Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Four Amigos... Snowdrops

There must be some sound in the garden (perhaps Galomph !), that occurs when everything blooms at once. Every spring here in our Iowa garden is different; this year we had a mild January, so all the early snowdrops started blooming, only to be buried under a foot of snow and assailed by a record-breaking cold February. Now in March, the snow finally melted, and almost all of the snowdrops are in bloom at once... earlies, lates, doubles... they're all blooming. In addition to some named varieties, we've got four different species of galanthus, which I'll show, beginning with Galanthus elwesii. This is the giant or early snowdrop, native to the Balkans and western Turkey. It is indeed early; we had one blooming at Thanksgiving, and most of the rest started blooming in early January, only to be buried under the snow. The giant part takes a while, but after a few years, some of them are eight inches tall. In large clumps, when the warm sun strikes them on a cool morning, they give off an intoxicating, sweet perfume... almost lily-like, which wafts down the honeybee burrows, and wakes them from their winter sleep. The broad-leaved foliage of elwesii (el-wez-ee-eye), is a very distinctive grey-green, and the large flowers typically have two green spots on each inner petal, the lower one shaped like an upside-down heart. This is the best snowdrop for most gardeners; it's very early blooming, it's got a nice perfume, it's indestructible and multiplies fairly well, and it takes more sun and dryness than, say G. nivalis, the other commonly available snowdrop. Because of all these qualities, but especially its earliness of bloom (it's always the first thing to bloom here), it is the single most indispensible flower in our garden; it is not just a neat little is the beginning of the gardening year.
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