At this time of year British gardens are (as expertly summed up by one of the Fine Gardening editorial team – yes, I am looking at you Antonio) mostly twiggy and damp. On balance I have to agree, but there are exceptions for this time of year is the moment for very small and delicate flowers.
Nothing much is happening in the way of trees or shrubs but right down at ground level a lot of bulbs are doing their thing.
In particular the snowdrop.
I don’t know whether you have such things as Galanthophiles in America? We do, they are a particular breed of plant enthusiast who are obsessed with snowdrops (or Galanthus if you speak Latin, hence Galanthophiles or Snowdrop Lovers).
They come out in January and February, well wrapped up and wearing sensibly robust shoes. The very keen Galanthophile will also carry a magnifying lens and a kneeling mat (the reason for this will soon become clear). Their destination could be any one of a few hundred gardens which open to the public specifically to show off their snowdrops.
Now, to most people a snowdrop is a very pretty small flower which scrambles gaily around woodlands and borders. The distinction between varieties is lost as it often comes down to a slight variation in size (only a matter of a few millimetres) or a minor difference in the green freckling at the ends of the petals. To the true enthusiast, however, these tiny differences can provide hours of pleasure – mostly spent kneeling on the ground peering at the undersides of flowers – hence the aforementioned kneeling mat and magnifier.
I love snowdrops, especially en masse stretched out through an ancient deciduous woodland, but I am not an aficionado. However, galanthophila is a wonderful thing to behold as it is a passion and to hear people talk about something that moves them is always an inspiration.
Even if you have to be very damp and cold in order to fully understand.