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A snowdrop love affair: how it all began

February 8th 2018

By Helen Rushton of Bruckhills Croft, Aberdeenshire

At Bruckhills Croft in Aberdeenshire, you won’t find acres of common snowdrops nodding romantically in the breeze, but you may find snowdrops you have never come across before.

We have been collecting snowdrops for quite a few years now; it all began when we found a patch of double snowdrops sprouting peacefully under the Common Ash tree in-front of our derelict croft house. Until that point, we assumed, like many, there was only one type of snowdrop; the single common snowdrop – Galanthus nivalis. But our discovery started something special…

The first of the “different” snowdrops that we purchased for the garden were S. Arnott, James Backhouse and Cedric’s Prolific. Lovely large, strong growing snowdrops, head and shoulders above the common snowdrop, and in the case of S. Arnott, beautifully scented. They grew well here on our croft and so we searched for some more.

At this point we realised that there were many species of snowdrops to discover. We went on to acquire some elwesii and plicatus; species much larger than nivalis, with different shaped and coloured foliage.

Next came some doubles, those bred by Heyrick Greatorex by crossing nivalis and plicatus. He named them after Shakespearean characters: Lavinia, Hippolyta, Cordelia, Jacquenetta and Ophelia. They were much bigger and uniform than our original clump of doubles. These illustrated what could be done by the deliberate crossing of snowdrops, and this triggered our hunt for snowdrops that had been deliberately bred – hybrids.

Galanthus “Hippolyta” – one of the Greatorex doubles

From here, our collecting really grew wings and our love affair became apparent.

We discovered our first yellow snowdrop, our first completely white snowdrop, snowdrops that had all six tepals the same length forming a goblet shape (poculiform), snowdrops that flowered in autumn, and even species originating from across Europe, and as far as Western Asia.

 

 Galanthus “Ecusson d’Or” – a yellow snowdrop      

 Galanthus reginae-olgae “Blanc de Chine” – an autumn flowering snowdrop.

 

There was a steep learning curve for us in achieving the right environment for each snowdrop species to grow and flourish on our croft. Not all snowdrops like damp, shaded soil. Some species of Galanthus come from mountainous or coastal areas and like free draining soil and sun – quite a lot of it. But this meant they didn’t all need to be planted in the same area, they could be spread across the garden.

Our fascination continued still, as the more snowdrops we obtained, the more varieties we realised were available. Plant collecting and breeding was bringing even more unusual plants to the market, and we were receiving some wonderful advice and generous gifts from plant breeders.

Lately, we have fallen in love with green snowdrops. Some are gently tinged with green on their outer petals, some are striped with green, and some are boldly green all over like Galanthus “Green Mile”.  We also have a soft spot for unusually shaped snowdrops; the ones with petals like Japanese pagodas such as “South Hayes”, and then there are the spikey ones, “Boyd’s Double”, where quite often, the flower faces upwards.

 

Galanthus nivalis “Green Mile” – a very green snowdrop     

Galanthus nivalis “Boyd’s Double” – a spiky snowdrop that faces upwards

 

Galanthus “South Hayes” – a pagoda shaped snowdrop

Just when you think you have seen it all, yet again something different pops up. What would you think of snowdrops that are tinged pink or orange? Breeders are developing these now.

With an estimated 2500+ varieties out there, will our collecting ever stop? Our collection currently stands at 350+ varieties, so I suppose probably not.

The snowdrops at Bruckhills Croft, as featured on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden in 2017, will be open to visitors from 11 February to 11 March 2018 as part of the Scottish Snowdrop Festival.

For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/2n1vR5C