John Grimshaw
Wed, 21 Jan 2004 10:17:17 PST
I have just joined the pbs-list and the first message I've seen is that from
Jim McKenney about snowdrops. To address some of his points:

Very few snowdrops have been deliberately bred and selected; most are
findlings, and this is why people are so proud to have a 'new' snowdrop, and
only too frequently name it without any form of critical analysis. Many such
findlings are excellent, distinct plants, but they should be properly
assessed in gardens before being named.

Snowdrops have been collected from the wild in huge numbers for over a
century, mostly G. elwesii from Turkey, now also G. woronowii from Georgia.
The trade is controlled by CITES legislation, but the quota is still
remarkably large. They were planted in huge numbers, but relatively few
survived. What one usually finds is mixed populations of hybrids with G.
plicatus and G. nivalis, often in graveyards and the rougher parts of old
estate gardens, where snowdrops can survive. There are many such places in
the UK, as Jim rightly speculates. One such is illustrated in our book
'Snowdrops' as the end-piece picture.

The Giant Snowdrop Company was run by Brigadier and Mrs Mathias from their
home at Hyde Lodge at Chalford, Gloucestershire. It was formerly the home
ofv Walter Butt, of Iris unguicularis fame. He undoubtedly obtained some
bulbs from the Elwes collection here at Colesbourne; we know he bought the
last few bulbs of G. 'Colesborne' after Elwes' death in 1922, and he must
have got 'S. Arnott' which the Giant Snowdrop Co. popularized, from here as

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Gardens Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim McKenney" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 4:37 PM
Subject: [pbs] Galanthus

> When Diane Whitehead writes that snowdrops have not been hybridized,
> what she means is that snowdrops are not being extensively hybridized by
> humans. But what about hybridizing by bees and other pollinating agents?
> Before I read her comments, I had been thinking about the British
> enthusiasm for snowdrops and the continual discovery of new garden forms.
> And I'll bet she's right that most have been discovered and are not the
> result of deliberate hybridizing.
> I had been thinking about it in this context: I've read that during the
> nineteenth and  early twentieth  century those active in the international
> trade for wild collected snowdrops quoted prices in lots as large as
> 100,000 - and apparently found buyers among the owners of large estates.
> Many of those estates are now probably housing developments or have been
> developed in some other way.
> But what a wonderful experience it must be to wander such old estates and
> see naturalized snowdrop plantings now seventy-five to a hundred years
> plantings made up of varied species which have no doubt mingled over the
> years. Am I dreaming? Do such places still exist?
> Does anyone out there remember The Giant Snowdrop Company - wasn't it
> started with snowdrops naturalized on Henry Elwes place, Colesbourne (have
> I got the name right)?
> >

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