Winter Whites

I have been busy – that’s an excuse and half a lie!

Truth is that I have been busy enjoying the snowdrops in the garden this past while and am using this as an excuse for not writing. I enjoy writing very much; find it very relaxing; a pleasant pastime. Then, at times, when I haven’t written for a while I have thoughts that I ought to write, that I am somehow being neglectful. It is often said that guilt is part and parcel of the Irish Catholic and, perhaps, this explains my inclination to think such thoughts, though that might be simply another excuse. However, it is amazing how quickly these thoughts dispel once I get my fingers tapping the keyboard so let me tell you about the snowdrops.

We seem to have a garden which suits snowdrops, a good rich loam which is slightly acidic to which I add generous amounts of leafmould when planting bulbs. We are growing snowdrops for over thirty years and began collecting different cultivars over twenty years ago. In our early years we simply grew the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, and its double variety. That word, “common” is, unfortunately, generally used as a somewhat derogatory description but I am not inclined to view it in this light. This snowdrop is common simply because it is the best; it is the one best suited to our conditions; it is the one which grows best for us; it is the one which has persisted with us as a garden plant – and as a garden escapee in many places – for over two centuries. It is common because so many people love it and wish to grow it.

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A garden visited today showing a wonderful use of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis – simple beauty

A few years ago we were shown a garden left untended since the 1950s, a garden shortly to be cleared and the area used as a quarry, where there were many clumps of the common snowdrop and we did as any gardener would in the situation – we “rescued” as many as we could. On our return home they had to be cleaned – the roots washed to ensure we were not going to introduce scutch, ground elder or the likes into our own garden and we planted them into a patch of grass where we already had some crocus, a few daffodils and a pinch of snakeshead fritillary growing. We planted about 4,000 snowdrop bulbs – this may sound a lot but, after the effort it took to plant them, it looked quite miserable. After a few years they are beginning to make an impression though I think the fritillarias will prove to be the successful species in this situation as they are self-seeding generously there. I will watch and see and enjoy the developments.

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Various views of that grass patch with the planting of the common snowdrop

As for the other snowdrops, they are also a delight with various species and cultivars in flower from the first week of October until the end of March, six months of enjoyment right through the dark days of winter. Snowdrops are far from common, even the common snowdrop!

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And, snowdrops around the garden today

Paddy Tobin




4 thoughts on “Winter Whites

  1. Thanks, Paddy, for a great piece of writing and beautiful photos of snowdrops. Reading and viewing has had a pleasantly cooling effect, as we are experiencing the hottest day of summer (so far) .I’m feeling for your fellow country, Jimi Blake, who is travelling in NZ and probably struggling with the heat.

    I really like the snowdrops in association with cyclamen…they complement each other well.

    Liked by 1 person

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