Jim McKenney
Wed, 21 Jan 2004 08:37:50 PST
When Diane Whitehead writes that snowdrops have not been hybridized, surely
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 old,
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)?

On a much smaller scale I have had just such an experience close to home.
Years ago some friends acquired a rural property which had been in the same
family for decades. One of the former residents had a keen interest in
gardening, and had planted snowdrops in abundance. I saw them in bloom on
at least two occasions, and there must have been thousands of them. And I
spotted one unlike any snowdrop I had ever seen; it seemed to be a
nivalis-elwesii hybrid and definitely stood out from the crowd. It was
great to have that experience, the experience of having "discovered"
something which no one else had apparently noticed. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County , Maryland, zone 7, where the few snowdrops up are more
like icedrops today. 

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