19 January 2001

Snowdrops bring cheer to the bleak mid-winter scene

SNOWDROPS have always been popular among gardeners, simply because they flower so early. But it was the arrival of Galanthus plicatus, brought home by soldiers returning from the Crimean War, that first fuelled the collecting trend that is now so popular. However, some varieties such as Galanthus nivalis Boyds Double are so bizarre that you would never associate the word "snowdrop" with them.

There are more than 500 varieties and species available and here we show just a few of the more unusual or rare snowdrops on offer from specialist nurseries. The common snowdrop can be picked up for a few pence, and scores of others for a few £, but some of the rarer and more unusual hybrids dont come cheap. Collectors will pay up to £25 for a single plant.

When buying snowdrops, the golden rule is always buy "in the green" (growing plants), not dry bulbs. So take a closer look at these most lovely of early flowers and choose the ones that you would like to grace your garden next year, now.

Michael Edwards

Galanthus elwesii Grumpy

is a real must have. It takes

its name from the whimsical inner petal markings.

Galanthus Mrs Thompson is a huge-flowered, many-petalled variety.

It is unusual in that it often produces two flowers from a single stem.

Galanthus nivalis Virescens

is a real eye-catcher. The amount of green on its petals and white-edged, dark green inner petals are quite distinctive.

Galanthus nivalis Boyds Double

is surely the strangest snowdrop of them all. With erect, not drooping, blooms, its narrow twisting petals are green and resemble Medusas flaying head of snakes. There is nothing to even hint, to the uninitiated, that it belongs to the genus Galanthus, but perhaps that

is just the attraction for the

ever increasing numbers of snowdrops fanatics.

Galanthus Peg Sharples

is a well-marked, large snowdrop first raised by an enthusiast of that name in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, in the 1960s.

Galanthus Wonston Double (above) is a beautifully-marked variety with complex, lacy inner rosettes edged with green.

Galanthus Ermine House (left) is a distinct snowdrop with petals that rise to the horizontal, giving the appearance of

helicopter rotor blades.

Galanthus Daphnes Scissors

is easily recognised by its distinct inner petal marking which mimic a pair of scissors.

Galanthus Windmill is one

of the bizarre tribe and looks rather like a worn-out,

striped shaving brush.