Double Snowdrops

'Plena Flora'
Double Snowdrops; aka,
'Plenus' Milk Flower

Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows & white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thyforehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, & on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind & his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

- "To a Snow-Drop"
by William Wordsworth


Formerly called Galanthus nivalis forma pleniflorus, in Autumn 2003 we inserted six rather small G. nivalis "Flore Pleno" bulbs into an area that already had some regular G. nivalis at the periphery of an "Oceanlake" Dwarf Rhododendron. These bulbs shouldn't be planted too close together because they develop rapidly with a large root system, & will multiply in place.

The following February (2004) the very first double-snowdrops poked out of the ground to about one inch height & produced one bloom right there next to the ground! Really, this variety isn't that short, & it is really only just getting started; but I was so happy to be able to capture with the camera how damned cute it was right from the first day it was visible.

I nearly missed it franky, as there were some winter annual weeds, & a good deal of leafmold over the area completely burying the the snowdrops. It was only after the majority of crocuses were already in full bloom that I went looking for what the devil happened to the snowdrops, & carefully removed leafmatter & winter-weeds to see snowdrop leaves just barely poking up here & there, & just one flower already present on February 12th.

Almost certainly gardened just as long as the single snowdrop, Double Snowdrops is an exceedingly old variety, known from a 1703 painting which recorded the plants in the garden of the Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton House, Gloucestershire. The family of the Duke & Duchess were addicted to a game which to this day bares the name of their residence.

Double Snowdrops was first mentioned in text by Philip Miller (1691-1771) in his Gardener's Dictionary (1731), which for the rest of the Eighteenth Century was to remain the standard gardening reference book used throughout Europe & America, with many updated editions.

Tradition has it that the incredibly beautiful Chelsea Physic Garden was established in 1673 as the Apothocaries' Garden at the site of an even earlier market garden belonging to the father of Philip Miller. In 1721 Philip was chosen as the first official curator of what became, & remains, a world-famous garden.

Even on overcast days the Double Snowdrops stays open, so for such a little thing, it makes an impact. The main petals are pure white, with green-tipped double-centers. Granny Artemis loves green blossoms; I am less enamored of them as all too often such blossoms vanish amidst leaves. But there is no problem with Double Snowdrops disappearing into its foliage, because the green mixed into the heart of the bloom is framed in pure white petals, plus the green is a vibrant jade jewel that stands entirely distinct from the greens of leaves.

This variety has been given the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit for its beauty, ease of growth, & extremely long-proven garden desirability. Although the honey-scented flowers on both the single & the double don't get started for us until nearly mid-February, in many gardens they will start by end of January. They are usually finished by March but can linger some while in moist & sheltered locations.


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