Snowdrop question

John Grimshaw
Mon, 20 Dec 2010 14:09:18 PST
Jim McKenney wrote (>):
>Can anyone update us on current usage among galanthomanes?

>There is also a photo of the cultivar 'Godfrey Owen' which shows (or rather
is said to have) six inner segments and six outer segments (i.e. double the
usual numbers of each).

'Godfrey Owen' is a very stable cultivar of Galanthus elwesii, consistently 
with a 6 x 6 arrangement.  A highly desirable, early-flowering but quite 
short plant.

>When we speak of "double snowdrops" we usually mean
those with multiplied inner segments.

This follows the normal horticultural convention of translating 'Flore 
Pleno', literally 'full-flowered', as double. Such flowers are of course 
seldom strictly doubled in their parts (as the arrangement in 'Godfrey Owen' 
is), but as the usage has been current for centuries it is inappropriate to 
quibble with it!

When two flowers appear on one scape in Galanthus it is described as 
twin-headed, though some people assume that this is what is meant by 

In Galanthospeak it is normal to refer to unusual numbers of segments (of a 
non-doubled flower) in a formulaic fashion, i.e. 4 x 4, 5 x 5, 6 x 6

> The term poculiform has been used to describe those with inners and outers 
> of about the same size.

This is correct, but it has traditionally been in use for those where the 
segments are effectively all 'outers', i.e. long and white, without green 
markings, as opposed to cultivars such as G. plicatus 'Trym' where all six 
segments are more or less equal, but are effectively 'inners'. Such 
morphology has no formal name, but such flowers are often described as 
'trymmed'. In recent years the concept of poculiform has had to be broadened 
to include selections in which the segments are evidently 'outers' but have 
green tips.

>Also, to those to whom I have promised snowdrops:  it isn't going to happen
anytime soon. We're frozen solid here. Look for them in bloom in the mail in
late winter.

I hope very much it doesn't happen until the bulbs are dormant, or nearly 
so. The myth of transplanting snowdrops 'in the green' is one of the most 
persistently damaging in horticulture: it is an absurd practice. A snowdrop 
dug up in full growth is inevitably damaged and set back: its broken roots 
do not regrow, and can seldom suport the leaf growth present. In consequence 
the plant goes dormant early and the bulb is much smaller than it would have 
been if it had been allowed to complete its growth cycle naturally. Snowdrop 
bulbs are as tolerant as almost any others of being lifted and moved in 
dormancy: they must only avoid being desiccated in fierce direct heat. A 
bulb lifted in a full, mature state will never know it has been moved and 
will flower as normal the following spring, which cannot often be said for a 
plant moved in the green.

Here at Colesbourne Park (where we have quite a lot of snowdrops) we ONLY 
move snowdrops in dormancy - I will not touch them while in active growth - 
and as I personally handle tens of thousands of bulbs in this way each year 
I can assure you that it works perfectly. I am glad to say that many other 
galanthophiles in England are also following this practice these days.

I cannot imagine any competent bulb grower lifting daffodils 'in the green' 
as a matter of course - or any other bulb for that matter - so why 

John Grimshaw

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Dr. John M. Grimshaw
Sycamore Cottage
GL53 9NP

Tel. 01242 870567

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