galanthophilia! a ardour for snowdrops, with david culp

DAVID CULP is a self-professed Galanthophile, a lover and passionate, longtime collector of snowdrops in all their varied incarnations. He’s additionally a bunch of the annual Galanthus Gala symposium, which occurs the primary weekend of March in Downingtown, PA, and just about on-line, too, for these of us who need to take part with out even leaving residence, as I did final 12 months, and can once more this time round.

David Culp, writer of “A 12 months at Brandywine Cottage,” and in addition of “The Layered Backyard” (affiliate hyperlinks), gardens on two acres in Downingtown, the place amongst many botanical treasures he grows greater than 200 cultivars of Galanthus or snowdrops, proof constructive that he’s certainly a real Galanthophile.

We talked about snowdrops: the best way to develop them, and multiply them, and in addition about his ardour for accumulating and extra.

Plus: Remark within the field close to the underside of the web page for an opportunity to win a duplicate of his ebook, “A 12 months at Brandywine Cottage.”

Learn alongside as you take heed to the Jan. 22, 2023 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant under. You’ll be able to subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

snowdrops, with david culp



Margaret Roach: Hello, Dave. How are you?

David Culp: Hello, Margaret. I’m superb [laughter].

Margaret: Madman. Madman. Sorry, it’s a madman alert [laughter]. You’ve received a variety of crops over there, kiddo.

David: Certainly. Yeah, I used to be chuckling. Sure, I’m a Galanthophile, proud to say. I let my geek flag wave excessive.

Margaret: Precisely. So, I don’t know what number of years it’s been occurring, the Galanthus Gala. So simply briefly, what’s it? And there’s some nice audio system this 12 months, as at all times, so inform us simply briefly what it’s.

David: Nicely, for 20 years, I might go over to England for the RHS winter present, to see hellebores and Galanthus. After which I had this nice epiphany that planes fly each methods throughout the Atlantic. Why can’t the Europeans and Brits come to us? And so I organized the Galanthus Gala in 2017. And as destiny would have it, it snowed that day, so we moved it to my assembly home in Downingtown, it’s a 250-year-old Quaker assembly home; I moved it to there, to their schoolhouse. We’ve had distributors and now we have audio system, and it’s grown and grown and grown.

I had an curiosity in Galanthus. It stemmed from my curiosity in hellebores, winter gardening specifically. Anybody can do a backyard in June. [Hellebores and snowdrops, below.]

Margaret: Sure [laughter].

David: But it surely takes one thing to do it in February and March. So I believed, effectively, we are able to do that if we simply take into consideration what crops are going to be blooming or hardy for us right here. I get it, we’re not England, however we are able to have very lovely winter gardens if we simply give it some thought. But it surely shouldn’t simply relaxation on one genera. As passionate as I’m about hellebores, I’m that keen about Galanthus. My hellebore mentor, Elizabeth Strangman, gave me a warning after I first picked up my few pots of Galanthus. She goes, “Oh, David, watch out. These are extremely addictive.” [Laughter.] And she or he was proper. She adopted with a little bit caveat, “And you’ve got sufficient addictions.”

Margaret: Yeah, precisely. Nicely, it occurs to one of the best of us. Though I’ve to say, I’ve managed to have a variety of crops, however not a variety of one genus of crops. I don’t know why that… why I largely escape that. Completely different folks have totally different psychological attachments or no matter. I’ve received a variety of totally different crops.

However anyway, so some Galanthus fundamentals. The place are they from? When do they bloom? I imply, what number of varieties are there anyway? I imply, how various a gaggle is it? I feel that I learn in your web site that the title Galanthus comes from the Greek phrases for… G-A-L-A for milk, and A-N-T-H-O-S for flower, milk flower, or it appears to be like like drops of milk and so forth. The place are they from?

David: They’re from… Let’s see, the Crimean area, or Northern Turkey-

Margaret: So, the Balkans and stuff?

David: The Balkans, all the way in which as much as Southern Europe. They’ve migrated. In the course of the Crimean battle, the British troopers would ship snowdrops again to England. They had been first recorded in, I feel, the 1500s, in Gerard’s Herball ebook, however they don’t seem to be native. They’ve since naturalized throughout Europe and England.

Margaret: O.Okay. And by way of… So once more, you’re type of mid-Atlantic, so that you’re in Pennsylvania, not removed from well-known Longwood Gardens and so forth. So, when did they bloom for you? You’ve gotten 200 or one thing varieties. What’s your bloom season, the vary of them?

David: You recognize Margaret, I prefer to take the problem cup [laughter]. So, my Galanthus began blooming in October. They bloom all over the winter, there are tons of blooming proper now, however we’re not in peak Galanthus season, thoughts you. They’re earlier this 12 months, thanks, not thanks, international warming.

Margaret: Sure.

David: Heaps blooming proper now. We’re going to have chilly climate this week, however they’ll take it. That’s one of many issues I like about them, is they’ll take the pains of winter and nonetheless carry on blooming.

In order that they go proper via the winter, all the way in which until April. And when folks form of child me and say “Galanthus,” and I simply cease and go, “What’s blooming in your backyard proper now?” That normally offers me pause, and I can say, “I’ve tons of of…” And I want chlorophyll within the wintertime. I don’t learn about you, however I want one thing inexperienced.

Margaret: Proper. So, there are both species or varieties for lots of various zones. I feel in your web site, once more, it says 2-9, however the candy spot is zones 4-7-ish or so, for these bulbs and…

David: Most likely. My mates up in northern New York, in colder areas, they most likely are rising plenty of Galanthus nivalis, that are highly regarded in Germany and northern Europe proper now. There’s a variety of breeding work being carried out there. So what I… I like nivalis, I develop a variety of them, they’ve naturalized right here in southeastern Pennsylvania, New York. They’re the one which’s naturalized essentially the most within the U.S.

I additionally just like the Galanthus elwesii, as a result of it’s a bigger flower and it blooms earlier. However then there’s an entire host of hybrids. There’s 4 totally different principally species that make up the genus Galanthus, however the bulk of my assortment is nivalis, gracilis, elwesii, the hybrids. However like every Galanthophile, the reality is, you’ve received to have all of them, and also you quickly study to work with what works with you, and go along with these explicit species.

Margaret: Proper. Proper. So, while you had been speaking about the way you’ve had some blooming since October, and there’ll be ones blooming via April, you don’t imply the identical precise flower, in fact. You imply this persevering with, this succession of this genus, since you’ve planted differing types, you have got this succession, this persevering with wave of them. And we gardeners who should not Galanthophiles but [laughter], we see them within the fall bulb catalogs, I imagine. That’s once they’re bought largely. Is that right?

David: That’s right. I purchase them typically once they’re dormant bulbs. I additionally purchase them within the inexperienced, which we do on the Gala, we promote them within the inexperienced. That’s an excellent time to plant them. The reality is, one of the best time to get them is when you will get your palms on them [laughter]. However on the gala, there’s plenty of totally different cultivars and species within the inexperienced.

They’re within the Amaryllidaceae household, and now individuals are glazing over. That’s necessary, although, as a result of with Amaryllidaceae you mechanically go: “deer-proof.” So, they’re deer-proof. The opposite factor in regards to the Amaryllis household is that they solely put roots out yearly. So in case you injury the roots while you’re transplanting them, they’ve misplaced the flexibility to take up that rather more vitamins. So, you’re protected once they’re dormant, however even higher in the event that they’re in a container and you purchase them within the inexperienced.

Did that confuse you?

Margaret: No, no. No, I get it. And after we say “within the inexperienced,” we imply that it’s up and rising, so to talk; it’s a transplant.

David: Yeah. Yeah.

Margaret: So, I’ve stated repeatedly that you’ve got tons of of varieties [laughter] in your backyard. Are you able to keep in mind all of the names with no cheat sheet in your hand? I imply, it should simply be staggering.

David: My backyard Brandywine Cottage, is… I used to not label something. The one factor I labeled in my backyard is my Galanthus assortment. I don’t know if I’ve risen to new heights or sunk to new lows. I do label my Galanthus, as a result of I’d be misplaced with out them.

An unlabeled Galanthus, in case you don’t know what it’s, is only a fairly Galanthus. And that’s O.Okay., however in case you’re a critical collector of something, whether or not or not it’s artwork glass, you bought to know the provenance of it.

Margaret: Sure. So, I have a look at the lists from collectors who promote them, or a few of the sources that Galanthophiles would store at, not your primary mail-order bulb catalog, mass-market bulb catalog, which has a couple of varieties. And I see some for $30, which I assume is for a bulb, and a few for near $500 for a bulb. So, a few of them are actually, actually, actually costly.

And so if I splurge on even a $30 bulb, if I splurge on one, what occurs? What’s that little creature doing? How lengthy does it… How does it multiply? Does it multiply solely underground? Do they self-sow? What’s their technique of turning into multiple in my backyard?

David: Nicely, each.

Margaret: O.Okay.

David: And I’ve confessed that I’ve paid perhaps manner an excessive amount of for a single bulb of Galanthus. It’s form of like Tulip Mania proper now. They fetch large costs from $1,400 right down to $30. And I supply simply primary elwesii within the pot, to the very costly ones at my desk, and on the Gala, you’ll see all of them value ranges. You purchase what you’re keen to gamble and plant within the floor.

And other people snicker and say, “You paid that a lot for a bulb?” And I stated, “Nicely, how’s your 401k carried out? My funding in that bulb normally doubles inside one 12 months.”

Margaret: Oh!

David: So, you possibly can count on that to most likely double inside a 12 months, perhaps two on the most. But when it’s broken, the roots are broken, it’d take one other 12 months for it to drag up its socks and bloom for you. But it surely reliably will increase very slowly, and makes a big clump.

It does self-seed. I’m afraid I’ll by no means have a extremely tidy backyard once more, as a result of I let my Galanthus go, hoping that they’ll seed round. And you’ll’t mulch… I don’t mulch, anyhow, I take advantage of leaf mildew on my backyard, however they are going to self-sow round, and also you get some attention-grabbing hybrids. When you have got this many cultivars intermingling and having wine and doing what in the midst of the evening [laughter], you’re going to have some attention-grabbing hybrids.

Margaret: In order that they’re not simply botanical Bitcoin, they’re additionally attractive creatures [laughter].

David: They’re.

Margaret: So, you’re recognized—and I discussed earlier within the introduction that considered one of your books that you simply’ve written known as “The Layered Backyard”—and so that you’re recognized design-wise as a proponent of the strategy of layering crops. Not simply sticking one factor right here and one factor there and so forth, and having this succession and complexity of magnificence within the backyard unfolding. How did Galanthus match into that technique? So, the place did they go and the place do they belong within the backyard?

David: Nicely, they begin the 12 months. That’s why now we have the Gala in March. It’s just like the kickoff of spring. As quickly as my backyard begins blooming with the Galanthus and the Crocus tommasinianus and the hellebores, it’s spring. I don’t go by the precise calendar. I let my backyard inform me what season it’s; I watch it. So, my backyard begins blooming right here in zone… I feel we’re nonetheless… Who is aware of? 6b or 7. Once more, the worldwide warming issue makes it exhausting. We haven’t had snow right here in Philadelphia in two years, we’re anticipating our first measurable snowfall tomorrow.

Margaret: Sure. I noticed that within the paper. Sure.

David: However they begin now, it’s a seasonal layer… To your level about accumulating, I form of staged my backyard: it’s Galanthus, hellebore time, then into Narcissus, then into tulip. There’s primary genera that goes all year long, so that you’re doing succession planting by genus, in addition to spatial layering. It’s timber, shrubs, floor layer, you’re planting all these layers within the backyard.

Margaret: Do Galanthus do higher with kind of gentle, or what are a few of the good niches inside the backyard, light-wise and different condition-wise, that they like?

David: Shade is most well-liked. You’ll be able to push them extra in the direction of full solar, you may need to give them a little bit little bit of shade within the summertime. A number of the species which are extra southerly of their distribution really like extra solar, I might say, like reginae-olgae, which is called after the queen of Greece. She wants extra solar, that one wants extra solar, as a result of it’s native to Greece.

Margaret: I see.

David: So I’ve them in full solar. What Galanthus have a tendency to not like is overly moist soils, like soggy soils. The one which’s most likely the extra tolerant of moisture-retentive—I’m saying tolerant, not -proof—is likely to be nivalis, however I might avoid overly moist, boggy soils with regards to Galanthus.

Margaret: I feel bulbs normally, and never all, however most, I really feel that manner, that they don’t need to be in a sump.

David: They don’t.

Margaret: Yeah. And if I had measurement group of one thing… The one ones I actually have are the 2 most acquainted that you simply talked about, and even right here in what was once zone 5b till the opposite day [laughter], once they introduced that it was 6a, with the unusually gentle winter we had till this week, they had been beginning to come up below the leaf litter, they had been beginning to push. And even neighbors had a pair flowers right here and there.

So, if I get a good-sized clump, and I need to say divide them and put some elsewhere, do I do it once they’re “within the inexperienced”? Do I do it once they’re up and working? Is there time?

David: I do. I’m a bit pragmatic. The optimum time is once they begin going dormant, when the leaves begin to yellow. However the reality is, Margaret, I do it once they’re within the full inexperienced, and I normally… Nicely, I’m at all times in a rush, so I’ll take a clump, perhaps a large clump, and I divide it in thirds. I divide it, depart one clump the place it was, I put two different clumps elsewhere.

Instantly, regardless of if it’s raining out, you need to water it in, to be sure that the soil has contact with the roots. That’s necessary. But it surely’s form of like insurance coverage, too. If one thing occurs to at least one clump, you continue to have two extra elsewhere. For those who simply have one clump that’s prized, and that clump for some motive disappears… I feel dividing not solely offers you extra for the backyard, but additionally serves as a form of insurance coverage, that you simply nonetheless have your prized bulbs obtainable.

Margaret: Proper. I used to be wanting via your checklist, you have got an inventory of ones that, as you stated, that they turned out to be funding, as a result of it’s also possible to promote some, as you get increasingly more and extra of sure ones.

And there have been some acquainted names, you simply talked about one which was named for a Greek queen or one thing, however I noticed that there was one that you simply suggest, and it wasn’t a super-expensive one. It’s known as Bertram Anderson. And it’s humorous, as a result of within the years that I’ve grown crops, I’ve had two different crops named for Bertram Anderson [laughter], a Pulmonaria and a Sedum. So, he should’ve been some nice gardener, Bertram Anderson.

David: Yeah. And what occurs, as soon as a snowdrop’s named after you, or an individual, anybody, that individual turns into an immortal. So, you’re immortal after there are snowdrops named after you. Bertram Anderson was a fantastic gardener. And I like the totally different names of snowdrops. That’s a part of the lure of snowdrops, of being a Galanthophile, who it’s named after, the backyard that it got here from, the provenance. That’s a part of the historical past. That’s necessary to me. [Above, Galanthus ‘Phil Cornish.’]

Margaret: Nicely, it was enjoyable, as I stated, wanting on the checklist. It’s like, ooh, I simply need to discover out who all these folks and all these locations that every one the varieties are named for, since you’d get this entire wealthy historical past by doing that, working backwards from that checklist of named cultivars of Galanthus. You’d get this entire historical past of our obsession with gardening over the centuries. I feel he was within the Cotswolds area, proper, Bertram Anderson?

David: That’s an enormous space of Galanthophiles. There’s a variety of them within the Cotswolds. They’re principally a two-hour… I hesitate to say that, as a result of they’re unfold in all places, however normally after I go over, it’s inside a two-hour push outdoors of London. However there are nice Galanthophiles in Eire. They’ve Galanthus exhibits and gross sales in Germany, in Belgium. I imply, it’s sweeping Europe proper now.

Margaret: Mm-hmm. So, in all of those varieties, what are simply… I do know it’s exhausting to… I really feel like I’ve to get down on the bottom and crawl round and look carefully at them, as a result of these should not up in your face form of, or it’s not as massive as a knee-high pink tulip or one thing. It’s a must to actually look carefully on the subtleties. However a few of them are extra frilly, like virtually double, I assume, the flowers, and a few have extra inexperienced edging. Are these the variations… What are you taking a look at as a collector so as to add to your collections?

David: Nicely, I don’t know of a genus that’s… One of many issues that appeals to me about snowdrops are their utter simplicity. However then once more, I don’t know of a genus that’s so extremely nuanced. It’s about how lengthy the claw is, how they taper on the finish, how the inexperienced suggestions… How the shading is: Is it a blotch, is it striped? It’s all about these subtleties. Your eye, as soon as it’s educated to have a look at subtleties, whether or not or not it’s Galanthus or another plant within the backyard, you grow to be a greater gardener as you begin taking a look at subtleties.

That being stated, I’ve seen gardens simply have one species, like Painswick in England, which is all I feel nivalis, and it’s a highly regarded and really efficient panorama. But it surely’s taking a look at these particulars that sharpens your eye. And the opposite factor about Galanthus, it’s a time you possibly can collect with mates like on the gala, and never have any guilt emotions about leaving your backyard, as a result of nothing else is occurring. You’ll be able to really discuss with fellow gardeners at the moment of the 12 months. It’s form of a gardener’s sport, if you’ll.

Margaret: Yeah. So, let’s discuss in regards to the Gala. I used to be excited to see that you simply’re having… I imply, you have got presenters, individuals who do talks, and once more, they’re going to be broadcast just about additionally, so folks should buy, as I did, a digital ticket, in addition to attend in individual in Downingtown, Pa. However like Nancy Goodwin, one of many… I imply, I keep in mind 1,000,000 years in the past, the primary time I went to her Southeastern backyard, and simply the astonishment of what she had completed. So, there are some actually nice audio system, so inform us a little bit bit about what’s going to go on, whether or not in individual or just about on the gala.

David: We begin Friday with the digital pleased hour, and it’s form of… Social exercise is a part of being a Galanthophile. There’s a social side to it. So now we have a trivia sport which is nice enjoyable, as a result of… I’ll let you know a little bit secret. As a result of it’s 5 hours… We’re forward of England 5 hours, so that they’ve at all times gone via cocktail time by the point now we have the pleased hour, and you’ll see it typically of their responses [laughter], which is nice enjoyable. We’ve the pleased hour, and now we have Nancy Goodwin talking, and I’m simply honored to introduce her. She’s, as you stated, an iconic backyard within the South.

A number of gardeners within the South assume that Galanthus aren’t hardy for them, as a result of it’s too heat. Nicely, I simply need to level to Nancy Goodwin, who’s been doing Galanthus in her backyard for 30 years. She’s recognized proper now along with her Galanthus assortment for having the winter stroll. She has a variety of fall-blooming Galanthus in her backyard. However I simply wished to have her communicate as a result of she’s such gardener, and has been doing Galanthus, and assist dispel that delusion you can’t develop them within the South. I even have a busload coming from Tennessee to the gala this 12 months.

Margaret: Oh, nice.

David: They usually’ve been coming a number of years, now we have a number of busloads coming to the gala. Then on Saturday, now we have the curator of Utrecht Gardens talking on DNA tracing in snowdrops, to ensure how the Galanthus have moved from the Mediterranean upwards via Europe. They’re really doing DNA tracing to ensure they’ve the fitting cultivars and species within the backyard, that they’re traditionally right as effectively. I feel that’s fascinating, that we’ve moved in that path, not simply in Galanthus however plant-wide. I feel DNA tracing goes to alter the way in which Linnaean nomenclature is at the moment.

After which now we have the director of the Gothenburg Botanical Backyard in Sweden, which is the biggest bulb assortment on the earth.

Margaret: Wow.

David: Not simply america. However he’s going to be speaking about his love of Galanthus, and extra importantly I feel, simply as importantly, are the companion crops, the companion bulbs to bloom with them, so it’s not only one genus, it’s about making a backyard, Margaret. About…

Margaret: Talking of layering [laughter].

David: It’s about making a backyard, and what goes with that plant? Sure. That’s proper; thanks.

Margaret: Nicely, David Culp, we’re virtually principally out of time. However I at all times have enjoyable, as folks might inform, as a result of I used to be cackling all through, speaking to you.

David: You must have enjoyable.

Margaret: A fellow plant nut of… a longtime plant nut like me. So, thanks a lot, and I’ll discuss to you once more quickly, I hope.

David: Thanks, Margaret. I sit up for seeing you quickly, and everybody on the Gala. Completely happy gardening.

extra on galanthus from david culp

enter to win ‘a 12 months at brandywine cottage’

I’LL BUY A COPY of “A 12 months at Brandywine Cottage” by David Culp for one fortunate reader. All you need to do to enter is reply this query within the feedback field under:

Any snowdrops poking up quickly at your home, and if that’s the case are you aware which of them?

No reply, or feeling shy? Simply say one thing like “rely me in” and I’ll, however a reply is even higher. I’ll choose a random winner after entries shut at midnight Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Good luck to all.

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favor the podcast model of the present?

MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its 14th 12 months in March 2023. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Hear domestically within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the Jan. 22, 2023 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You’ll be able to subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

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