Galanthus, in the green
Thu, 23 Dec 2010 05:25:11 PST
Generally speaking, within Europe the majority of commercially grown Snow Drops and their close kindred are shipped soon after flowering. I suspect that due to the high levels of general gardening ignorance about the care of geophytes generally, at least in northern Europe, the survival rates for these types of bulbs which are in the main intended for moderate to mass plantings [all things are relevant] and also naturalising in grassland and woodland margins is MUCH HIGHER compared to those supplied packed dry via the Gardening shops, supermarkets and via Mail Order, indeed in some parts of lowland Scotland and England Galanthus do very well under broad leaf tree species such as Birch, Oak, Ash but not Beech nor indeed conifers such as the Picea genus and do well flowering from late Autumn onwards, species dependent, with the greatest numbers by far in the central and northern European Spring.

Part of the background to this trade was the wholesale destruction through over exploitation of Galanthus and other small geophytes harvested most often in Turkey or the former Communist East European countries around the Black Sea and shipped from there to the Dutch dealers. The serious damages done by many of these mainly Dutch companies led to a major outcry across most of Europe, this in turn led some of the more enlightened companies, Dutch and English, to encourage Turkish farmers themselves to crop them under sustainable agricultural methods back in Turkey. Due to the very expensive cost of land in the Netherlands it was really only the English and a few Scottish grower / suppliers who could afford to operate a similar cropping production ex situ.

What many people who are very fond of Snow Drops = Galanthophiles and other related bulbs are usually unaware of is that the damage done post WW2 by the Dutch in the main through devastating the natural Turkish distributions of the main taxa of interest is that they are now as a result often listed as IUCN Red Data Book rare and endangered species. This is a classic example of how horticulture can and does, when well directed, achieve positive contributions to conservation by removing unsustainable collecting pressures on wild populations and co-incidentally it has also significantly helped lift poor rural communities out from quite often levels of dire poverty by providing a sustainable extra high value crop. The extra bonus for these communities is that much of this business is often, at farm level, operated by women and dare one say too, their children. Snowdrops and other Galanthus taxa when sold 'dry' in packaging through retail outlets invariably have the packaging stating "Supplied / Grown from sustainable sources", printed on them with often a greater level of truth than found in respect of the marketing of tropical hardwoods!

In conclusion, now that I have reduced everyone to tears of boredom; with respect to bulbs of Lilium traded in Europe, I am not familiar with what is done in North America, the horrendous abuse of lily bulbs by the wholesale marketing companies, guess where they are mostly based, leads to enormously high losses by the ordinary trusting gardeners who end up buying these unjacketed bulbs whose treatment is exactly the same as that for the 'jacketed' genera such as Tulipa, Narcissus, etc, where the roots are paired back to the basal plate, sometimes even dug out further in an effort to cut out grey mould prior to shipment. Worse still is that the vast majority of these bulbs are marketed to the unsuspecting, along with the Tulips, in the Spring when anyone with any modicum of experience with Lilium knows onset of new root growth takes place in the early to late Autumn, species dependent, therefore the very roots being produced for the next year's growth are excised. Assuming the Spring shipped lily bulbs survive, high percentages do not, they may well flower that first year because the flower bud is usually initiated in the Autumn however because they use up their resources to grow and flower many are too exhausted to survive another winter.

Here endeth, with profound apologies, the pre-Christmas rant.

Best wishes to all bulb lovers and their invariably long suffering families.  Have a Happy Christmas and New Year.  I leave you with a positive note, we are post 21st December now entering the period of lengthening days, back aches and dirty fingernails, Hallelujah from - 26 C northern Scotland where the tractor diesel is frozen.


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