating its tendancy to flower early . 'Moccas' is still in the 'pushing up' stage, it doesn't even have dangling buds yet!
(Is it too cynical to wonder if it will produce four petalled flowers in future years?)
8th January 2011
Galanthus 'Little John'.
A large flowered snowdrop with a large dark green mark on the inner segments. It was found by Phil Cornish in E.B.Andersons former garden,
and since I have now owned it for a magnificent eleven months I have nothing to add, except that I am pleased to see it emerge so early!
I come from a family of 'John's'. I was named after my grandfather, and I have a healthy (possibly even excessive) collection of synonymous
uncles and cousins of which I am the youngest. The oldest is my Uncle, or 'Big John' as my mother calls him, and she has always been too
considerate to refer to me as dismissively as the person who named this poor snowdrop (at least not to my face)!
To find particular groups of plants I grow, click on the genus name in the table above. Click on the "Index" box at the top of the page for the full list.
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