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Newsletter Posts

Is it Spring Yet?

Margaret Ransohoff

 Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

Today, January 24th, I enjoyed a bit of relief from the winter doldrums as I came upon this lovely clump of snowdrops in full bloom. Yes, it has been unseasonably warm for a week, but this is very early (did I mention climate change?) to see anything in bloom.  You’ve got to love a plant that can push up through snow or frozen mud and flower in the middle of winter, even before the witch hazels and hellebores. 

No members of the *Galanthus* family are native to the United States, but many have been brought here from overseas and have
naturalized here during the past two centuries. The common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis, USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8) is what we typically find in our region. It usually blooms in early February. It is not hard to grow, prefers deciduous shade and multiplies quickly. There are three ways to purchase snowdrops:

DRY: Buy them in the fall as a dried bulb, like daffodils or tulips.
DORMANT: Sometimes you can find dormant bulbs that sellers dig in late summer; these need to be replanted immediately.
IN THE GREEN: This is a great way to acquire them because you get a freshly dug, flowering plant in the spring.  You will know what the variety looks like in bloom, you can place it in relation to other visible spring bulbs, and they will have plenty of time to establish before winter. Now is the time to ask your neighbors if they would like to share!
 
Of the many cultivars of G. nivalis, here are some favorites:
 
Viridapice:  5 to 6 inches tall with green markings on inner and outer segments
Flore Pleno:  a double variety
Lady Elephinstone:  a double with egg-yolk yellow inner segments
 
And for the plant collector, there are 19 species and over 1,000 named varieties. There are giant snowdrop, fall bloomers, selections with blue-gray or pleated leaves and cultivars for warm climates.   
 
I see vigorous clumps of snowdrops every year, popping up in neighborhood gardens that I know have received little or no attention for decades. That tells me that snowdrops are an easy to establish, long-lived perennial that naturalizes and requires no upkeep. And when the plant is finished blooming, the foliage is unobtrusive and dies back quickly.  They also have a honey-scented fragrance.

I’m ready to add snowdrops to my own garden. Does anyone have a stand of these tough little charmers that they are willing to share?  Contact me; I’ve got a trowel in my car!