DAVID CULP is a self-professed Galanthophile, a lover and passionate, longtime collector of snowdrops in all their numerous incarnations. He’s additionally a number of the annual Galanthus Gala symposium, which occurs the primary weekend of March in Downingtown, PA, and nearly on-line, too, for these of us who need to take part with out even leaving residence, as I did final yr, and can once more this time round.
David Culp, writer of “A Yr at Brandywine Cottage,” and in addition of “The Layered Backyard” (affiliate hyperlinks), gardens on two acres in Downingtown, the place amongst many botanical treasures he grows greater than 200 cultivars of Galanthus or snowdrops, proof constructive that he’s certainly a real Galanthophile.
We talked about snowdrops: tips on how to develop them, and multiply them, and in addition about his ardour for amassing and extra.
Plus: Remark within the field close to the underside of the web page for an opportunity to win a replica of his ebook, “A Yr at Brandywine Cottage.”
Learn alongside as you hearken to the Jan. 22, 2023 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant beneath. You’ll be able to subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).
snowdrops, with david culp
Margaret Roach: Hello, Dave. How are you?
David Culp: Hello, Margaret. I’m nice (laughter).
Margaret: Madman. Madman. Sorry, it’s a madman alert (laughter). You’ve received lots of crops over there, kiddo.
David: Certainly. Yeah, I used to be chuckling. Sure, I’m a Galanthophile, proud to say. I let my geek flag wave excessive.
Margaret: Precisely. So, I don’t know what number of years it’s been happening, the Galanthus Gala. So simply briefly, what’s it? And there’s some nice audio system this yr, as all the time, so inform us simply briefly what it’s.
David: Properly, for 20 years, I might go over to England for the RHS winter present, to see hellebores and Galanthus. After which I had this nice epiphany that planes fly each methods throughout the Atlantic. Why can’t the Europeans and Brits come to us? And so I organized the Galanthus Gala in 2017. And as destiny would have it, it snowed that day, so we moved it to my assembly home in Downingtown, it’s a 250-year-old Quaker assembly home; I moved it to there, to their schoolhouse. We’ve had distributors and we’ve got audio system, and it’s grown and grown and grown.
I had an curiosity in Galanthus. It stemmed from my curiosity in hellebores, winter gardening specifically. Anybody can do a backyard in June. (Hellebores and snowdrops, beneath.)
Margaret: Sure (laughter).
David: However it takes one thing to do it in February and March. So I believed, properly, we are able to do that if we simply take into consideration what crops are going to be blooming or hardy for us right here. I get it, we aren’t England, however we are able to have very lovely winter gardens if we simply give it some thought. However it shouldn’t simply relaxation on one genera. As passionate as I’m about hellebores, I’m that keen about Galanthus. My hellebore mentor, Elizabeth Strangman, gave me a warning once I first picked up my few pots of Galanthus. She goes, “Oh, David, watch out. These are extremely addictive.” (Laughter.) And she or he was proper. She adopted with a bit caveat, “And you’ve got sufficient addictions.”
Margaret: Yeah, precisely. Properly, it occurs to the most effective of us. Though I’ve to say, I’ve managed to have lots of crops, however not lots of one genus of crops. I don’t know why that… why I principally escape that. Completely different folks have completely different psychological attachments or no matter. I’ve received lots of completely different crops.
However anyway, so some Galanthus fundamentals. The place are they from? When do they bloom? I imply, what number of sorts are there anyway? I imply, how various a gaggle is it? I believe that I learn in your web site that the identify Galanthus comes from the Greek phrases for… G-A-L-A for milk, and A-N-T-H-O-S for flower, milk flower, or it seems like drops of milk and so forth. The place are they from?
David: They’re from… Let’s see, the Crimean area, or Northern Turkey-
Margaret: So, the Balkans and stuff?
David: The Balkans, all the way in which as much as Southern Europe. They’ve migrated. In the course of the Crimean warfare, the British troopers would ship snowdrops again to England. They had been first recorded in, I believe, the 1500s, in Gerard’s Herball ebook, however they don’t seem to be native. They’ve since naturalized throughout Europe and England.
Margaret: O.Ok. And when it comes to… So once more, you’re type of mid-Atlantic, so that you’re in Pennsylvania, not removed from well-known Longwood Gardens and so forth. So, when did they bloom for you? You could have 200 or one thing sorts. What’s your bloom season, the vary of them?
David: You realize Margaret, I prefer to take the problem cup (laughter). So, my Galanthus began blooming in October. They bloom right through the winter, there are tons of blooming proper now, however we’re not in peak Galanthus season, thoughts you. They’re earlier this yr, thanks, not thanks, world warming.
David: Tons blooming proper now. We’re going to have chilly climate this week, however they’ll take it. That’s one of many issues I like about them, is they’ll take the trials of winter and nonetheless carry on blooming.
So that they go proper by means of the winter, all the way in which until April. And when folks type of child me and say “Galanthus,” and I simply cease and go, “What’s blooming in your backyard proper now?” That often offers me pause, and I can say, “I’ve tons of of…” And I want chlorophyll within the wintertime. I don’t learn about you, however I want one thing inexperienced.
Margaret: Proper. So, there are both species or varieties for lots of various zones. I believe in your web site, once more, it says 2-9, however the candy spot is zones 4-7-ish or so, for these bulbs and…
David: In all probability. My pals up in northern New York, in colder areas, they in all probability are rising numerous Galanthus nivalis, that are very fashionable in Germany and northern Europe proper now. There’s lots of breeding work being performed there. So what I… I like nivalis, I develop lots of them, they’ve naturalized right here in southeastern Pennsylvania, New York. They’re the one which’s naturalized essentially the most within the U.S.
I additionally just like the Galanthus elwesii, as a result of it’s a bigger flower and it blooms earlier. However then there’s an entire host of hybrids. There’s 4 completely different principally species that make up the genus Galanthus, however the bulk of my assortment is nivalis, gracilis, elwesii, the hybrids. However like all Galanthophile, the reality is, you’ve received to have all of them, and also you quickly be taught to work with what works with you, and go together with these specific species.
Margaret: Proper. Proper. So, once you had been speaking about the way you’ve had some blooming since October, and there’ll be ones blooming by means of April, you don’t imply the identical precise flower, after all. You imply this persevering with, this succession of this genus, since you’ve planted differing kinds, you could have this succession, this persevering with wave of them. And we gardeners who will not be Galanthophiles but (laughter), we see them within the fall bulb catalogs, I imagine. That’s after they’re bought principally. Is that right?
David: That’s right. I purchase them typically after they’re dormant bulbs. I additionally purchase them within the inexperienced, which we do on the Gala, we promote them within the inexperienced. That’s an excellent time to plant them. The reality is, the most effective time to get them is when you will get your palms on them (laughter). However on the gala, there’s numerous completely different cultivars and species within the inexperienced.
They’re within the Amaryllidaceae household, and now persons are glazing over. That’s necessary, although, as a result of with Amaryllidaceae you robotically go: “deer-proof.” So, they’re deer-proof. The opposite factor in regards to the Amaryllis household is that they solely put roots out yearly. So if you happen to harm the roots once you’re transplanting them, they’ve misplaced the flexibility to take up that rather more vitamins. So, you’re secure after they’re dormant, however even higher in the event that they’re in a container and you purchase them within the inexperienced.
Did that confuse you?
Margaret: No, no. No, I get it. And after we say “within the inexperienced,” we imply that it’s up and rising, so to talk; it’s a transplant.
David: Yeah. Yeah.
Margaret: So, I’ve stated repeatedly that you’ve got tons of of sorts (laughter) in your backyard. Are you able to bear in mind all of the names with out a cheat sheet in your hand? I imply, it should simply be staggering.
David: My backyard Brandywine Cottage, is… I used to not label something. The one factor I labeled in my backyard is my Galanthus assortment. I don’t know if I’ve risen to new heights or sunk to new lows. I do label my Galanthus, as a result of I’d be misplaced with out them.
An unlabeled Galanthus, if you happen to don’t know what it’s, is only a fairly Galanthus. And that’s O.Ok., however if you happen to’re a critical collector of something, whether or not or not it’s artwork glass, you bought to know the provenance of it.
Margaret: Sure. So, I have a look at the lists from collectors who promote them, or a few of the sources that Galanthophiles would store at, not your primary mail-order bulb catalog, mass-market bulb catalog, which has a number of sorts. And I see some for $30, which I assume is for a bulb, and a few for near $500 for a bulb. So, a few of them are actually, actually, actually costly.
And so if I splurge on even a $30 bulb, if I splurge on one, what occurs? What’s that little creature doing? How lengthy does it… How does it multiply? Does it multiply solely underground? Do they self-sow? What’s their technique of changing into multiple in my backyard?
David: Properly, each.
David: And I’ve confessed that I’ve paid perhaps approach an excessive amount of for a single bulb of Galanthus. It’s type of like Tulip Mania proper now. They fetch big costs from $1,400 right down to $30. And I supply simply primary elwesii within the pot, to the very costly ones at my desk, and on the Gala, you’ll see all of them value ranges. You purchase what you’re keen to gamble and plant within the floor.
And folks snicker and say, “You paid that a lot for a bulb?” And I stated, “Properly, how’s your 401k performed? My funding in that bulb often doubles inside one yr.”
David: So, you possibly can anticipate that to in all probability double inside a yr, perhaps two on the most. But when it’s broken, the roots are broken, it would take one other yr for it to drag up its socks and bloom for you. However it reliably will increase very slowly, and makes a big clump.
It does self-seed. I’m afraid I’ll by no means have a very tidy backyard once more, as a result of I let my Galanthus go, hoping that they’ll seed round. And you may’t mulch… I don’t mulch, anyhow, I exploit leaf mildew on my backyard, however they’ll self-sow round, and also you get some attention-grabbing hybrids. When you could have this many cultivars intermingling and having wine and doing what in the midst of the night time (laughter), you’re going to have some attention-grabbing hybrids.
Margaret: So that they’re not simply botanical Bitcoin, they’re additionally horny creatures (laughter).
Margaret: So, you’re recognized—and I discussed earlier within the introduction that considered one of your books that you just’ve written is named “The Layered Backyard”—and so that you’re recognized design-wise as a proponent of the strategy of layering crops. Not simply sticking one factor right here and one factor there and so forth, and having this succession and complexity of magnificence within the backyard unfolding. How did Galanthus match into that technique? So, the place did they go and the place do they belong within the backyard?
David: Properly, they begin the yr. That’s why we’ve got the Gala in March. It’s just like the kickoff of spring. As quickly as my backyard begins blooming with the Galanthus and the Crocus tommasinianus and the hellebores, it’s spring. I don’t go by the precise calendar. I let my backyard inform me what season it’s; I watch it. So, my backyard begins blooming right here in zone… I believe we’re nonetheless… Who is aware of? 6b or 7. Once more, the worldwide warming issue makes it laborious. We haven’t had snow right here in Philadelphia in two years, we’re anticipating our first measurable snowfall tomorrow.
Margaret: Sure. I noticed that within the paper. Sure.
David: However they begin now, it’s a seasonal layer… To your level about amassing, I type of staged my backyard: it’s Galanthus, hellebore time, then into Narcissus, then into tulip. There’s primary genera that goes all year long, so that you’re doing succession planting by genus, in addition to spatial layering. It’s timber, shrubs, floor layer, you’re planting all these layers within the backyard.
Margaret: Do Galanthus do higher with roughly gentle, or what are a few of the good niches throughout the backyard, light-wise and different condition-wise, that they like?
David: Shade is most well-liked. You’ll be able to push them extra in the direction of full solar, you would possibly need to give them a bit little bit of shade within the summertime. A variety of the species which can be extra southerly of their distribution really like extra solar, I might say, like reginae-olgae, which is known as after the queen of Greece. She wants extra solar, that one wants extra solar, as a result of it’s native to Greece.
Margaret: I see.
David: So I’ve them in full solar. What Galanthus have a tendency to not like is overly moist soils, like soggy soils. The one which’s in all probability the extra tolerant of moisture-retentive—I’m saying tolerant, not -proof—could be nivalis, however I might steer clear of overly moist, boggy soils relating to Galanthus.
Margaret: I believe bulbs generally, and never all, however most, I really feel that approach, that they don’t need to be in a sump.
David: They don’t.
Margaret: Yeah. And if I had a very good dimension group of one thing… The one ones I actually have are the 2 most acquainted that you just talked about, and even right here in what was once zone 5b till the opposite day (laughter), after they introduced that it was 6a, with the unusually gentle winter we had till this week, they had been beginning to come up below the leaf litter, they had been beginning to push. And even neighbors had a pair flowers right here and there.
So, if I get a good-sized clump, and I need to say divide them and put some elsewhere, do I do it after they’re “within the inexperienced”? Do I do it after they’re up and operating? Is there a very good time?
David: I do. I’m a bit pragmatic. The optimum time is after they begin going dormant, when the leaves begin to yellow. However the reality is, Margaret, I do it after they’re within the full inexperienced, and I often… Properly, I’m all the time in a rush, so I’ll take a clump, perhaps a large clump, and I divide it in thirds. I divide it, depart one clump the place it was, I put two different clumps elsewhere.
Instantly, irrespective of if it’s raining out, you need to water it in, to be sure that the soil has contact with the roots. That’s necessary. However it’s type of like insurance coverage, too. If one thing occurs to at least one clump, you continue to have two extra elsewhere. When you simply have one clump that’s prized, and that clump for some purpose disappears… I believe dividing not solely offers you extra for the backyard, but in addition serves as a type of insurance coverage, that you just nonetheless have your prized bulbs accessible.
Margaret: Proper. I used to be trying by means of your record, you could have an inventory of ones that, as you stated, that they turned out to be a very good funding, as a result of you can too promote some, as you get increasingly and extra of sure ones.
And there have been some acquainted names, you simply talked about one which was named for a Greek queen or one thing, however I noticed that there was one that you just suggest, and it wasn’t a super-expensive one. It’s known as Bertram Anderson. And it’s humorous, as a result of within the years that I’ve grown crops, I’ve had two different crops named for Bertram Anderson (laughter), a Pulmonaria and a Sedum. So, he should’ve been some nice gardener, Bertram Anderson.
David: Yeah. And what occurs, as soon as a snowdrop’s named after you, or an individual, anybody, that particular person turns into an immortal. So, you’re immortal after there are snowdrops named after you. Bertram Anderson was a fantastic gardener. And I really like the completely different names of snowdrops. That’s a part of the lure of snowdrops, of being a Galanthophile, who it’s named after, the backyard that it got here from, the provenance. That’s a part of the historical past. That’s necessary to me. (Above, Galanthus ‘Phil Cornish.’)
Margaret: Properly, it was enjoyable, as I stated, trying on the record. It’s like, ooh, I simply need to discover out who all these folks and all these locations that every one the varieties are named for, since you’d get this complete wealthy historical past by doing that, working backwards from that record of named cultivars of Galanthus. You’d get this complete historical past of our obsession with gardening over the centuries. I believe he was within the Cotswolds area, proper, Bertram Anderson?
David: That’s an enormous space of Galanthophiles. There’s lots of them within the Cotswolds. They’re principally a two-hour… I hesitate to say that, as a result of they’re unfold in every single place, however often once I go over, it’s inside a two-hour push exterior of London. However there are nice Galanthophiles in Eire. They’ve Galanthus exhibits and gross sales in Germany, in Belgium. I imply, it’s sweeping Europe proper now.
Margaret: Mm-hmm. So, in all of those varieties, what are simply… I do know it’s laborious to… I really feel like I’ve to get down on the bottom and crawl round and look carefully at them, as a result of these will not be up in your face type of, or it’s not as large as a knee-high crimson tulip or one thing. It’s important to actually look carefully on the subtleties. However a few of them are extra frilly, like nearly double, I assume, the flowers, and a few have extra inexperienced edging. Are these the variations… What are you taking a look at as a collector so as to add to your collections?
David: Properly, I don’t know of a genus that’s… One of many issues that appeals to me about snowdrops are their utter simplicity. However then once more, I don’t know of a genus that’s so extremely nuanced. It’s about how lengthy the claw is, how they taper on the finish, how the inexperienced suggestions… How the shading is: Is it a blotch, is it striped? It’s all about these subtleties. Your eye, as soon as it’s educated to take a look at subtleties, whether or not or not it’s Galanthus or every other plant within the backyard, you turn into a greater gardener as you begin taking a look at subtleties.
That being stated, I’ve seen gardens simply have one species, like Painswick in England, which is all I believe nivalis, and it’s a very fashionable and really efficient panorama. However it’s taking a look at these particulars that sharpens your eye. And the opposite factor about Galanthus, it’s a time you possibly can collect with pals like on the gala, and never have any guilt emotions about leaving your backyard, as a result of nothing else is occurring. You’ll be able to really discuss with fellow gardeners at the moment of the yr. It’s type of a gardener’s sport, if you’ll.
Margaret: Yeah. So, let’s discuss in regards to the Gala. I used to be excited to see that you just’re having… I imply, you could have presenters, individuals who do talks, and once more, they’re going to be broadcast nearly additionally, so folks should purchase, as I did, a digital ticket, in addition to attend in particular person in Downingtown, Pa. However like Nancy Goodwin, one of many… I imply, I bear in mind 1,000,000 years in the past, the primary time I went to her Southeastern backyard, and simply the astonishment of what she had achieved. So, there are some actually nice audio system, so inform us a bit bit about what’s going to go on, whether or not in particular person or nearly on the gala.
David: We begin Friday with the digital comfortable hour, and it’s type of… Social exercise is a part of being a Galanthophile. There’s a social side to it. So we’ve got a trivia sport which is nice enjoyable, as a result of… I’ll inform you a bit secret. As a result of it’s 5 hours… We’re forward of England 5 hours, in order that they’ve all the time gone by means of cocktail time by the point we’ve got the comfortable hour, and you may see it typically of their responses (laughter), which is nice enjoyable. Now we have the comfortable hour, and we’ve got Nancy Goodwin talking, and I’m simply honored to introduce her. She’s, as you stated, an iconic backyard within the South.
A variety of gardeners within the South suppose that Galanthus aren’t hardy for them, as a result of it’s too heat. Properly, I simply need to level to Nancy Goodwin, who’s been doing Galanthus in her backyard for 30 years. She’s recognized proper now together with her Galanthus assortment for having the winter stroll. She has lots of fall-blooming Galanthus in her backyard. However I simply needed to have her converse as a result of she’s such a very good gardener, and has been doing Galanthus, and assist dispel that fantasy which you can’t develop them within the South. I even have a busload coming from Tennessee to the gala this yr.
Margaret: Oh, nice.
David: And so they’ve been coming a number of years, we’ve got a number of busloads coming to the gala. Then on Saturday, we’ve got the curator of Utrecht Gardens talking on DNA tracing in snowdrops, to verify how the Galanthus have moved from the Mediterranean upwards by means of Europe. They’re really doing DNA tracing to verify they’ve the appropriate cultivars and species within the backyard, that they’re traditionally right as properly. I believe that’s fascinating, that we’ve moved in that path, not simply in Galanthus however plant-wide. I believe DNA tracing goes to alter the way in which Linnaean nomenclature is immediately.
After which we’ve got the director of the Gothenburg Botanical Backyard in Sweden, which is the most important bulb assortment on the planet.
David: Not simply the USA. However he’s going to be speaking about his love of Galanthus, and extra importantly I believe, simply as importantly, are the companion crops, the companion bulbs to bloom with them, so it’s not only one genus, it’s about making a backyard, Margaret. About…
Margaret: Talking of layering (laughter).
David: It’s about making a backyard, and what goes with that plant? Sure. That’s proper; thanks.
Margaret: Properly, David Culp, we’re nearly principally out of time. However I all the time have enjoyable, as folks may inform, as a result of I used to be cackling all through, speaking to you.
David: You need to have enjoyable.
Margaret: A fellow plant nut of… a longtime plant nut like me. So, thanks a lot, and I’ll discuss to you once more quickly, I hope.
David: Thanks, Margaret. I look ahead to seeing you quickly, and everybody on the Gala. Completely happy gardening.
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