Snowdrops are known as the 'harbingers of spring' at a time when there is little else in flower in the garden to brighten the dull winter months. No one should be without these dainty white gems which can symbolize innocence, purity and hope. The author describes all known snowdrop species, the cultivation of garden-worthy varieties and their naming as well as their history in early European and English literature. He includes the earliest reference to the English word 'Snowe Dropps' in 1615, preceding the previous earliest reference to 'Snow drops' in 1633.
For novice gardeners and those who have never grown snowdrops before he describes how to grow just a few reliable varieties, with advice on buying, planting, dividing, looking after snowdrops, labelling, diseases and companion plants. He also dispels the myth that snowdrops are difficult and don't survive well in gardens, giving advice on all aspects of snowdrop culture. For galanthophiles, varieties are recommended to extend their collection. This advice is based on personal experience from growing over 100 different cultivars in his town garden in Oxford.
The sequence of flowering of different snowdrop varieties from October to March is described, including the autumn-flowering Queen Olga's snowdrop. This diary format of their emergence will help gardeners learn how there can be snowdrops flowering for six months of the year. The book is illustrated with a stunning selection of close-up images of different varieties of snowdrops to help aid the identification of these dainty flowers.
Included in the chapter on snowdrop art are many historical images from the earliest-known snowdrop woodcut in Dodoens' European Herbal, 1568 to more recent 19th-century images. No other author on snowdrops has attempted such an extensive description of snowdrop art over the centuries, including advice from Jacquie Hibbert on how to paint snowdrops, or has described the evolution of this art form for snowdrops.
The book concludes with a useful index of all 22 recognized species and over 100 varieties with reference to international collections.
George G. Brownlee is an Emeritus Professor of Chemical Pathology, University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. He has grown snowdrops in his own garden for over 30 years becoming an acknowledged galanthophile.