A snowdrop is a snowdrop is a snowdrop. Or is it?


According to Anna Pavord, there are as many as 150 different
kinds of snowdrops. I’ll take her word. She only includes 14 or so in her new
book, Bulb, and admits that to ordinary gardeners (like me) the differences
between the various types are minimal at best.

Indeed. Until a couple years ago, I didn’t realize there was more than one variety. I
had always liked them, and the small row by the front of our house was the
first thing I noticed when we moved in ten years ago. But, for various reasons,
we had to pave over this area and they never revived. I ordered a bag of bulbs
to plant in a new area, and didn’t even pay attention to whatever came after
“galanthus” in the name. (It was likely elwesii.) The next year, I noticed the nivalis
“Flore Pleno” doubles and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Tulips are another matter. I am capable of poring over the
tulip pages in a bulb catalog for days, circling and crossing out different
varieties, agonizing for hours over which two Single Lates to pair in the front
beds, and carefully figuring out which of the species types I still lack.

Obviously, I don't have the delicate sensibilities of the true
snowdrop connoisseur. I can’t get as excited as I should about the various
types of green markings or lack thereof. To my eye, the basic shape and petal configuration
of a snowdrop just doesn’t change all that much from variety to variety—we won’t
talk about the color.

So the experts can have their 149 varieties. I’m sticking
with the Flore Pleno (top). From above, these look like any other snowdrop—first there's the fat white pendant, then the three long petals unfold. You can
see hints of what’s inside, but the best thing to do with these is take a few
inside and place them in a small vase on a tall shelf, as I have done. There, in warmth, without pain to back or knees—and in happy ignorance of all the more interesting varieties I should have—I can admire them to my heart's content.

Count this as a Rant contribution to the March GBBD—just a day late to the snowdrop party going on throughout the Northeast.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. 150? Some collectors have over 300 named varieties! And I’m told two varieties have sold on eBay this season for over £200 (over $300) – that’s per bulb!

    At one time I got up to 30 different ones, but that was enough… more than enough. I began to come over all woozy trying to identify more.

    Here in PA they’re not out yet…

  2. I would love to collect more varities of snowdrops, but they are very hard to find in Canada. I wonder why they are not more popular there, is it because they are white, and after the snow, most people are really tired of white?
    I would even go for huge, huge quanities, like they have in the UK with the snowdrop walks, but good luck finding them “in the green”.

  3. Haha. I got halfway through the second paragraph before I realized that we were talking about a plant and not frozen bits of H2O. Doesn’t help that my feed reader nixed the image, causing me to pass it over without giving it much notice once I got to the site to finish reading the post.

    It’s good to know that you don’t keep your snow in rows. 😀

    And I can’t imagine $300 for a single bulb… even if I could eat it, it wouldn’t be worth that price.

  4. Ah well Elizabeth. I almost don’t dare admit it, but to me, all tulips look alike. Sure, they have different colors, but they look like — tulips. Pretty, though ;-> Happy bloom day!

  5. Now we have Snowdropomania? I am with you Eliz and will settle for the basics although next year I am determined to have vast quantities in bloom. If the back and the pocketbook hold out that is.

  6. Snowdrops are one of the only things I don’t enjoy more as a double. Give me a single anyday, “Flore Pleno” just looks a mess.

  7. I have a few snowdrops down in the orchard, but inspired by Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening I am going to plant some in front of the house this fall and then I really will get bloom early in the spring. right now the orchard is still covered with snow.

  8. My snowdrops started blooming about the time the crocuses did this year, so they have been virtually ignored! They almost look out of place blooming in the bright sun with no snow on the ground.

  9. Love my snowdrops. I too don’t care for the doubles, or the giant ones. I was out admiring the ones I have. I love it when one pops up in some new unexpected place. Either the squirrls, or scooped up inadvertantly when transplanting something else. Never can have enough. Each fall I try to order a batch to plop in somewhere different.

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