NOTICE the shadows now, shortening daily and creeping back ever so slowly to their finite, summer quarters.
Winter is slowly losing the battle to rule, and its cracking is evident everywhere - never more than in the arrival of the first snowdrops.
It is nice to see snowdrops holding their own among other flowers, and to be reminded of how blessed we are to have such objects of grace and delicacy in the first fracture of winter.
Gardeners who collect the various varieties and called ‘galantophiles’ but I would rather have a blizzard of the most common form than any number of varieties.
For this reason, I grow but two varieties; the very common grey leafed Galanthus nivalis snowdrop that thrives in cool woodland settings, and the taller Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ which can arrive a little earlier.
The former nivalis will be found a perfect thing in any spring garden, and a white-out of these is a staggering sight.
There is an avenue not far from where I write that is solid with them now, and if you were to visit on a sunny day you would get a memorable blast of honey scent.
As outlined already, I would rather have such a quantity than any number of varieties.
Nivalis will come to perfection in all areas, but like all varieties it needs free-draining conditions.
If you have heavy clay soil, be sure to add copious amounts of grit to the site or set them out in a raised bed.
In order to create impressive clumps, divide established clumps every third or fourth year but do not mix varieties.
New clumps may well take a whole year to re-establish, but the exercise is very worthwhile.
As to my growing collection of ‘S Arnott’ it is robust enough to do in a meadow and I keep meaning to entice it out of its comfy bed to see if it will do so.
In the meantime, if you want these huge snowdrops of a white that dazzles (and of a shape that is perfection) search for them this month.
These are the ones that delight immediately after Christmas, lasting for many weeks irrespective of what the weather may throw at them.
To get this kind of reward you’ll need to do two things; plant them deeply and keep manure away from them.
If you buy them as normally suggested ‘in the green’ (in leaf and flower) then set them six inches deep in fertile soil so that the white at the base of each individual leaf is fully covered.
Follow with a mulch of leaf litter and repeat the application in the autumn.
Gardeners who already grow these and other snowdrop varieties should note that bringing in a bunch for placing in a glass bowl (so that their green stalks are evident beneath their magnificent drooping white blooms) will evoke comment from all who see them.
Whether you pick common snowdrops, or a few named cultivars, the thrill will be just the same.
Be careful, however, for snowdrop fever can catch you unawares.
You may become hooked on these before you know it.
Caption for attachment; Nothing compares with a drift of snowdrops that can lie like un-melted snow in the spring garden.