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 numerous incarnations. He’s additionally a bunch of the annual Galanthus Gala symposium, which occurs the primary weekend of March in Downingtown, PA, and nearly on-line, too, for these of us who wish to take part with out even leaving dwelling, 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 optimistic that he’s certainly a real Galanthophile.

We talked about snowdrops: develop them, and multiply them, and in addition about his ardour for gathering and extra.

Plus: Remark within the field close to the underside of the web page for an opportunity to win a replica of his guide, “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 possibly can 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 high-quality [laughter].

Margaret: Madman. Madman. Sorry, it’s a madman alert [laughter]. You’ve obtained a whole lot of vegetation 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 happening, the Galanthus Gala. So simply briefly, what’s it? And there’s some nice audio system this 12 months, as all the time, so inform us simply briefly what it’s.

David: Effectively, for 20 years, I’d 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 we now 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 particularly. Anybody can do a backyard in June. [Hellebores and snowdrops, below.]

Margaret: Sure [laughter].

David: Nevertheless it takes one thing to do it in February and March. So I assumed, effectively, we are able to do that if we simply take into consideration what vegetation are going to be blooming or hardy for us right here. I get it, we aren’t England, however we are able to have very stunning winter gardens if we simply give it some thought. Nevertheless it shouldn’t simply relaxation on one genera. As passionate as I’m about hellebores, I’m that enthusiastic about Galanthus. My hellebore mentor, Elizabeth Strangman, gave me a warning once 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 bit caveat, “And you’ve got sufficient addictions.”

Margaret: Yeah, precisely. Effectively, it occurs to the perfect of us. Though I’ve to say, I’ve managed to have a whole lot of vegetation, however not a whole lot of one genus of vegetation. I don’t know why that… why I principally escape that. Completely different individuals have totally different psychological attachments or no matter. I’ve obtained a whole lot of totally different vegetation.

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 bunch 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 seems to be 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. Through the Crimean warfare, the British troopers would ship snowdrops again to England. They have been first recorded in, I feel, the 1500s, in Gerard’s Herball guide, however they aren’t native. They’ve since naturalized throughout Europe and England.

Margaret: O.Okay. And by way of… So once more, you’re kind 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 will have 200 or one thing varieties. What’s your bloom season, the vary of them?

David: You understand Margaret, I wish to take the problem cup [laughter]. So, my Galanthus began blooming in October. They bloom right through 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: Tons 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 individuals sort 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 would like chlorophyll within the wintertime. I don’t learn about you, however I would like 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: In all probability. My mates up in northern New York, in colder areas, they in all probability are rising numerous Galanthus nivalis, that are highly regarded in Germany and northern Europe proper now. There’s a whole lot of breeding work being performed there. So what I… I like nivalis, I develop a whole lot of them, they’ve naturalized right here in southeastern Pennsylvania, New York. They’re the one which’s naturalized probably 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 mainly 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 obtained 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, once you have 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 actual flower, in fact. You imply this persevering with, this succession of this genus, since you’ve planted differing kinds, you might have 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 after they’re offered principally. Is that right?

David: That’s right. I purchase them generally after 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, the perfect time to get them is when you may get your fingers on them [laughter]. However on the gala, there’s numerous totally different cultivars and species within the inexperienced.

They’re within the Amaryllidaceae household, and now persons 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 concerning the Amaryllis household is that they solely put roots out yearly. So in the event you harm the roots once you’re transplanting them, they’ve misplaced the flexibility to take up that rather more vitamins. So, you’re secure after 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 mentioned repeatedly that you’ve tons of of varieties [laughter] in your backyard. Are you able to bear in mind all of the names with out a 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 the event you don’t know what it’s, is only a fairly Galanthus. And that’s O.Okay., however in the event you’re a severe collector of something, whether or not it’s artwork glass, you bought to know the provenance of it.

Margaret: Sure. So, I take a look at the lists from collectors who promote them, or among the sources that Galanthophiles would store at, not your fundamental 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: Effectively, each.

Margaret: O.Okay.

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

And other people chortle and say, “You paid that a lot for a bulb?” And I mentioned, “Effectively, how’s your 401k performed? My funding in that bulb normally doubles inside one 12 months.”

Margaret: Oh!

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

It does self-seed. I’m afraid I’ll by no means have a very tidy backyard once more, as a result of I let my Galanthus go, hoping that they’ll seed round. And you may’t mulch… I don’t mulch, anyhow, I exploit leaf mould on my backyard, however they may self-sow round, and also you get some fascinating hybrids. When you might have this many cultivars intermingling and having wine and doing what in the midst of the evening [laughter], you’re going to have some fascinating 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 one in all your books that you simply’ve written is named “The Layered Backyard”—and so that you’re recognized design-wise as a proponent of the strategy of layering vegetation. 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: Effectively, they begin the 12 months. That’s why we now 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 laborious. 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 gathering, I sort of staged my backyard: it’s Galanthus, hellebore time, then into Narcissus, then into tulip. There’s fundamental 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 roughly mild, or what are among the good niches inside the backyard, light-wise and different condition-wise, that they like?

David: Shade is most well-liked. You possibly can push them extra in direction of full solar, you may wish to give them a bit little bit of shade within the summertime. Quite a lot of the species which are extra southerly of their distribution really like extra solar, I’d say, like reginae-olgae, which is known as 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 in all probability the extra tolerant of moisture-retentive—I’m saying tolerant, not -proof—may be nivalis, however I’d keep away from overly moist, boggy soils in relation to Galanthus.

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

David: They don’t.

Margaret: Yeah. And if I had an excellent dimension 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 zone 5b till the opposite day [laughter], after they introduced that it was 6a, with the unusually delicate winter we had till this week, they have been beginning to come up below the leaf litter, they have 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 wish to say divide them and put some elsewhere, do I do it after they’re “within the inexperienced”? Do I do it after they’re up and operating? Is there an excellent time?

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

Instantly, irrespective of if it’s raining out, you wish to water it in, to ensure that the soil has contact with the roots. That’s necessary. Nevertheless it’s sort of like insurance coverage, too. If one thing occurs to at least one clump, you continue to have two extra elsewhere. In the event you simply have one clump that’s prized, and that clump for some purpose disappears… I feel dividing not solely offers you extra for the backyard, but in addition serves as a sort of insurance coverage, that you simply nonetheless have your prized bulbs out there.

Margaret: Proper. I used to be trying via your listing, you might have a listing of ones that, as you mentioned, that they turned out to be an excellent funding, as a result of you can even 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 advocate, and it wasn’t a super-expensive one. It’s referred to as Bertram Anderson. And it’s humorous, as a result of within the years that I’ve grown vegetation, I’ve had two different vegetation 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 particular person turns into an immortal. So, you’re immortal after there are snowdrops named after you. Bertram Anderson was a terrific gardener. And I really 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: Effectively, it was enjoyable, as I mentioned, trying on the listing. It’s like, ooh, I simply wish to discover out who all these individuals and all these locations that each one the varieties are named for, since you’d get this entire wealthy historical past by doing that, working backwards from that listing 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 a giant space of Galanthophiles. There’s a whole lot of them within the Cotswolds. They’re mainly a two-hour… I hesitate to say that, as a result of they’re unfold all over the place, however normally once I go over, it’s inside a two-hour push exterior of London. However there are nice Galanthophiles in Eire. They’ve Galanthus reveals 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 laborious to… I really feel like I’ve to get down on the bottom and crawl round and look intently at them, as a result of these should not up in your face sort of, or it’s not as large as a knee-high purple tulip or one thing. You must actually look intently on the subtleties. However a few of them are extra frilly, like nearly double, I assume, the flowers, and a few have extra inexperienced edging. Are these the variations… What are you as a collector so as to add to your collections?

David: Effectively, 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 ideas… How the shading is: Is it a blotch, is it striped? It’s all about these subtleties. Your eye, as soon as it’s skilled to have a look at subtleties, whether or not it’s Galanthus or another plant within the backyard, you turn out to be a greater gardener as you begin subtleties.

That being mentioned, 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. Nevertheless it’s 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 happening. You possibly can really speak with fellow gardeners at the moment of the 12 months. It’s sort of a gardener’s sport, if you’ll.

Margaret: Yeah. So, let’s speak concerning the Gala. I used to be excited to see that you simply’re having… I imply, you might have presenters, individuals who do talks, and once more, they’re going to be broadcast nearly additionally, so individuals should purchase, as I did, a digital ticket, in addition to attend in particular person in Downingtown, Pa. However like Nancy Goodwin, one of many… I imply, I bear 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 bit bit about what’s going to go on, whether or not in particular person or nearly on the gala.

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

Quite a lot of gardeners within the South assume that Galanthus aren’t hardy for them, as a result of it’s too heat. Effectively, I simply wish 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 whole lot of fall-blooming Galanthus in her backyard. However I simply needed to have her communicate as a result of she’s such an excellent gardener, and has been doing Galanthus, and assist dispel that fable that you could’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, we now have a number of busloads coming to the gala. Then on Saturday, we now have the curator of Utrecht Gardens talking on DNA tracing in snowdrops, to verify how the Galanthus have moved from the Mediterranean upwards via Europe. They’re really doing DNA tracing to verify 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 course, not simply in Galanthus however plant-wide. I feel DNA tracing goes to alter the way in which Linnaean nomenclature is at this time.

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

Margaret: Wow.

David: Not simply the USA. However he’s going to be speaking about his love of Galanthus, and extra importantly I feel, simply as importantly, are the companion vegetation, 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: Effectively, David Culp, we’re nearly mainly out of time. However I all the time have enjoyable, as individuals might inform, as a result of I used to be cackling all through, speaking to you.

David: You need to have enjoyable.

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

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

extra on galanthus from david culp

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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. Pay attention domestically within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Jap, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the Jan. 22, 2023 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

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