We snowdrop lovers do like to drop in the odd Latin word specific to snowdrops when talking about our blooms. Virescent is one such word, but is actually a common term in horticulture and is simply an adjective meaning greenish. It comes from the early Latin word viridis meaning simply green, and can be used for anything from flowers, to of course, foliage. A similar word is viridescent, and this just means becoming greenish.
When the term virescent is used in connection with Galanthus, it is exclusively used for the flowers, after all the foliage is always some shade of green, so that would be overdoing the Latin. The Galanthus that are described as being virescent are the ones that on first sight have an overall greenish appearance, so have a large covering of green on the outer segments concentrated around the centre, but can spread to cover nearly the entire surface. This can be in the form of an opaque green mist that looks like someone has got a fine spray can out, it can also be in the form of green stripes which may merge together at certain points. This is different to snowdrops that just have green tips which are not included. Another feature of virescent snowdrops is that they generally do not just have a simple apical mark on the inner segments, they instead have a large green mark, sometimes bleeding and fading towards the base, sometimes solid green, and often completely covering the surface of the inner segments.
Virescent snowdrops have been around for some considerable time, but in the late 1990s and early 2000s virescent snowdrops became very popular, as several new and improved ones became available, some at considerable cost.
They don’t seem to favour one particular species specifically and there are good examples in nivalis, plicatus, elwesii and hybrids, so there should be a variant that will grow well in most peoples’ gardens.
Some good examples –
Discovered in Susan Cowdy’s garden in Rushmere, Buckinghamshire in the 1980’s, it was amongst a mixed planting of nivalis and plicatus, so is most likely a hybrid of the two. It is a tall growing snowdrop with a long pedicel, so dances in the slightest breeze. It doesn’t increase quickly, and appreciates a bit of protection from harsh winds; worth having in a collection, but needs nurturing. The flowers have distinct lime green stripes on the outer segments, with bold apical markings and a pale green blush to the base of the inner segments.
This Snowdrop was a chance find by Robin at Green Mile Nursery in Belgium, a solitary green flower amongst a sea of white nivalis. This snowdrop does well here, and we have not got a few colonies around the garden. The outer segments have a rich green blush covering nearly all the surface area, with noticeable tiny white tips. The inner segments are completely green.
Originally discovered in Zutphen in the Netherlands by Gert-Jan van der Kolk in 2000, among a naturalized patch of nivalis, it has bold green stripes over the outer segments which blend together to give an overall greenish hue. The inner segments are completely green.
This is an early flowering elwesii, and is lovely to have to extend the snowdrop season – in flower here through December. Held high above the broad and glaucous foliage, the flowers have a large patch of green centred on the outer segments. Sometimes partially darker lines can be picked out, but generally it appears as a large diffuse covering. The inner segments are completely green. Like many other elwesii which are a struggle to grow here out in the open garden, we are not taking any chances and keep this one under cover so we can avoid it sitting in too much winter wet. This snowdrop was found as a seedling by Matt Bishop himself, and thereby named.
Named after the gardener who found it, this is a special snowdrop as unusually it originated from “across the pond” in Vancouver, Canada in 1998 and was imported into the UK, most snowdrops seem to make the journey the other way. Another elwesii, this snowdrop has distinct green stripes that run the full length of the outer segments, with a pale blush in between. The inner segments are completely green except for only a fine white edge.
A third good example of an elwesii virescent snowdrop is Morgana. The stripes on the outer segments cover most of the surface, tending to be paler than some, but the ‘spoon’ shaped outer segments conveniently reveal the completely green inner segments making it look ‘greenish’ from a distance.
Found in the late 1990’s by Shropshire collector Simon Savage, it was kept secret for some time.
Hope you find a virescent snowdrop that you like and that does well for you in your garden!