Snowdrops are a sign that spring is on its way
Tips on how to grow Snowdrops from the head gardener of Milntown, Juan Quane. Includes advice on planting them ‘in the green’ and aftercare. Video with snow drop growing tips at the end
At a time of the year when trees are bare and temperatures chilly, Snowdrops welcome us with pure white and green tinged petals that bob in the breeze. One of the best public places to view them on the Isle of Man is the Milntown estate, just outside of Ramsey. I visited this week and was able to ask their head gardener for some tips on how to grow Snowdrops at home. Watch the video at the bottom of this piece for the full interview.
How to grow Snowdrops
Juan Quane has been gardening at Milntown for seven years and during that time he’s seen Snowdrops migrated from the front lawn to various places in the woodland garden. His tips on growing and situating clumps of these lovely springtime flowers include:
- Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’, meaning while the plant still has leaves. Planting from bulbs can result in lower success rates.
- Try to get your snowdrops from garden centres or from friends. You can dig them up and replant them while they’re still flowering.
- A new clump of snowdrops will double in size every two years.
- To create a drift of Snowdrops, plant small clumps about six inches apart and wait for the space between to fill up naturally.
- Alternatively, divide a clump up into individual plants then cast them out as a handful across the area you wish to plant. Dig each one in on the space they land upon.
- Don’t mow the green leaves of Snowdrops until they’ve completely turned brown. The bulbs need to retract all the nutrients from the leaves before they go dormant for the season.
Snowdrops are both delicate and hardy
I met Juan Wednesday afternoon and we had a chatty walk around the Milntown garden and woods. Though it’s late winter, there were early Camellias in bloom and I was also shown some surprisingly tender plants that can survive our mild winters without much damage. Scented Geraniums and even Aloe Vera, a succulent from the desert, were flourishing in the February cold; they apparently even have Bananas overwintering outdoors.
Soon we were in the woodland garden and walking among the scatterings of tiny white flowers that emerge this time of the year. Snowdrops – both delicate and hardy, they are an early source of nectar for bees and a delight for everyone wanting a little cheer in otherwise wet and dormant gardens.
Snowdrops love growing in the same types of places as bluebells and wild garlic so if you have either growing in your garden then you’ll know you have the right habitat. Saying that, a lawn can be an ideal place too.
They grow well in both of these places at Milntown but also have spread of their own accord into areas of the walled garden where they find warmth and protection. We even spotted a cheeky clump of them growing at the base of a fig tree in the kitchen garden.
Plant Snowdrops ‘in the Green’
Usually planted in clumps, Snowdrops will over time create carpets of blooms. It’s really easy to spread them around the garden by digging them up and transplanting. It’s best to dig them when they’re ‘in the green’, meaning that they still have leaves. Separate these larger clumps into individuals or smaller clumps and then replant.
These flowers also come in various types with some of them having larger blossoms or ruffled petals. Milntown have just discovered a new variety growing in their garden in the past couple of years. It could be a unique hybrid but they suspect that it might be ‘Galanthus flore pleno’, a known variety that can be found in garden centres.
A Fairy Ring of Snowdrops
The oldest planting of Snowdrops at Milntown is a circular Fairy Ring on the front lawn. Interesting story — some time ago a hired garden designer decided that the snowdrops weren’t quite right there. He had them dug up and moved but years on the circle is still there. That’s because even a single bulb can regrow and repopulate the same area.
The circle appears nearly complete now and the bulbs that were there before have populated the woodland garden. You can best see them popping up through the leaf litter in late February.
See the Snowdrops at Milntown
The Milntown Gardens are open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) from 10am to 5pm. The last admission is at 4.30pm and free mobility scooters are available for the less abled. For more information on Milntown, visit www.milntown.org. If you’re there and are able to catch Juan, you might even be able to get even more tips.
PS – the house at Milntown is also available for tours…though it’s reported to be haunted! I featured it as one of the Spookiest places to visit on the Isle of Man just last year. I’m sure the spooks will be courteous enough to stay away for a daytime visit though.