The Snowdrops and Glories of the Snow-
True Harbingers of Spring
This year Harvesting History’s fall newsletter series is going to focus on spring flowering bulbs that are critter resistant and great plants for nourishing pollinators. In the last newsletter we discussed Iris reticulatas. In this newsletter we are going to focus on two bulbs that all of you have seen in the older gardens of historic neighborhoods, but may not have known their names. They are some of the most welcome sites of early spring and in the case of Snowdrops an international symbol of hope.
Chionodoxa, known as ‘The Glory of the Snow’, and Galanthus, the much beloved ‘Snowdrop’, are both tiny plants which produce multiple flower stems. They are all critter resistant which probably accounts for the fact that they alone have survived in drifts after 50-100 years. They naturalize easily and quickly, but for immediate impact they should be planted in clusters of at least 25 bulbs. They are meant to be viewed as a drift, not as single plants.
Chionodoxa can be forced in soil, but Galanthus are not good for forcing. Both Chionodoxa and Galanthus make excellent pot plants. The bulbs of each should be planted close together – nearly touching – in a soil mixed with 1 part sand to 2 parts soil.
Galanthus, more commonly known as Snowdrops are some of the most beloved spring blooming bulbs of all time. The name, Galanthus, comes from two Greek words, gal, meaning milk and, anthos, meaning flower – hence the original common name, ‘Milk Flower’. They are probably native to regions of the Mediterranean, particularly Italy, but some admirers still maintain that Galanthus nivalis, the common Snowdrop, is native to Britain where it is passionately admired and avidly collected.
What is known is that Snowdrops are ancient plants that have been cited, albeit infrequently, throughout history. Theophrastus, the Greek philosopher and student of Aristotle, mentioned the plant in 320 BC. Snowdrops were a symbol of hope for St. Francis.
Because they bloom on the earliest of spring days, what is frequently not known about these delightful little white flowers is that they possess a powerful fragrance. These vigorous little harbingers of spring will grow in almost any soil or location. However, once established, they do not like to be moved or divided and they are not good for forcing, but, they are deer resistant.
Galanthus Elwesii was introduced to the gardening public in 1874. It had been collected by an incredible Brit, Henry John Elwes, for whom the plant is named, on one of his many horticultural discovery ventures.
Galanthus Elwesii is one of the largest Snowdrops available today. Plants can reach a height of 9 inches. It has a gentle fragrance and very large white flowers in two layers. The interior petals are tipped with a small green teardrop which makes the flower appear to be hiding a tiny green heart.
Galanthus Flore Pleno known as “The Double Snowdrop” was introduced in 1731. It is a fully double Snowdrop whose interior petals are tipped with green. The plants can reach a height of 6-8 inches.
Both Galanthus Elwesii and Galanthus Flore Pleno are hardy from Hardiness Zone 3 to Hardiness Zone 8. They should be planted 4-6 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. Make sure you add a 1/4 cup of bone meal to the hole where you plant these bulbs. Remember, Snowdrops do not like to be moved or divided so give them enough room to expand. They multiply rapidly, doubling or tripling in number each year.
The color, blue, is the rarest of all colors found in nature. Spring is the only season where you can find an abundance of blue color if you plan for it. Chionodoxa forbesii is a flower whose name we cannot pronounce, but one that most of us have seen in the spring.
The name, Chionodoxa, comes from two ancient Greek words, chion meaning snow and doxa meaning glory, hence the nickname, Glory of the Snow.
This bulb was introduced into cultivation in 1881 when it was named to honor the naturalist, Edward Forbes, who in his travels through western Anatolia in 1842 had probably collected specimens.
Chionodoxa is native to the mountains of southwestern Turkey where it grows at the snowline above 8,250 feet. This little blue flower with its white star shaped center is an early bloomer that is deer resistant.
Each bulb produces from 4-12 flowers. The bulbs should be planted 4-6 inches deep and 2-3 inches apart. Remember to add ¼ cup of bone meal to the hole where you are planting the bulbs. Unlike Galanthus, Chionodoxa can be moved and divided every 3-5 years. Chionodoxa grows very well in a pot, and if growing in a pot, 5 bulbs produces a lovely effect.
They are hardy nearly everywhere from Zone 3-Zone 9.
There is a pure white variety of Chionodoxa known as Chionodoxa luciliae Alba. It was introduced in 1885. A photo of this plant is included below.
Don’t miss our Saturday, September 7, 2019 newsletter
on Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta,
a wonderfully historic group of bulbs that the critters do not like.
FOR OUR GARDENERS IN THE OTSEGO, SCHOHARIE,
AND ALBANY COUNTIES AREA ON FRIDAY
SEPTEMBER 6, 2019 AT 7:00 PM
I will be presenting the keynote lecture, American Originals,at the grand re-opening of the Sayre House in Historic Milford, NY.There will be refreshments and tours of the newly established,historic garden and the entire evening is FREE. If you love historyand gardening, this will be an unforgettable night.
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