Stunning snowdrops provide an emotional boost in deepest, darkest winter

Torbay Weekly

Now Christmas is over, I'm rapidly starting to become hyper vigilant about signs of spring.

The darker days are behind us and although I'm not quite counting the extra minutes of daylight each new day provides, I am staring at the ground for new shoots for a visual uplift.

Just the notion of snowdrops or primroses will give me an emotional boost.

Seeing either is like a sugar rush for the soul.

While both of these are as reliable as day turning to night, it’s easy to take them both for granted.

This is particularly relevant to the snowdrop, or to give it its real name Galanthus.

While I accept it’s hardly ground breaking to write about snowdrops at this time of year, it's definitely worth offering them more focus.

Personally I used to see them as uniform and a bit dull. They are, in fact, the opposite.

My assertion that they are uniform is blown out of the water when you consider there are well more than 2,000 varieties in the UK alone.

They vary in where the little dab of green on the white pearls is and once you become aware of this, it can become an obsession. It looks like the tips have been dipped in green paint.

It’s for this reason that there is a word in the English language for people who collect snowdrops.

To be a galanthophile is to be part of a very select group, I imagine. Many of them can be found open mouthed at St Raphael's Church near Hexworthy on the moor in late January.

I'm usually there at least once, but haven’t joined the club fully yet.

Now is the best time of year to plant the little pea-sized bulbs wherever you want them.

Traditionally they enjoy a slope because of the drainage and spread like wildfire.

I love it that they are found across Europe and seem to have marched silently from Russia across to southern Spain and even Greece.

Once established, it’s an idea to split any clumps. You can do this in an unsophisticated and agricultural way with a sharp spade through the middle after digging out the whole clump.

They will multiply like the Sorcerers' Apprentice in subsequent years to form a green and white carpet or place them strategically to form beads around or along a path.

Many of the varieties have a back story like ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, who was a ‘friend’ of the plant hunter Edward Bowles from the 1920s and has the variety named after her.

This variety is a double flower that is prolific and can grow in the deepest shade.

If you want a snowdrop to cover a large area then ‘Galanthus elwesi Cedric’s prolific’ is a fast grower that increases in volume more than most.

The variety ’S Arnott’ is slightly more elegant in that it grows to 30cm/12ins as well as opening and closing when then the sun comes out to give off a beautiful honeyed scent.

You will instantly know when you are its presence thanks to these instinctively different characteristics.

Any galanthophile will be in raptures and immediately out themselves as its such an intoxicating flower.

Planting them is an easy and enjoyable task taking no time at all.

Every garden centre sells a wide variety and I'm sure you could drop a hint to gardening friends as I’m always being offered snowdrops to plant around now.

If you do decide to plant some, then research your favourite variety well and even just doing this might well trigger a passion in you that you didn't know was there.

All the different names hold intrigue and a tale, usually romantic in nature which will get us thinking about Valentine's Day before the card shops do!