Galanthomania in the US

Lee Poulsen
Sat, 25 Feb 2012 21:48:03 PST
Since Galanthus isn't really grown down here in southern California, stories about Galanthomania are interesting to read about, but always seemed a little farfetched until I witnessed what has happened in the world of Clivias (pricewise) in the last decade or so.

I have seen the typical orange Clivia miniata growing with little to no care in yards and urban landscapes all over southern Calif., and in fact, as long as they receive summer watering, they will "naturalize" in almost any shady location. At some point in the mid-90s I heard that there were yellow flowered Clivias, but had never seen any except in photos. I finally found some for sale at a handful of obscure mail order nurseries but at exorbitant prices (US$ 700-900 per plant). One of the founding members of PBS, Cathy Craig, was also interested in getting her hands on one, but not at that price! One day she got in touch with me to tell me that a mutual friend, Harold Koopowitz, had found a source (a Mr. Nakamura) who was offering seeds of the yellow-flowered variety, in Japan. (He had produced a number of his yellow varieties starting with a clone of a yellow that Peter Smithers had discovered in England.) But the seeds were (what I thought at the time) expensive! They were $2 per seed for "common" yellow-flowered cultivars and $3 and even $4 per seed for some very rare crosses. I didn't know anything about any of this, but 2 or 3 dollars was a whole lot cheaper than 700 or 800 dollars. So I joined in the order for a number of crosses. When the first one finally bloomed a number of years later, I was so excited. But a couple of years later I saw a few yellow ones offered at a local high-end nursery for $100 per plant. Much cheaper (but still a lot more than $2). About this same time I was introduced to the small but growing world of Clivia enthusiasts worldwide, as well as an organization of enthusiasts, and got to go visit one of the first hybridizers with an amazing collection here in Calif. My eyes just about popped out at seeing other shades of colors such as peach/apricot ones, deep red ones, brownish-red ones, all kinds of variegated leaves, etc.

Since then, many different colors and combinations of colors and variegations and sizes have appeared. And prices have skyrocketed. Jim asks if we Americans would pay $20 or $50 dollars for a Galanthus bulb. I wouldn't. But I have spent $40 for a yellow-flowered Clivia clone once, and a few years later I spent $40 for a peach-flowered clone when a new cultivar of this color appeared in the U.S. for the first time. (And I'm glad I did; that variety can easily cost $200 these days.) Now, I regularly see Clivia plants go for $200 or $300 or $400 dollars on eBay or at fundraiser auctions for Clivia organizations. And really desirable clones easily sell for even more, like $800. A few years ago, a true green-flowered clone sold for way more than that. And the seeds have gotten really expensive lately, too. And yet they sell. The most desirable clones and crosses from the best cultivars and breeders are regularly offered for $20 or $25 per seed! I've seen some special Chinese cultivar seeds offered for up to $50 per seed. And people buy them! To me this all seems crazy, especially since this amount of inflation has occurred in a little over 10 years. 

So I'm not surprised about the prices paid for desirable Galanthus clones. I just wouldn't pay it myself. Same goes for bulbs of rare or desirable Hippeastrum or Crinum species or cultivars. The only time I was tempted to pay more than $50 for a plant of any kind was for a mature flowering-sized Worsleya bulb. But those are much harder to grow than Clivia or Galanthus (or Hippeastrum or Crinum), but the flowers are as amazing or possibly more so than those of the latter--IMHO!

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USA - USDA Zone 10a
Latitude 34°N, Altitude 1150 ft/350 m

On Feb 25, 2012, at 8:14 AM, James Waddick wrote:

> This Galanthomania has resulted in record 
> breaking sales of single bulbs of special cvs (A 
> single bulb of G. woronowii 'Elizabeth Harrison' 
> sold at auction for a record £725.10 or 
> US$1,145.06 !!). 

> 	I personally did not think there was a 
> market in the US for single Galanthus cv bulbs 
> for $40 or 50. I made an informal survey of a 
> half dozen friends who I knew were at least 
> vaguely interested in the genus and aware of UK 
> fervor.  I was very surprised at the interest 
> and heard of some US nurseries selling bulbs for 
> the $50 to $100 each range and selling out very 
> fast. 

> 	What do PBS members (Especially those in 
> the US)  think of this whole thing?
> 	Do any of you buy $20, $50 Galanthus bulbs?

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