Essential gardening with Jake Coltman


IT IS only a little white flower growing no taller than around 12cms, but at this time of year it can bring plenty of colour to the garden – yes, it’s the delightful little snowdrop. They flower for weeks and if there happens to be a blanket of snow they will quite happily go semi-dormant, ready to show their display when the weather becomes more favourable.

As the majority of gardeners know, these are grown from bulbs that are best planted in August to get them established to flower in the early part of the year when they herald the first signs of a coming spring.

Better still, snowdrops are often available for sale in what is termed ‘ in the green’. The bulbs are sold in bunches, complete with their leaves and are planted with this intact. This way, they establish much quicker and flower better in their first year in new surroundings.

Snowdrops often come under their proper name of Galanthus and sold as such. There are many varieties, the common snowdrop being G.nivalis and recognised by its three inner green-tipped petals surrounded by three all-white longer outer ones.

Viewing them in their clumps on walking round the garden they all may look the same, but they may not be. Take a closer look and some could possibly be doubles, showing a full cluster of petals forming the drooping head.

Similar to snowdrops are snowflakes, also white, also grown from a bulb and also flowering at this time of year. These are recognised by their larger, cup-shaped, flowers and though also with six petals, unlike snowdrops these are all the same length and with a yellowy-green spot on every petal. They also grow a little taller

Their proper name is Leucojum, the spring-flowering variety being L.vernum. There are also types that flower in summer.

Catalogues from national companies are popping through letter boxes now with the anticipation of receiving seen and, or, plug plant orders.

Even though a greenhouse may be on hand, many gardeners are now turning to raising the flowers they need for summer from plug plants – and now is the time to browse the catalogues, selecting named varieties of what one wants to see in the 2014 garden. Using plug plants removes the difficulties of germinating seeds, some of which can be demanding.