Snowdrop Struck

Snowdrops
At left, a common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'). At right, a giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii). Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
Snowdrops (Galanthus species) are in bloom all over the Garden this month, and to the uninitiated, these lovely little white blossoms all look pretty much the same. Galanthophiles know better. The rabid fans of the genus revel in the variations between different forms, obsessively collecting them and sometimes paying hundreds of dollars for a single bulb. In the UK and Ireland, the snowdrop craze has reached an intensity that was once reserved for tulips and orchids, says Anne O’Neill, curator of BBG’s Shakespeare and Fragrance Gardens, who recently attended a sold-out snowdrop conference in Ireland. The BBC, in a recent feature on the snowdrop frenzy, attributes their appeal to the fact that their early bloom time allows them to be appreciated without the distraction of other flowers.

There are at least six different cultivars and forms of Galanthus species in the Shakespeare Garden, including those pictured above. You don’t have to be a galanthophile to notice the subtle variations between them. Take some time, look closely, and observe the myriad small ways in which they differ.

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