Monday, 22 February 2010

The pimilico snowdrop thief

This is not some rare, undiscovered snowdrop bulb. If it were, it might change hands for £20 or more; some galanthophiles might even resort to theft and deception to have it in their possession. But plant addiction is a curious condition with many and varied symptoms. My own obsession manifested itself most recently by being strangely drawn to this gnarled and woody corm in a roomful of delicate flowers.
I went to the first RHS Show of the year, at the fantastically Art Deco Horticultural Halls. After a day of particularly vile, wintry rain, it was truly delightful to walk into a room full of snowdrops and other early flowering plants, just faintly scented with their collective perfume and buzzing with plantaholics.
Next to some rare snowdrops a collection of arisaema corms nestled. These wonderfully sculptural, ugly-beautiful plants-to-be are so full of promise. Like a horticultural frog prince, just waiting for a dusting of compost and water before transforming into a magically beautiful spathe.
I had to have one. I did restrain myself from buying the largest one, thanks to Gardens Illustrated's editor, Juliet Roberts pointing out that no-one else would ever be able to see what I saw in it once it was planted. In the end I opted  for A.consanguineum, that promises to deliver the most interesting foliage and a pin-striped flower.
I'm going to go out on a limb and sing the praise of the RHS London shows. Other esteemed garden bloggers (Arabella Sock, James A-S), have critiqued the show, not unjustifiably, for being a little lacklustre in parts. But the dull bits aside, there are fewer of these shows than there used to be and London would be poorer without them. They are an undiscovered urban gardener's treat, not least because at this time of year they bring a little slice of woodland and meadow to the heart of Pimlico. There should be queues around the block to get in, although part of the charm is that the shows are never unbearably crowded.
But bringing some of the country's best nurseries and growers right into the heart of town is something the RHS should be shouting from the rooftops. It's the best place to find plants that your nearest garden centre will never stock in a million years, and even better, you can talk directly to the grower and find out exactly how many degrees below zero the plant you are coveting has actually been able to withstand this winter.
Then there's the It's-a-knockout-style challenge of getting your plants home in one piece on the rush hour tube journey. My Elwesii snowdrops looked a teensy bit droopy and my hellebore a bit battered by the time they reached my garden. But my beautiful corm was still perfectly intact.


  1. hurrah for corms! i look forward to hearing how it flourishes

  2. hear hear re the London shows - I love them, just can't get to them often enough.

    I've just been researching a story about galanthophiles - did you know snowdrop bulbs are going for £162 each on Ebay this year?! And that's not as much as they were hitting a couple of years ago - £265 is the current record. I mean, I like snowdrops, but....

    the story is here: :D

  3. Wow Constant, I had no idea snowdrops were reaching quite such outrageous prices. How fascinating that such a relatively humble plant exerts such power... look forward to reading your piece.