Are there any bulbs more charming than proper English snowdrops? Except that they are not English at all, having been introduced from Europe where they have a wide distribution. I had thought they were called ‘snowdrops’ because they often peek through snow (a light covering, I assume because they only grow about 15 to 20cm high) to herald the coming of spring, but I see the botanical name translates from Greek as milk flower. Because we lack the chilly temperatures and snow here, we are limited in the range of galanthus that we can grow well. There is such a word as a “galanthophile” – one who is obsessed with the genus but you would have a hard job earning that epithet here in the mid north. Easily the best performing snowdrop for us is Galanthus S. Arnott which never fails to delight and increases satisfyingly well. We keep gently increasing its spread around the garden and that also staggers the flowering because it will come in later in colder parts.
You don’t get a long flowering season but oh they are so very charming. The proper snowdrop has a little inner trumpet of three petals surrounded by a skirt of three outer petals which look like little wings. Sometimes people refer to the stronger growing snowflake, often seen in paddocks, as a snowdrop. But it is not. It only has the inner trumpet of petals and lacks the delicate charm. It is also a different genus, being a leucojum.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.