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Snowdrops score a big hit with winter gardeners

Snowdrops on Anglesey
A carpet of woodland snowdrops brightens up the end of winter.

Pamela Harris is proud to call herself a galanthophile, a snowdrop enthusiast who was bitten by the bug over 20 years ago.

"One snowdrop in particular set me off - it's called Grumpy," said Pamela, who lives in Llangernyw. "There are markings on the flowers which look like a grumpy face, with a down-turned mouth and sad eyes."

You might think all snowdrops look the same, but Pamela explains this is quite wrong.

"They are all white, but some have green tips to their petals and others have yellow markings," she explained. "Some have four petals, others have six, of all the same size or with some which are shorter in the middle."

Pamela swaps snowdrops with the Troy Scott Smith, head gardener at Bodnant

She thinks their secret is being the prettiest flower of winter and, as a keen gardener, she was delighted to discover something to keep her excited and occupied during the cold months.

"If you're starting to grow snowdrops, I suggest getting the native navalis," she advised. "They're difficult to plant if you buy dried bulbs, so it's best to buy them in the green in March."

It seems there's a busy network of galanthophiles swapping snowdrop plants through the post, complete with leaves and roots.

"That way, you know what you've got and they're easy to plant," said Pamela. "Just put them in the ground and they look like they've always belonged there."

Under attack

Her recommends planting them in rich soil, preferably in dappled shade under a shrub to avoid the bulbs drying out in summer. Not that that's been a problem in recent years.

But Pamela's collection has been under attack from the deadly narcissus fly larvae. As they lay their eggs in spring and burrow into the bulb, eating it from the inside out, you don't notice the plant has been destroyed until it fails to flower in winter.

With 175 varieties in her own garden, and more that 400 types recognised in total, Pamela finds it hard to pick a favourite.

"Mrs McNamara is a nice, big early-blooming one," she said. "It's named for the poet Dylan Thomas's mother-in-law.

"Then there's the Three Ships Come Sailing, which blooms before Christmas, and is named after the song."

As snowdrops spread by seed and by the bulbs dividing, anyone cultivating a large enough crop could come up with new varieties.

Snowdrop events

If you've got no room in your garden, there's a chance to help Bodnant Garden create their new winter garden. On 25 February they will be holding a snowdrop planting day.

www.bodnantgarden.co.uk

Admire snowdrops in some of the National Trust's gardens. Plas yn Rhiw will open to the public on 13-15 February between 11am and 3pm and Penrhyn Castle opens on 13-21 February (closed Tuesdays), between 11am and 4pm.

www.nationaltrust.org.uk

The private gardens at Henblas, Bodorgan, Anglesey, are open for two snowdrop weekends, 6-7 February and 13-14 February.




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