Snowdrops provide winter colour

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It is rather obvious that the flower of the month of February is the snowdrop and anyone who did not spend a day out a couple of Sundays ago at Craig, Westerkirk, near Langholm for their Snowdrop Day under Scotland’s Garden Scheme missed a real treat. There were bankings of white carpets.

It is reckoned that the first of the bulbs were planted there in the 1840s, possibly at a similar time to the swathes of snowdrops that are to be seen every year on the Branxholm straight.

The most common type in gardens is galanthus nivalis but have a look carefully at any in your own garden and you may be fortunate enough to find a few different species, and often than not, doubles with their clusters of petals.

Also at Craig and spreading quickly are groups of the spring flowering snowflake (leucojum vernum). They are also white, obviously, and recognised by their taller, slightly larger, cup-shaped heads and though also with six petals, unlike snowdrops, these are all the same length, with a yellowy-green spot on every petal.

These should not be confused with the much taller summer flowering snowflake l. aestivum.

Both snowdrops and snowflakes can be grown from bulbs planted in the autumn and once established will naturalise over the years, producing welcome colour to the otherwise drab winter garden, first appearing in late January some years, depending on the weather and continuing well into March.

There is a much better way to have snowdrops in your garden and that is to buy them ‘in the green’ now. These are purchased, as the term implies, not as bare dry bulbs but supplied with all their leaves still attached and, when this dies down all the goodness goes into the bulbs. The leaves should not be removed but allowed to wither away naturally. In this way they will establish quicker and guaranteed flower well next spring.

Don’t know where to get snowdrops ‘in the green’? See the advertisement in the February 13 issue of the Hawick News offering 50 singles and 25 doubles.

All spring-flowering bulbs, be they snowdrops, snowflakes, aconites, crocus and daffodils produce an abundance of leaves and despite the urge to cut them down, it should be resisted to allow it to die down over time so that it fortifies the bulbs for next year’s flowering.