You think of Autumn and the garden and you think of falling leaves, harvesting apples and maybe migrating birds visiting to strip the Rowan and holly trees of their berries, but like many galanthophiles my mind turns to Autumn flowering snowdrops.

The first snowdrop to flower here at Bruckhills Croft (mid September) is Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. reginae-olgae and a couple of its cultivars. We have the lovely (almost completely) white Blanc de Chine – I say almost completely white, because it often has 2 faint dots at the sinus. We also have Pink Panther, which if you have another white snowdrop to compare it to, definitely has a pale pink tint, especially when newly open. Sadly after a couple of days it appears white, which disappoints many visitors to the garden, but timing is everything…”if only you had come yesterday”

It’s worth mentioning here that reginae-olgae has 2 subspecies, the other, Galanthus reginae-olgae subsp. vernalis flowers from December onwards.

Interestingly, reginae-olgae that flower now have no leaves as they start to flower,  a bit like the flamboyant Naked Ladies (colchicums) another autumn flowering bulb.

Did you know?

reginae-olgae was first named by the Greek botanist T G Orphanides in 1876, when the reigning monarch at that time was Queen Olga – who incidentally was the grandmother of Prince Philip – The Duke of Edinburgh.

So what next?

Now that we are in October, Galanthus peshmenii starts to emerge and quickly starts to flower, and like reginae-olgae, the flower comes up first before the leaves. This is an interesting snowdrop, the outer segments are fine and long and almost like tissue paper, the inner segments lack the green inside and are almost completely white, just 2 fine green marks at the sinus. The leaves are also different having a central silvery stripe.

We also have Galanthus cilicicus, which unlike R-O and peshmenii, the flower and leaves come up at the same time. It’s quite short and delicate looking and reputed to not be fully hardy, so we keep ours in the raised alpine beds in the cold greenhouse.

There is another snowdrop species also flowers in Autumn that we are yet to own – the highly fragrant Galanthus bursanus. Only recently discovered in 2019, two groups of this snowdrop were found near to the city of Bursa in the north west of Turkey and described by Kew researcher Dr Aaron Davis, along with collaborators Dr Yildiz Konca and Dr Dimitri Zubov. Considered endangered in its native habitat due to deforestation.

Waiting in the wings

Coming along soon will be some of the elwesii cultivars. The very aptly named Remember Remember is usually in flower at some point in November, but not always in time for Bonfire Night, then Rainbow Farm Early and Zwannenburg…then it all starts to become a blur as they pop up thick and fast, and before you know it, it is time for the Winter Flowering Snowdrops to take over.

Catch you next time…