Snowdrops and Snowflakes – Bulbs for the Australian Garden
Snowdrops and Snowflakes are both very desirable bulbs for the garden, they do however grow in different conditions, and amongst the two groups we have lots of different species, varieties and improved cultivars. Marcus Harvey from Hillview Rare plants provides us with a great rundown on the difference between the two, Snowdrops and Snowflakes and we learn about growing conditions.
There has always been much confusion in Australia about the differences between snowdrops and their dry garden counterparts, the snowflakes, and many a plant of the latter has stood in as a changeling for the much sought after “Drop”.
Snowflakes are commonly represented by Leucojum aestivum, which bears clusters of bone-white, hanging bells on tall stems above clumps of strappy green leaves in spring. Nearly all the rest of the tribe have been split off into another genus now called, Acis, and these are much more refined plants. They have the added advantage of being warm and dry climate tolerant so gardeners in drier parts of Southern and Western Australia can enjoy them without having to waste water.
A few of the best of this group are the sugar-pink, spring flowering, A. trichopylla, and the two autumn flowering species, ( see image supplied by Fermi de Sousa) A. tingitana and A. valentina, both bearing clusters of large, milk-white bells on arching stems. Viv Condon has supplied the picture – right
The true snowdrops are from the genus known as Galanthus, which is from Greek meaning Milk Flower. This is a small genus but is much sought after because of their early to mid-winter flowering period making them wonderful companions for hellebores and the early bulbs, like crocus and cyclamen. The flowers are large, teardrop-shaped and basically white, variously marked in green but there is a great interest in the double-flowered and novelty forms.
The most commonly sought out is the English snowdrop, G. nivalis, the Turkish snowdrop, G. elwesii and the Crimean snowdrop, G. woronowii. There are also autumn-flowering species, G. reginae-olgae and G. peshmenii.
Many Australian gardeners will be familiar with these in the better quality English garden magazines but they won’t find them in their local garden centres. These are best sought out inside the catalogue covers of some of the specialist mail-order bulb nurseries, and leading among these is Marcus Harvey’s Hill View Rare Plants which lists 18 species and forms, including doubles, in their latest catalogue.
Snowflakes (Acis and leucojum) are easily grown and are risk-free, bone hardy bulbs for beginners or collectors. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are better in cooler climes of Tasmania, South Australia, southern WA and NSW and in the Blue Mountains and Central Tablelands. They require more shade and moisture during their growing period, which is essentially from early winter to late spring. Both tribes will spread by division and build into drifts in the garden and require minimal maintenance, except for an occasional lifting and separation of the bulbs.
Text and photographs supplied by Marcus Harvey of Hillview Rare Plants
Snowflake and Snowdrop Bulbs
A huge range of Snowdrops (Galanthus) as well as Snowflakes including Acis tingitana (syn. Leucojum tingitanum), Acis trichopylla (syn. Leucojum tricophyllum) and Acis valentina are available online.