Thursday, 17 February 2011

The scent of spring

Daffs are appearing, crocuses too. But the snowdrop is king right now. It was snowdrop weekend at the Chelsea Physic Garden. I went with my sister who was unable to persuade her 6 and 8 year old boys that it would be as much fun as kicking a football around the park. I love seeing my nephews but it was probably just as well as there were over 50 varieties in flower to play spot the difference with - not great entertainment for the uninitiated, let alone small boys.
I admire galanthophiles for their sharp eyes.  I reckon I can now tell the difference between Galanthus elwesii (broader, slightly glaucus green leaves) and nivalis (tight clumps of narrow, grasslike leaves). But the subtle differences that the fanatics look for are all in the green markings on the nodding white heads. Can someone tell me why 'S. Arnott' is only £4.50 a pot and 'Alison Hilary' is £20? No wonder someone called their cultivar 'Nothing Special'.
Still they are all undeniably charming and heart-warming on a bright, crisp February afternoon. But the snowdrops weren't the only signs of spring out: buttery bright yellow winter aconites, Iris reticulata in shades of blue and purple and this gorgeous Iris ungularicus that seemed so bold and summery.

And of course, those winter scents filled the air. The best of these and new to me was the gorgeous Stachyurus praecox. Sweet scented and delicate curtain-like flowers. Smells like spring to me.

Meanwhile, it was the RHS show on Tuesday. Inevitably, more snowdrops and daffodils were out in force. But the hepatica was the star for me.


  1. I'm going to have to try growing hepaticas. I have slightly acidic soil, but apparently this will be OK if the soil is moist and hummous-rich. But which ones! I'm with you on Galanthophiles, they must develop very sore knees constantly grovelling to inspect the details of the markings. I prefer to just admire large drifts in woodland.

  2. Missed you again! Did you get a gorgeous whiff of the Sarcococca in Lindley Hall?

    I went on a snowdrop training day in the Cotswolds on Saturday - great for understanding what all the different types are, but the massed plantings in the iron age ditch stole the show for me.

  3. Plantaliscious, when you're ready to choose, it was Ashwood Nurseries with the hepatica display:

    VP - next time, we must organise a meet! Snowdrop training sounds quite serious - it's counjuring up images of a whole panoply of specialist snowdrop spotting gear. I'm assuming that magnifying glasses were required?