Snowdrops were already described in ancient times and belong to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). Its botanical name comes from the Greek: “gala” means milk and “anthos” means flower. This name refers to the colour of the flowers, which is milky white in all species and can already be seen in late winter in the form of lush carpets of flowers or isolated flowers above the thawing snow cover.
The brown bulb, about one centimeter in size, produces one flower stem and usually three basal, linear, grey-green leaves. At the end of the flower stem there is a single flower, which in the bud stage is covered by a high leaf and stands upright. When flowering – usually in January or February – it dissolves and hangs down like a bell.
While in nature the common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is to be found above all, which is naturalized with us, garden centres and special dispatchers offer about 18 kinds and 500 kinds. Still quite similar from a distance, it often only becomes apparent on closer inspection how different the varieties are: There are simple flowers and strongly filled, fragrant, pure white ones and those with a delicate pattern. Snowdrops are now rare in nature and are therefore protected by nature conservation laws. Larger stocks are usually found in the vicinity of former monasteries. There they were probably cultivated for religious reasons: Many biblical stories entwine around the snowdrop.
Snowdrops are well suited for wildlife under bushes or on semi-shady lawns. Large stands in combination with other early flowering plants such as winter lampreys (Eranthis hyemalis), crocus or garden alpine violets (Cyclamen) appear particularly beautiful and relaxed. Whether between ornamental trees, under trees or at the edge of hedges, the graceful plants thrive without any problems. The delicate flowering plants are just as beautiful as cut flowers in the vase, where they only last a few days.
Location and soil
The snowdrops prefer to settle under deciduous trees and bushes, where a lot of light falls on the ground. In humus-rich, loose soils, which do not dry out even in summer, the bulb flowers form large stands over time. Full sun sites are preferred by the winter or early flowering species, while the late spring flowering species, especially the native Galanthus nivalis, thrive best in half sun sites.
Planting and care
You can plant the tubers of snowdrops in early autumn with a planting depth of five to eight centimeters and a distance of ten to 15 centimeters. Fertilizing is not necessary, as a substrate that is too rich in nutrients mainly allows green leaves to grow, but the flowering is sparse. Sometimes the onions are already too strongly dried out with the purchase and do not drive out then any more. It is therefore advisable to buy lover varieties as sprouted young plants in pots and plant them later. It is important to know when choosing the location that the bulb flowers retreat after flowering and react sensitively to tillage. You should therefore only mow and chop in May, when the snowdrops have finished flowering.
The natural reproduction takes place by ants: After flowering, the flower stem sinks downwards, the ovary bursts open and the ants attack the seeds, because they have an appendage that tastes good to them. This form of seed distribution is called myrmecochory. If you want to multiply snowdrops yourself, there are two possibilities: On the one hand, you can sow seeds in open branches. However, three to four years may pass before the seedlings are flowering. On the other hand, the division of the nests offers itself as soon as the leaves become wilted and the flowering is over. For this purpose, the large nests are cut into fist-sized pieces with a spade, as in the case of shrubs. Be careful not to damage too many leaves. Then simply plant the pieces back into the garden at the designated place. Already next spring the divided snowdrops will blossom in their new place.
Snowdrops inspire with their variety. It is difficult for the layman to distinguish between the countless variants. In addition to the size and growth habit, it is above all the flowers that receive a lot of attention. There are real snowdrop collectors and lovers, who are called “galanthophil”. the Turkish snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) is probably the most common species. It grows significantly higher than the native snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), the crown of the large flowers carries broad, dark green stripes. The species “elwesii” also gets along well in a dry and sunny location. This snowdrop rarely forms secondary bulbs and should therefore be planted in groups if a “carpet effect” is to be achieved. In the species Galanthis caucasicus the green crown pattern is crescent-shaped. The queen Olga snowdrop (Galanthus reginae-olgae) blooms in autumn. The largest flowers are Galanthus plicatus, a species that flowers late in March.
The most grateful snowdrop variety is ‘Samuel Arnott’ because it is very robust and vigorous. A rarity is ‘Titania’, whose flower crown is filled. Flore Pleno’ (Galanthus nivalis) is a common filled variant. Hippolyta’ is also filled: it has long, green-tipped petals which surround the much shorter, green perigone flowers, grows to about 15 centimeters in height and is very robust. Mrs. Thompson usually wears five petals instead of three. In addition, two flowers can sit on only one stem. Spindlestone Surprise blooms in February. Its delicate flowers have striking yellow ovaries. As the name suggests, ‘Maximus’ is well suited for growing wild between ground coverers because of its vigour and grows to a height of 40 to 45 centimeters.
Diseases and pests
Sometimes daffodils flies and snails cause problems for the robust spring bloomer. Grey mold can also occur.
Snowdrops in the our store-Shop
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.