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 house, as I did final yr, and can once more this time round.

David Culp, creator of “A 12 months at Brandywine Cottage,” and likewise 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 likewise 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 e-book, “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 acquired plenty 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 happening, the Galanthus Gala. So simply briefly, what’s it? And there’s some nice audio system this yr, 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 specifically. 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 will 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 will have very lovely 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 captivated with 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 bit of 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 plenty of crops, however not plenty of one genus of crops. I don’t know why that… why I largely escape that. Totally different folks have totally different psychological attachments or no matter. I’ve acquired plenty of totally different crops.

However anyway, so some Galanthus fundamentals. The place are they from? When do they bloom? I imply, what number of sorts are there anyway? I imply, how various a bunch is it? I believe that I learn in your web site that the identify 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 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 best way as much as Southern Europe. They’ve migrated. In the course of the Crimean struggle, the British troopers would ship snowdrops again to England. They have been first recorded in, I believe, the 1500s, in Gerard’s Herball e-book, however they aren’t native. They’ve since naturalized throughout Europe and England.

Margaret: O.Okay. And when it comes to… 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 could have 200 or one thing sorts. What’s your bloom season, the vary of them?

David: Margaret, I prefer to take the problem cup [laughter]. So, my Galanthus began blooming in October. They bloom all over the winter, there are a whole lot blooming proper now, however we’re not in peak Galanthus season, thoughts you. They’re earlier this yr, 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 trials of winter and nonetheless carry on blooming.

In order that they go proper by means of the winter, all the best way 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 a whole lot 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 believe 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 extremely popular in Germany and northern Europe proper now. There’s plenty of breeding work being carried out there. So what I… I like nivalis, I develop plenty 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 all Galanthophile, the reality is, you’ve acquired to have all of them, and also you quickly be taught to work with what works with you, and go together with these specific species.

Margaret: Proper. Proper. So, whenever you have been speaking about the way you’ve had some blooming since October, and there’ll be ones blooming by means of April, you don’t imply the identical precise flower, after all. You imply this persevering with, this succession of this genus, since you’ve planted differing kinds, you may have this succession, this persevering with wave of them. And we gardeners who usually are not Galanthophiles but [laughter], we see them within the fall bulb catalogs, I consider. That’s after they’re offered largely. Is that right?

David: That’s right. I purchase them typically 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 arms 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 annually. So should you harm the roots whenever 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 once 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 a whole lot of sorts [laughter] in your backyard. Are you able to bear in mind all of the names and not using 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, should you don’t know what it’s, is only a fairly Galanthus. And that’s O.Okay., however should 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 just a few sorts. 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 methodology of turning into multiple in my backyard?

David: Effectively, each.

Margaret: O.Okay.

David: And I’ve confessed that I’ve paid perhaps method an excessive amount of for a single bulb of Galanthus. It’s form of like Tulip Mania proper now. They fetch enormous costs from $1,400 right down to $30. And I supply 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 prepared to gamble and plant within the floor.

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

Margaret: Oh!

David: So, you’ll be able to count on that to in all probability double inside a yr, perhaps two on the most. But when it’s broken, the roots are broken, it’d take one other yr for it to drag 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’ll’t mulch… I don’t mulch, anyhow, I exploit leaf mildew on my backyard, however they may self-sow round, and also you get some attention-grabbing hybrids. When you may have this many cultivars intermingling and having wine and doing what in the course of the night time [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 identified—and I discussed earlier within the introduction that one in every of your books that you simply’ve written is named “The Layered Backyard”—and so that you’re identified 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: Effectively, they begin the yr. 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 believe we’re nonetheless… Who is aware of? 6b or 7. Once more, the worldwide warming issue makes it onerous. 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 form 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 bushes, shrubs, floor layer, you’re planting all these layers within the backyard.

Margaret: Do Galanthus do higher with kind of mild, or what are among the good niches throughout the backyard, light-wise and different condition-wise, that they like?

David: Shade is most popular. You possibly can push them extra in direction of full solar, you may need to give them a bit of little bit of shade within the summertime. A whole lot of the species which can be 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—could be nivalis, however I’d steer clear of overly moist, boggy soils on the subject of Galanthus.

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

David: They don’t.

Margaret: Yeah. And if I had a superb 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 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 beneath 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 need 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 a superb 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, perhaps 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, 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. Nevertheless it’s form of like insurance coverage, too. If one thing occurs to at least one clump, you continue to have two extra elsewhere. When you simply have one clump that’s prized, and that clump for some motive disappears… I believe dividing not solely offers you extra for the backyard, but in addition serves as a form of insurance coverage, that you simply nonetheless have your prized bulbs obtainable.

Margaret: Proper. I used to be wanting by means of your record, you may have an inventory of ones that, as you stated, that they turned out to be a superb funding, as a result of you can too promote some, as you get an increasing number of 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 referred to 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 terrific 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: Effectively, it was enjoyable, as I stated, wanting on the record. 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 record of named cultivars of Galanthus. You’d get this entire historical past of our obsession with gardening over the centuries. I believe he was within the Cotswolds area, proper, Bertram Anderson?

David: That’s a giant space of Galanthophiles. There’s plenty of them within the Cotswolds. They’re mainly 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 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 onerous 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 usually are not up in your face form of, or it’s not as huge 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: 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 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 take a look at subtleties, whether or not it’s Galanthus or some other plant within the backyard, you change into 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 believe nivalis, and it’s a extremely popular and really efficient panorama. Nevertheless it’s taking a look at these particulars that sharpens your eye. And the opposite factor about Galanthus, it’s a time you’ll be able to 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 possibly can really speak with fellow gardeners at the moment of the yr. It’s form 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 may have presenters, individuals who do talks, and once more, they’re going to be broadcast just about additionally, so folks should purchase, 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 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 of 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 completely satisfied hour, and it’s form of… Social exercise is a part of being a Galanthophile. There’s a social side to it. So we now have a trivia recreation which is nice enjoyable, as a result of… I’ll inform you a bit of secret. As a result of it’s 5 hours… We’re forward of England 5 hours, in order that they’ve all the time gone by means of cocktail time by the point we now have the completely satisfied hour, and you may see it typically of their responses [laughter], which is nice enjoyable. We have now the completely satisfied hour, and we now have Nancy Goodwin talking, and I’m simply honored to introduce her. She’s, as you stated, an iconic backyard within the South.

A whole 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 need to level to Nancy Goodwin, who’s been doing Galanthus in her backyard for 30 years. She’s identified proper now together with her Galanthus assortment for having the winter stroll. She has plenty of fall-blooming Galanthus in her backyard. However I simply needed to have her communicate as a result of she’s such a superb gardener, and has been doing Galanthus, and assist dispel that delusion that you could’t develop them within the South. I even have a busload coming from Tennessee to the gala this yr.

Margaret: Oh, nice.

David: And so they’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 ensure how the Galanthus have moved from the Mediterranean upwards by means of Europe. They’re really doing DNA tracing to ensure they’ve the suitable cultivars and species within the backyard, that they’re traditionally right as effectively. I believe that’s fascinating, that we’ve moved in that route, not simply in Galanthus however plant-wide. I believe DNA tracing goes to vary the best way Linnaean nomenclature is in the present day.

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 america. However he’s going to be speaking about his love of Galanthus, and extra importantly I believe, 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: Effectively, David Culp, we’re virtually mainly out of time. However I all the time 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 speak to you once more quickly, I hope.

David: Thanks, Margaret. I stay up for seeing you quickly, and everybody on the Gala. Pleased gardening.

extra on galanthus from david culp

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want 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 yr in March 2023. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Hear regionally 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 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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