Monday, 14 February 2011

Love is Galanthophilia

It's in the air along with the delicate scent of honey as the Galanthus "Brenda Troyle" winter flowering snowdrop bulbs begin to bloom.  When the winter rays break through our dark thick veil of clouds the little pearl drop pendant flowers begin to open. Single green heart shaped markings are then revealed on the inner petals.  Surely Spring can't be that far away now? 

Love is ............... Galanthophilia!
The little pot of snowdrops are a present from my friend J - the plant explorer.  A few weeks ago he was telling me about one of his trips many years ago to the border region of Turkey and Iran to photograph snowdrops and I just happened to say that I would like to start a little collection so maybe this is the start of Galanthophilia for me!  

Galanthus Brenda Troyle
For now the little pot is sitting on my kitchen window sill where I can enjoy the little winter blooms and delicious scent of honey.  There are 2 snowdrops in the little pot though they didn't cost £357 per bulb that a rare Galanthus plicatus EA Bowles sold for on ebay.  These ones seem to be around £4.50 each plus p+p on the internet though my little pot of Brenda Troyle came from a scottish garden and is another one of my UK Garden Worthy Natives. 

This year the National Trust is tagging their snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire to prevent them from being snatched and then sold on as it is illegal in the UK to collect them from the wild.

Planting Snowdrops in containers in the soil

Many times I pierce bulbs with my garden trowel or fork by accident so this time I'm going to be alot more careful with the planting.   I have some old aquatic mesh pots in the garage and once the bulbs finish flowering I'm going to replant them in one of these  with John Innes No 3 compost (they are hungry little plants) and then plant the whole container in the soil  in a shady spot under a shrub. The roots from the bulbs will still be able to grow through the mesh in the pot to obtain moisture and lots of nutrients plus it's added protection from my trowel.  Once in the ground J. told me that they will multiply reasonably quickly and will flower when the bulbs are still quite small young.

Root Damage

Did you know that the old roots of the little snowdrops are very very sensitive to damage and loss of those roots due to transplanting can affect the flowering in subsequent years.  I have always thought that planting snowdrops in the green was best but over at they say otherwise and that it takes the bulb a whole year to recover before it starts to grow strongly again.  They suggest lifting them in their dormant stage which is in the UK between June and late September.

Pests and Diseases

Snowdrop bulbs are relatively pest free with deer, rabbits and mice not eating them due to the poisonous alkaloids in the leaves and bulbs which probably explains why we have so many drifts of them in the wild around Perthshire. There is one pest  this year I'm going to be on the look out for and that's the Narcissus fly or Greater Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris).  It looks just like a hover fly and is a bumblebee mimic.  In the spring time the adults can be seen feeding on the nectar of dandelions along with other spring flowers.   Even though this fly is most commonly associated as being a pest with daffodil bulbs it has been discovered that snowdrop bulbs can be affected as well.
Merodon equestris
{wiki commons  photo 1 and 2}

These photos below from my own garden were taken in May 2011 of the Greater Bulb Fly. 

Merodon equestris Greater Bulb Fly

Greater Bulb Fly

As the leaves of the snowdrops are dying down a chemical is released which attracts the flies.  The  little tunnel that has been left in the soil where the green shoot pushed its way earlier to the surface of the soil is where this fly lays its eggs just at the leaf base of the withering leaves.  Once the larvae hatch they burrow into the bulb and start to feed on it over the course of a few months before they leave to pupate in the soil.

How to protect the snowdrop bulbs

The best organic advice I've been given is to rake over the snowdrop bulbs as the leaves are dying down so that the soil fills in around that little tunnel and prevents access to the bulb and to plant them in a shady spot as the snowdrop bulbs in a sunny spot are more susceptible to attack.

sunrise refraction
 sunrise captured in a little ice drop

So if some of your clumps of snowdrop bulbs are not flowering well or have totally disappeared from a particular area of your garden maybe the snowdrops have been attacked by this fly.

Nature's Calendar 

Hopefully by the end of this week the snowdrops outside in the garden will be flowering.  This year they are about 10-14 days late in flowering compared to last year but this year it has been an exceptional winter.  We said that last year too thinking it couldn't get any worse but it did!. We had a Snow.......... drop visit of another kind this week leaving my husband with about 3 inches to shovel again off the paths and driveway.
snow blizzard along Perth lade
snow.........drop (1 hour into the 4 hour blizzard)

Shall we have a Snowdrop Waltz today?  I am glad to say that today the Galanthus nivalis "Flore Pleno” snowdrops finally made their “debutante” appearance in the leavesnbloom garden.  They may look shy with their nodding heads awaiting their pollinator “beau” .  But underneath those outer scalloped petals that look like a silk organza ballgown are cascades of ruffles like a crinoline petticoat.  
Galanthus nivalis "Flore Pleno” snowdrops Scottish Native wildflowers
Galanthus nivalis "Flore Pleno” snowdrops - UK Garden Worthy Natives
The snowdrops sure know how to entice with their subtle scent of honey once the sun starts shining and with their alternating stripes of green  to which any pollinator “beau” sees as  a glow of ultraviolet  and irresistible.

Galanthus nivalis "Flore Pleno” snowdrop double blooms
double blooms

Let the dancing begin!

Along the Lade

Galanthus nivalis
little Galanthus nivalis awaking from their winter slumber 10th Feb 2011

It's a little warmer along by the lade and by Thursday the wild ones were glinting in the winter sunshine.

Galanthus nivalis
 local wild snowdrops growing at the side of the road

Love is.......... 

As I mentioned at the begining of the post - love is in the air and as it's Valentines day I'll leave you with another little heart from my garden.....................

 Cercis canadensis forest pansy leaf
 Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' leaf

Interested in this topic? You might enjoy another article that I’ve written called 
Thanks for stopping by today and I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section.

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Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer.  She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.

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Hi Rosie,
thank you for helping with my ever increasing 'White Fever'. I so wish we had someone in canada that could supply us with some of these amazing snowdrops. I will be interested to see how your collection increases.

Hi Rosie,
Such a fresh and delicate flower! I enjoyed this post and learning about Snowdrops a lot. I liked the quotes etc that you used.

Rosie, such an informative post, I had to look twice at the price of that rare Snowdrop. We just have the common old Nivalis in the garden which are just starting to show the white of the flower. Now, you really have got my attention here as like yourself I have always been instructed to plant whilst in the green. I think that I may take some convincing.

Good Morning Rosie, Liked your post, We are still about 6 weeks away from any spring bulbs to come up. 2 feet of snow still on the ground.

Have a wonderful day,

Dear Rosie, Love is indeed a Snowdrop Such seemingly fragile yet tough little plants, they are the harbingers of spring. Your posting was most interesting with many facts that I did not know until now. It is so sad that thieves are threatening Snowdrop collections across the UK. What is the world coming to?

I am so pleased to find a posting from you and hope that you are enjoying Valentine's Day!

Now be careful Rosie - this could be the start of a most expensive addiction says she who has a small collection of named snowdrops :) I enjoyed your post and the poem too.

I love snow drops but I don't think they would grow here in California. They are such a brave little flower - always the first to bloom and break the spell of winter.

If I even see them here for sale I will try them but I'd imagine they'd need chilled...

Awwwwww, I'm feelin' the love over here!!! I just adore the little snow drop flowers and your post was most informative!

God bless and have a marvelous Valentine's day!!!

Rosie: Although we can not grow snowdrop here in Florida, I envy yours so much! I will continue admire yours from far. Love, love that last picture and the quote goes with it. That is a very artistic photo shot! Happy Valentine's Day!

Rosie, I don't have any Snowdrops in the house I am in now, but I had them at my old old house. I do need to plant some at this house.


Rosie, this was a wonderful post full of good information. You images were really nicely done and the gate in the snow looked like a painting taken from that angle.

Rosie, your post is beautiful and the poems delightful. I don't grow Snowdrops, but instead we grow Summer Snowflake (leucojum) because it's happier in our Southern zone. gail

Hi Rosie, i really noticed your posts have been far apart these days, as you said in my site, that's because you ran out of materials to post because of the snowy surroundings. Now i thank you for the snowdrops. I am sure you somehow read somewhere in my comments that they are my favorite, the moment i saw them the first time, in the mountains of Turkey in natural habitat during their Snowdrop festival. Maybe in my previous lifetime i am in the vicinity of snowdrops, haha. I just read about them when i returned to my country, and with the help of the blogs i am always informed. Lastly, how are you now?

Hi Rosie, what a lovely and informative post. I am fascinated by the advice about moving snowdrops in the dormant season rather than "in the green". Cost means we have only planted bulbs, with mixed success, and I am now wondering if Narcissus fly might be the culprit. I shall be on the look-out.

Thanks for the link to the alternative transplanting advice. For the past couple years, I've been transplanting some of my snowdrops in the green. I'll wait this year until summer to do it. I keep finding bulbs pushed up out of the soil in summer, so I tend to credit that advice.
I love your image of the sunrise ice drop.

Hi Rosie, they are just the sweetest bloom, aren't they?
I look forward each winter/spring to see them dancing in the breeze.......

Hi Rosie...although I'm not familiar with many blooms from cold climes, your post was most informative. As for your photography...absolutely stunning!! And I love the way you've incorporated words on the images. Lovely poem and quote! I hope spring comes your way soon!!

Beautiful Rosie! I love your snowdrops, but you know, I don't ever recall having seen one when I lived in the UK. We bluebells running amok in our garden, but I honestly don't think I've seen a wild snowdrop. I do love seeing them popping up on garden blogs in spring. We don't have any here, so I have to get my snowdrop fix virtually. Galanthophilia sounds like a wonderful affliction to have! ;)

Galanthophilia - what a wonderful word! I suffer from it too but have found it very difficult to grow snowdrops in my garden. I have two flowers for the first time ever and was pleased! I've always assumed the problem was slugs but now I wonder if it's this fly. I doubt I would be able to distinguish is from a bee - especially since I came to realise there are many versions but I don't know what they all look like. When the flowers die down, I will take your advice about raking soil over the plant - and hope for more next year. One has to wait for such a long time to see results!


Rosie, such exquisite bloom with your superb photography!

Rosie-I didn't realize that snowdrops could be so exclusive and expensive! I don't have much luck with them . I suspect my garden is too dry. Hopefully all that nasty snow is gone by now and your garden is white with snowdrops instead:)

I love snowdrops, Rosie, and the ones in my herb garden have just put forth their foliage. We don't get snow here in Southern California though, and it's nice to see them in their natural element in your winter garden. Just beautiful!

I have always admire this flower at my neighbours. Never tried planting it myself as I don't have much experience growing things from bulb. You capture the snowdrops so lovely.

They are all in bloom here on the West Coast of Canada. Now, I thought I read somewhere that it was bad luck to bring cut Snowdrops inside - do you think that's true? Great post!!

Lovely snowdrop Rosie! I have to confess though that I left your post for a while to try and find out who Brenda Troyle is/was. I hope the snow did not affect your snowdrop because I am looking forward to your posts about their blooming. -- Bom

This post on the snow drop (and the ice drop) is just beautiful!I will be watching for those flies!