We noticed something about our new house this spring: no snowdrops! I set out last week to rectify that omission. My “river” of snowdrops at our old house was fifteen years in the making, but you can grow that!All you need is a dirt-stabbing tool, a clump of snowdrops, and pig-headed determination. Think I’m kidding? Above you see the clump of snowdrops I started with. I stuck my large garden fork straight down as far as it would go, pulled it back, and pried out this clump from the “river” at the old garden. Here’s a small chunk from that clump, perhaps 1/10 of the whole. These snowdrops have been multiplying for fifteen years (maybe more). They’ve been growing in unamended clay, seeding amongst themselves and multiplying by offsets as well. At first, it is difficult to separate the individual bulbs. I soak them in the tub-trug to help loosen them up. I sometimes slosh the clump up and down in the water, or swish it around. Sometimes I gently roll the clump between my hands. Eventually I see a little chunk at the edge that’s loosening up, and I tease it away from the mother clump. Then I separate that baby chunk into individual bulbs. You need to grab the bulb part, not the leaves. If you pull too hard on the leaves, they snap off, and the leaves need to photosynthesize food to bulk up the bulbs before they go dormant. You do need patience for this part, and if you’ve had experience getting snarls out of a young girl’s hair, so much the better.
You’re Not Planting In The Usual Sense
Out in the wild, or at least, away from the more domesticated garden, you can’t use the usual procedure for getting plants in the ground. You don’t dig a hole, no. You stab a slot into the earth, insert a snowdrop into the slot, and then push the slot closed. I used a Planter’s Buddy to stab with, but a digging knife (aka hori-hori) works as well. Maybe better (lost mine).
Here’s where the pig-headed determination comes in. You stab, insert, and close a mind-numbing amount of times. On your knees. With only the vision of beauty to sustain you. (Well, include your beverage of choice for sustenance.) And pausing only to tease another chunk of snowdrops from the mother clump.
Wait, that’s not exactly true. If you’re like me, you spread the work over several days, because other things like cooking supper and paying bills have to be done. I left the unplanted snowdrops in the bucket with an inch or two of water in the garage when I had to quit for the day. They didn’t seem to mind. They were, after all, still ensconced in that unamended clay. I only separate bulbs as I’m ready to plant them for this reason.
Two Hundred Bulbs and Seventy-Three Feet LaterI planted somewhere between 200 and 225 snowdrops over four (non-consecutive) days. I planted them on both sides of a path I am developing in the woodsy area between the lawn and the brook. I managed to get about halfway down, about 73 feet or so, before I ran out of snowdrops.
It doesn’t look like much now, but my original snowdrop path looked exactly the same when I first planted it. There are certain garden effects that will never achieve their full beauty right away, and this is one of them. Pig-headed determination and time are the key ingredients.
By the way, it doesn’t have to be snowdrops. You can do the same thing with daffodils.
Garden Bloggers You Can Grow That! Day was started by C. L. Fornari of Whole Life Gardening because she believes “Gardening is one of the most life-affirming things we can do.…We need to thoroughly saturate people with the belief that plants and gardening are worth doing because of the benefits gained.” Garden bloggers who agree post about something worth growing on the fourth day of every month. Read this month’s You Can Grow That! posts.