On behalf of Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project, I made contact with Angela Whinfield of Snape Cottage. Angela has an important collection of snowdrops, including some that she collected from James Allen’s garden in Shepton Mallet prior to the Mendip District Council offices being built.
It was such a privilege to be shown around the garden by its creator and to be given an insight into this highly specialized world of a plant collecting. Despite the rather damp morning, the garden was a celebration of spring.
Angela is, by her own admission, a self taught plantswoman who has been highly influenced by the great horticulturists E.A. Bowles (1865 – 1954) and Margery Fish (1892 – 1969). Her interest in plant history means that she pays meticulous attention to plant provenance so each plant has its own story. Angela is part of a wide network of other plant collectors and I thought it was lovely to hear that the tradition of sharing notes and plant swapping continues.
To be shown around her garden was an amazing experience, Angela shared stories about where plants came from and her favourites (of which there were many!). Collections were labeled and grouped according to provenance or type and it wasn’t long before I noticed that there were many plant collections, (these included snowdrops, primroses, hellebores, old fashioned daffodils, ferns…) and also many unusual plants.
I asked about cross pollination and was told that she used to dead head her snowdrops – what a task! However now she has a more relaxed approach to the garden allowing cross pollination between species. In fact Angela is going to have a new snowdrop from her garden named after her (there is already a compact Symphytum ‘Angela Whinfield’ which arose from her garden and has dark red buds).
Angela kindly donated some bulbs of the James Allen snowdrop varieties and explained that there are several variations of Galanthus ‘Merlin’ including G. ‘Shepton Merlin’, G. ‘Trotter’s Merlin’, G. ‘Tubby Merlin’ and G. ‘Merlin Bonds Form’. The bulbs she gave us are G. ‘Magnet’, G. ‘Shepton Merlin’, G. ‘Robin Hood’ and G. ‘Galatea’, these will form an important part of the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project collection.
My eyes were opened a bit wider to the world of snowdrops; not only did I come away with a greater understanding of this genus but also an armful of plants,including pots of Galanthus. ‘S. Arnott, G. ‘Elfin’, G. ‘Lady Elphinstone’ and G. ‘Norman Hadden’!
Galanthus nivalis ‘Poculiformus’ – no green markings on the flower at all
Galanthus soon to be named after Angela – Galanthus ‘Angela Whinfield’
Galanthus ‘Margery Brown’ – large glaucous leaves (an elwesii type)
Helleborus viridis – a dainty native
Galanthus ‘Midas’ – dainty yellow flower (picked stem)
Saxifraga dentata – cut leaves
Other plants of interest that I noted
Anthriscus ‘Going for Gold’ – a biennial cow parsley with yellow foliage, seeds gently
Hedera poeticus (yellow fruit)
Galanthus gracilis – extremely fine leaves
Galanthus ‘Saint Annes’ – very fine and slender
Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ (one of the best yellow snowdrops)
Galanthus plicatus – the Crimean or pleated snowdrop
Feed snowdrops with fish blood and bone after flowering
Split clumps ideally every 3 years
Deadhead to avoid cross pollination and to keep species true
Joe Sharman – another galanthophile with a retail nursery http://www.monksilvernursery.co.uk/
More information on the James Allen story and Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival that celebrates the Snowdrop King