Normal people don’t think about snowdrops in August. They think about tomatoes and zinnias, maybe a daylily or two, and that’s fine. They probably also meet friends in the evening and then hit the pool or barbecue. I’m thinking about snowdrops and I’m a little short on the normal. There probably wasn’t much of a grey area when considering how wide the gap is between my obsessions and normal, but the fact that there are others much further out there doesn’t make my snowdrop obsession seem any less unhealthy. The English refer to the love of snowdrops (Galanthus species) as galanthomania, and that has a cute ring to it, but when I think about the snowdrops which rise up in the spring I’m afraid galanthaholic might be a better term.
You may be wondering why I’m bothering you with all this right now, and the reason for that lies in a brand new snowdrop source. Dr. John Lonsdale of Edgewood Gardens has finally cracked open the greenhouse door and put a few of his goodies up for online sales. Not to sound smug, but I already bought a couple of John’s drops this spring at the galanthus gala hosted by David Culp, and had the chance to visit John’s greenhouse this spring and admire his horde, but to have another unexpected opportunity to add another drop or two this year was more than I could resist. I ordered of course.
Be prepared. If you don’t know what the big deal about little white winter flowers is I don’t think there’s enough room or attention span here to get into it. People like them, and some people are crazy about them. Crazy enough to think that $20 or $40 dollars for a single bulb isn’t unreasonable. It is of course, but in a moment of madness I may admit I’ve spent that and possibly bought more than one. The English, who before their Brexit vote had seemed awfully reasonable, have been known to go off the deep end with snowdrop prices and I believe the eBay record for one (single) bulb currently stands at ~$2,100 US.
Still with me? The reason I’m posting now is I just received word my order is set and on its way, and I’m no longer worried other addicts will edge me out and I’ll be left with a ‘sold out’ sign. It may sound extreme, but typically that’s the case. With only three or four sources in the United States and strict import restrictions it’s a seller’s market and some varieties have been known to sell out within minutes of a list going live.
So if you’re curious or serious send Dr. Lonsdale an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of his updated list. It might be a little overwhelming for a newcomer but it’s a fun read and who knows what will come out of it. Maybe you’ll be tempted… another person joining the competition might cut me out of a drop here and there but I could really use some company at the next local galanthaholics anonymous meeting. Right now it’s just me.
Not that you asked, but if I were looking at the list and just starting a collection of February joy in the garden (aka snowdrops), I’d consider a couple of these more reasonably priced and distinctive choices. For a big white single, you need either ‘Bertram Anderson’ or ‘Bill Bishop’, ‘Magnet’ is a reliable standard, ‘Modern Art’ has a unique look which many appreciate, you need a yellow and choosing between ‘Primrose Warburg’, ‘Spindlestone Surprise’, ‘Madeline’ or ‘Wendy’s Gold’ will be your own business, ‘Wasp’ is cool, ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a decent double which may bloom yellow if the mood strikes, you need ‘Viridapice’ for it’s green tipped petals, and ‘Trumps’ or any of his cousins will make a nice contrast. That’s eight drops. Entirely sane and if you order four this year that’s a great start. Just remember to stick with ones which look distinct, leave the “subtle markings” to the crazy people.
Just keep in mind Dr. Lonsdale still has a day job, and although working at Longwood Gardens may seem like a dream to many it’s got its own responsibilities and could keep him from getting right back to you. My advice would be as long as you’re emailing John for a list you might as well cover your other snowdrop bases and email Carolyn at Carolyn’s Shade Garden to get on her always tempting list of (usually) December offerings, and of course now is also a perfect time to request The iconic (not to be found online) Temple Gardens snowdrop catalogue from Hitch Lyman. Send $4 to: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you’ll be in for a treat this winter when the catalogue shows up. Until then enjoy!