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Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno''

This is the double form of the common snowdrop and is widely found in many cottage gardens around the country. The ones in my Belfast garden came from the family garden in Newcastle County Down. Although they grew in the front garden there, these particular ones were found about twenty years ago growing at the edge of a compost heap under a large sycamore tree at the end of the garden behind the house. This was probably due to an over enthusiastic spring clear up in the garden many years ago which resulted in some bulbs accidentally ending up on the compost heap. They survived that short journey, however, and I repatriated them to the front lawn in the early eighties. It was after subdividing these mature clumps about five years ago that I took some plants "in the green" to my Belfast garden where they have spread in the small lawn area under the old pear tree.

The flower, like that of all snowdrops, is pendulous in form and hangs from a slender six inch high stalk that rises from narrow strap like leaves that are a grey-green lichen colour. The flower is double. The three white outer petals, which have a pearly white iridescent sheen on the inner surface, stretch over three inner petals with a green stripe. These inner petals in turn enclose a fat arrangement of numerous underskirts edged in green.

Like many pendulous flowers the flower is best appreciated by looking up into it. Fortunately this means picking some of the flowers thereby discovering a hidden treat. The flowers are scented with a delicate sweet honey perfume. In cold weather this is best appreciated by breathing on the flowers to warm them up before smelling them. The flower is sterile and spreads instead by offsets. You need not feel guilty therefore about picking a bunch of the flowers to enjoy the delicate scent in a small vase or shot glass in a warm indoor room.

Planting snowdrops "in the green" is the most successful way of ensuring a quick build up of new colonies in a new area. Mature clumps are subdivided immediately after flowering and while the leaves are still green. Dig up the mature clump and divide it up into smaller clumps of two or three bulbs each. Replant these smaller clumps as soon as possible and about six to eight inches apart in your chosen area. They do best in light shade and are particularly successful in moist heavy soil.

Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007