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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




15th February 2015

Galanthus nivalis
Spring is tumbling into the garden with the hasty enthusiasm of a young farmer making love in a haystack. Grey skies and rain during the week broke a long settled period when the ground almost dried out but between the grey days the sun shone with a beauty that defies description. On Thursday there was a softening in the greyness and I took the chance to wander around the garden taking photographs in preparation for writing this. Spring has hastened in. This morning dawned bright and clear, the garden was warm and dressed in sunlight. Spring had moved forward another step and I took the camera out again. I have spent a happy morning wriggling around on the damp ground with a camera making another set of clothes unwearable.
Galanthus nivalis has opened under the trees. I took a picture of it on thursday looking elegant in grey and white but I have thrown out the advance preparations. This morning the snowdrops have hit their peak and it is worth celebrating. As temperatures rise the garden has started to move and spring is filled with pleasures that are going to be resisted this week in favour of some snowdropping.
This group grows under an old sycamore and they would be happier with more light but they are increasing slowly. I took note of John Grimshaw's advice to keep the clumps in decent sized pieces when they are divided and it has paid off. These were split two years ago as they started to die back and they have got away without a check. I have plants from three distinct populations in this border so that they can cross pollinate but they seem to have remained in distinct groups, which suggests that they spead by division more readily than by seed, at least in this garden.




15th February 2015

Galanthus 'Poculiformis'
All snowdrops are essentially the same. Any serious study of their variety will inevitably result in wet knees and a full load of washing. There are very few that stand out from a distance and perhaps that is a good thing. The Poculiformis Group of snowdrops have inner segments that resemble the outer segments so the flowers have a very distinct appearance and I have collected a few of the available clones together because I find them curious. Although they have gained something in the way of tepals, they have lost something as well. They have stopped looking like snowdrops. This one reminds me more of the white form of Olsynium douglasii, frail and white and nodding but trianguless.
During the week 'Springwood Park' has been the most striking. It has long white tepals that form a short tube as they emerge from the ovary and the yellow anthers show through as a beige mark at the top of the flower. It is thoroughly fascinating but not quite snowdroppy enough to excite irrational passion, it is more of a technical excercise in variability. In the sun this morning it was outshone by 'Poculiformis', a cleaner white with thicker segments. This is probably not the original clone named by Rev. H Harpur-Crewe in 1880 but a later seedling or discovery. The mutation occurs quite frequently in some populations of G.nivalis.




15th February 2015

Galanthus 'Maidwell L'
This is a large form of G. elwesii raised or selected by Oliver Wyatt during the 1940's while he was headmaster of Maidwell Hall in Northamptonshire. I got it from Kath Dryden in the 1980's and back then it was an outstanding example of the species. In the last thirty years there have been hundreds of large G. elwesii named and circulated so at first sight this has become just one of many jolly impressive plants that are to be found. It has a bold 'x' mark on the inner segments but otherwise seems to have little to make it stand out. However it it worth remembering that it has lasted in gardens for 60 years and not all the selections of G. elwesii that have been made are that reliable. The thing that makes it stand out for me are the occasional flower scapes that produce two flowers. It only does it when it is growing vigorously and only from the largest bulbs but the twin flowered scapes are a little curiosity that add interest to the clump, like the occasional four petalled 'Moccas' or the equally rare yellow flowered 'Lady Elphinstone'.
This year I have two twin scapes and I am filled with pointless and unexpressable glee (one four petalled 'Moccas' and no yellow 'Lady Elphinstone' so far).





15th February 2015

Galanthus 'Ecusson d'Or'
There is a branch of snowdropping that equates to name-dropping or the modern amusement of photo-bombing. It is really just a way of saying 'I'm so clever, look at me' and in that vein I apologise for this picture. I am sorry but I am going to show it anyway. In 2002 Mark Brown discovered this little snowdrop in Ecusson, a hamlet in Normandy. It was the first snowdrop to be found with yellow markings on both the inner and outer segments. It was an internet sensation and stirred some passionate opinions. It also rapidly became the 'must have' snowdrop of the age complete with e-bay frenzy. To begin with you couldn't obtain it for love or money but sadly (the snowdrop world has become a callous and inelegant place) money is now sufficient. I first saw it in the flesh in 2010 when Foxgrove Plants included it on their stand at the RHS show. In the dim light of the hall it was underwhelming. I doubt I was the only person who decided on seeing it that they were prepared to wait.
And wait I have done, safe in the knowledge that the idea of a yellow tipped yellow snowdrop was stronger than the reality. I couldn't afford it, so it probably wasn't worth having, isn't that the way of things? As it turns out I was wrong again. It is stronger than expected and increases reliably. This year at the Myddleton House snowdrop sale I found a bulb in my price range and leapt on it with the mindless enthusiasm of a born-again Galanthophile. Gleeful uncoordinated dancing followed. In a cold winter car park in Enfield there is little point in trying to look cool.
So here it is, the flower has opened and it is better than expected. Old hat to the real afficionado's but still worth snowdropping into the conversation (all credit goes to the grower, I just paid the money).
This is the week when the sun came out and the snowdrops were magnificent. Almost too fast they will rush to a satisfied conclusion and then fall into a gentle slumber.
There is no need to revist that haystack.