I am amazed to find so few snowdrops emerging on the Castle site, a few pushing through in disparate patches, but not the impressive mass I had hoped to be able to post about. Talking to next door, the 1000 bulbs they planted last year have amounted to nothing, so clearly moles, whose activity around here increases nightly, pheasant or clay soil are to blame. However over the years of the four successive families, the Ridleys, Baldwins, Bullins and Bacons, many photographs have been taken of this site and of its best features. So to satisfy my wish for a colony of something lovely and in the absence of snowdrops, here is a photo of the orchard (now the Olivers site) taken in March and massed with primroses.
For research, as the Chelsea Physic opens for snowdrop tours this week and I must appear to know what I am talking about, I attended a lecture by expert John Grimshaw last week, who has a Yorkshireman’s gently mocking tone for the obsessive galanthophile. Having shown some slides of bulbs that fetch over £1000 each, he went on to describe some of the lovely snowdrops that can be bought for very little. I share the galanthophile’s love of the plant at this time of year, but like John Grimshaw, I prefer a swathe of something simple rather than groups of the rarified. So when I begin my snowdrop collection at the Castle, I shall be investing in his top three: Galanthus ‘Diggory’ for it’s unusual flower with puckered texture: Galanthus ‘E.A Bowles’ for being big, perfect and late (March flowering) and Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’, the ultimate scented snowdrop which spreads happily. Perhaps I will also include a double and a yellow…. and so now my list becomes out of hand.
I won’t be buying snowdrops in the green though, so terrifying were John Grimshaw’s warnings about doing this. I will avoid buying Eranthis hyemalis in the green too, even though this is, in my experience, absolutely the best way to establish them. I will keep my hands firmly in my pockets, console myself with other pleasures of the winter garden, such as the Parottia persica buds shown below , and hope in the Autumn to have just a corner of the garden ready for planting. Then I will plant dry bulbs and send Peter out after those pheasants.