– Posted in: Plant info, Snowdrops, What's up/blooming

The snowdrops in the Secret Garden are all blooming now, the same ones I tried to will out of the ground earlier. These are my most rapidly increasing snowdrops. I got them from a friend who found them growing in a field near her house. Presumably there was once a house and garden where she found them, but it was a sort of no-man’s-land between a farmer’s field and the road when she discovered them and dug them up.

There are also snowdrops blooming in with the peonies. I bought these snowdrops several years ago, but they were merely called single snowdrops in the catalog, so I really don’t know what they are.

Then in 1998 I purchased some snowdrops called ‘Sam Arnott.’ They were supposed to be “altogether more robust with larger flowers on stout scapes. Richly scented, and has very distinct heart-shaped green markings.” A year or two later I read in Scott Kunst’s Old House Gardens catalog that the true ‘Sam Arnott’ only comes from one old estate, and any inexpensive ones are impostors. I asked him how to tell if you had the real thing, and he said, “As I understand it the counterfeits aren’t much more than G. elwesii, which is like G. nivalis except it’s bigger all around — taller plants, broader petals, etc. The S. Arnott we have from England has very broad petals that are held out widely, almost horizontally.” So I think mine are not the real thing. Since then several major garden magazines have had articles on snowdrops, complete with petal-to-petal comparisons of the many varieties, so if I can only unearth the issues in question (I know one was Horticulture, and I believe another was Garden Gate) I could compare my flowers with the photos and make a good guess as to which varieties I actually have.

I know what at least some of you are thinking: what difference does it really make? It makes no difference at all to the effect they have in the garden. If I knew the species/cultivar of the one that multiplies so freely, I could recommend it to faraway friends. If I had paid the kind of prices Scott Kunst charges for the real ‘Sam Arnott,’ I would be mad at having gotten an impostor. Aside from all that, I gain a certain amount of satisfaction from looking closely at a plant and seeing the subtle differences. (And with snowdrops, the differences are certainly subtle.) I’m certainly not the only one in that regard. Snowdrops are quite the collector’s plant in England, and are becoming moreso in the U.S. Finally, it is a quirk of my personality that I just like to know. If I possibly can, I like to know the precise cultivar, precisely where I got it from, exactly what I paid for it, exactly when I planted it, and precisely when it bloomed. I like to keep records. Weird, huh?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kath April 5, 2003, 9:08 am

I wasn’t intending to buy more, as I was going to try to identify the snowdrops I already have. I dug out that issue myself, but I couldn’t satisfy myself from the pictures if I had ‘Sam Arnott’ or not. They are fragrant, though, much to my surprise. The ones in the Secret Garden are fragrant, too, but the ones by the peonies are not. (At least not to my nose)

ro April 4, 2003, 7:55 pm

Kath, I have the Horticulture with the snowdrops, and one of the sources was temple nursery in Trumansburg.