Part 4 of a series of posts on My Garden in Spring by E. A. Bowles
My Garden in Spring (c. 1915)
E. A. Bowles (1865 – 1954)
One can hardly picture an English garden without the Snowdrop. Yet not only are we forbidden by the compilers of lists of British plants to say it is indigenous to our woods, but much has been written to prove it was but little known in our gardens till well into the seventeenth century. The chief evidence for this view is found in Bacon’s omission of the Snowdrop from his list of plants for the early months of the year, and Johnson’s remark, when editing his edition of Gerard, published in 1633, that “some call them also Snowdrops,” as though the plant as well as the name were still not well known. One great writer on such subjects, who so seldom makes a mistake that I feel almost as though I must be dreaming and ought not to believe my own eyes, has stated that Gerard omitted the Snowdrop in 1597 and Parkinson did so also in the first edition of the Paradisus in 1629, but it appears in both as Leuconium bulbosum praecox minus, and there are figures given in both books. Anyway, whatever the seventeenth century gardens contained, I should be greatly disappointed if this twentieth century one could not show me a Snowdrop at all times from late October until the advent of April brings so many other flowers that one scarcely notices their disappearance.
This garden is not very well suited to Snowdrops: they do not colonise or settle down and require no further treatment as in cooler soils, but I take so much interest in the various forms and seedling varieties that I have diligently collected all I can get, and labour earnestly to keep them here. Most of them require frequent division and replanting, and I believe in doing this just as they are going out of flower, and if the roots are not broken in lifting but carefully spread out in their new soil, they seem to gather up nourishment for the newly-forming bulb without a check. The bulb of a Snowdrop is well worth examining. If dug up and well washed at flowering time, you will find it consists of first a very thin brown skin, easily broken and rubbed off, leaving a shining, white surface below, which is the outside of a thick, fleshy wrapping enclosing the whole bulb, and having a small round opening at the top, out of which the shoot of the present year has grown. By carefully slitting one side of this white wrapper you can peel it off, and will see that it is about the same thickness throughout, and has an inner membranous lining that is only attached to it at the top and base. What remains of the bulb appears wrapped in a second similar fleshy covering, but by slitting and removing this you will find that its inner surface is three times as thick on one side of the bulb as on the other, and the thicker side is fluted with nine or more ridges, which remind one of those on the corrugated cardboard so useful for packing fragile objects (and even plants for the post when one cannot find a long and narrow box just to fit). This second bulb scale has an inner lining similar to the first, and so has the third and innermost one, which also has one side fluted and thicker than the other, and its fluting is on the opposite side of the bulb to that of the second scale. These three scales form the whole of last season’s bulb, and directly inside them you will find a long tube, thick and fleshy below and gradually becoming thinner upwards, till it emerges in the centre as the almost transparent sheathing leaf that wraps round the lower part of the two real leaves. A section of its base will show that it is of uniform thickness, and is the counterpart of the outer scale of the bulb, only a year younger, and will form the outer scale of next season’s bulb. Inside this sheath come the two leaves, and if you can follow them down carefully to the point where they join on to the base of the bulb, you will notice that one grows gradually wider and thicker till it wraps right round the other, and by cutting through their thickened bases and examining them with a lens, traces of ridges may be seen, and also that one side is thicker than the other. So we learn that the bulb is formed annually of the bases of the sheathing leaf and the two true leaves, which swell out and store up all the nutriment gathered by roots and leaves during the period of growth. I do not know of any other bulb so wonderfully yet simply constructed from three pieces, and that yields up its secret so easily to the inquirer.
Another interesting characteristic of the Snowdrop that gives me annual pleasure to notice is its method of piercing through the hard ground. The two leaves are tightly bound round by the sheathing leaf, so that their tips are pressed together to form a sharp point that cleaves the ground and makes way for the fragile flower, in much the same way that you put your two hands together and hold them in front of your head when diving into the water. The point of the uprising Snowdrop is strengthened for pushing aside stones and hard substances by a thickening of the tip of each leaf into a tough white cushion, a plan also followed by the leaves of Daffodils, Hyacinths, and many other bulbous plants, but I think only in Snowdrops do these white or cream-coloured tips persist so noticeably in the full-grown leaf.
Forbes-Watson has rhapsodised very beautifully about the artistic value of these dots, but I think their mechanical service to the plant is their raison d’être and perhaps more admirable side.
There is much pleasure to be derived from watching the thrusting through of one’s plants in the dull, wintry days. I love to see a great cracking and upheaval of the soil as forerunner to the appearance of the blunt, white nose of a really strong Eremurus Elwesianus, and would far rather see this vegetable mimicry of an enlarged poached egg in the border than any Venus rising from the sea. If the white, sheathing leaves appear in this knob-like form you know there is a good strong spike below, and that forking over in the autumnal cleaning up has not injured the shoot; but if a point of green leaves first appears it is too often presage of a flowerless crown. The arch method employed by many dicotyledons is worth contrasting with the plan of spearing through adopted by most monocotyledons. It is marvellous what power lies in a growing shoot of a Crocus. It makes light work of a hard, well-rolled gravel path. A single Crocus leaf is a flaccid, weak instrument, but the whole series of leaves, varying from four to fifteen according to the species, when tightly bound by the tough, sheathing leaves, and the sharp and toughened points of the true leaves thus all brought together, form almost as sharp and strong a weapon as the underground shoot of one of the running bamboos. Still more wonderful are those, mostly autumnal bloomers, that flower without leaves, for in their case it is only the tips of the sheathing leaves that pierce the soil, and once through into daylight open a little way to allow the fragile flower-bud to pass upwards. But this seems to me as child’s play compared with the task undertaken by the Winter Aconite, the Wood Anemones, Bongardia Rauwolfii, and the Epimediums, which bring their flower-buds almost to maturity below ground, and then lift them through backwards by means of an increased rate of growth in the lower portion of the floral stem and the consequent raising of the centre of the arch into which they are bent. It is the same method by which so many dicotyledons lift the cotyledons out of the seed husk, and is a case of ” Don’t push, just shove,” as boys say, the top of the arched stem being forced straight ahead until it is not only through the surface of the ground but has gone up high enough to lift the flower-buds clear of the soil, when they will straighten up, and further growth may be uniform throughout the length of the flower-stalk.
Certain of the autumnal-flowering Snowdrops blossom before the leaves are produced, and with them, as with the naked flowering Crocuses, the sheathing leaf opens the road to the surface only, and, once there, parts to allow the blossom to emerge from its protection; but they have not the same charm for me as those which flower with their leaves, looking rather forlorn, hanging above bare earth. Most of these come from Greece, and one, Galanthus corcyrensis, from Corfu, and are generally regarded as forms of the common Snowdrop G. nivalis.
Except in time of flowering there is not much difference between them, and they are none of them very easy to please, evidently expecting the winter to be mild and sunny and kind to their young leaves in return for their early heralding of Spring. So they are only safe in the open in specially sheltered nooks, while a cold frame makes a still happier home for them. Galanthus Olgae is the first to appear here, and generally does so in the latter part of October, and looks sadly out of place at that season. It has been described as a species, and retained as such by some authors, because it is said to have no green marking on the inner segments. But the original description distinctly states that when dried the inner segments appear to have no green markings, and I notice that in this form more than in any other the green fades to yellow, and sometimes disappears altogether if an elderly blossom is dried. It has been rather largely collected of late years, and can be bought much more reasonably than other autumnal Snowdrops, and is well worth a trial wherever a cosy nook can be spared to it. G. Rachelae is my favourite of the first comers, but alas! it is so rare that it can only be procured by love and not for money. It was found in Greece by Professor Mahaffy on Mount Hymettus in 1884, and found a home with that kindest of good gardeners the late Mr. Burbidge, at Trinity College, Dublin. From him it found its way into a few gardens whose owners could love an autumnal Snowdrop. From Mr. Arnott’s generous hand it came to me, and I am glad to say, when some years later he unfortunately lost his plants, I was able to restore him of his own. For some years it seemed to be very happy with me in the rock garden, and I was able to make two clumps of it, then the larvae of the Common Swift Moth (Hepialus lupuinus), one of my worst enemies, found it toothsome and hollowed out its bulbs. One clump disappeared altogether, and I am still struggling anxiously with the remnant of the other, but hoping some day to recover the lost ground, and be able to send it still further afield. When robust it sends up two or three blossoms from a strong bulb, and they are larger than those of any other early autumnal form, but for all that leafless. I have a bed I call the sand-moraine because parts of it are surfaced with granite chips, and it is provided with an underground pipe for watering, and because it must have some name, and further it is fashionable now to call any bed of carefully-mixed, gritty soil a moraine. Anyway, in a corner of this bed which is filled with yellow builders’ sand mixed with a little good leaf mould, G. Rachelae has so far looked happy again, and has escaped gnawed vitals. I have lately been converted to this particular sand, which I believe is called yellow builders’ sand by those who stock such things, meaning of course that the sand is somewhat yellow not that the builder is a Mongolian but it is the old friend we have bought from grocers and seed-merchants as birdcage sand, and is really a reddish-orange in colour.
Plants love it, at any rate when new, and even if it deteriorates with age I hope to find some means of doctoring it up to full fertile strength again. I should never have thought of trying Snowdrops in it but for Mr. Wilks’s kindness in letting me dig up a fine specimen of Galanthus Allenii from his garden for me to figure; and when I saw how clean its bulb looked, and how strong and fair were its roots in that sandy soil, I resolved it should go into this newly-made sand-moraine, and its apparent content there has caused other kinds to gather round about it. G. octobrensis behaved badly here, and flowered later and later each season, until it became merged with the ordinary Snowdrop. I had hoped it would have continued, and after becoming the latest of all would go on until it was a summer flowerer, and then come round to October again, but it has never done so. G. byzantinus is my great link between Autumn and Spring. It is interesting as being a supposed natural hybrid between Elwesii and plicatus, having the flowers of the former with their extra basal green spot, and the folded-edged leaf of the latter. I find that freshly-imported bulbs, if planted as soon as received, generally in August, will give a succession of flowers from November to February. Some of the earliest flowering forms I have removed to the rock garden, and I find, though not so early as in their first season, yet they have been in flower before Christmas for the last four years. So every year I like to buy a few hundred collected bulbs to make fresh colonies, and enjoy their early flowers. G. Elwesii, though not quite so early, yet will make a fair show in December if planted as soon as the bulbs are imported in August or September. Until I bought and planted them so early in the season I never had much success with either of these, but last season a three-year-old planting had not only increased well by offsets but seedlings appeared in most promising profusion, and especially round the byzantinus parents. Before the old year has gone I look for G. cilicicus to be showing buds at least. It is a tall, slender form of G. nivalis, with very glaucous leaves. Although described in catalogues as November flowering, I do not get blossoms here until late December or January, and expect it is only newly-imported bulbs that flower in November.* It was especially good in the winter of 1911-12, as though it appreciated the extra cooking it got that summer.
[* G. cilicicus has given me the lie, as plants love to do, by opening several flowers on the 30th November 1913 on clumps undisturbed for three years.]
Between Christmas and the New Year I like to clean up some corners where I have clumps of a very fine form of the Neapolitan Snowdrop, G. Imperati. I believe it to be the one that should be called var. Atkinsii, after its introducer, Mr. Atkins, of Panswick in Gloucestershire, whose name lives also in the fine garden form of Cyclamen ibericum known as Atkinsii. Canon Ellacombe gave me this Snowdrop and quite half of my garden treasures besides, and it is one of the floral treats of the year to see it in January growing over a foot high under the south wall at Bitton. As I have neither the soil, climate, nor south wall of Bitton to give it, it is never quite so fine here, but every season when I see it reappear I hail it as one of the finest if not the loveliest of all Snowdrops. The outer segments are wonderfully long and very perfect in shape, making the flower resemble a pear-shaped pearl, and it stands up well except, of course, during days of keen frost. Very near to it in early flowering and stature, but falling short in symmetry, is a form that I believe should be known by the rather House-that-Jack-built sort of name of G. Imperati, var. Atkinsii of Backhouse. It is a fine thing, but very seldom produces a perfectly sym- metrical flower, for either one of the inner segments is as long as the outer ones, or there are four outer segments, or yet again a petaloid bract may appear just below the ovary but not quite so purely white as the flower proper, and all these vagaries give a clump rather an untidy appearance when looked at closely. I find it hard to say which I consider the most beautiful Snowdrop, and should pick out four as candidates for the prize, but I have never ranged them all four together for comparison, so when I look at any one of them I wonder whether the others can possibly be more beautiful. I think if only I could grow it here as I once received it for figuring straight from its home in Ireland, the Straffan Snowdrop would win the golden apple. It is a Crimean form, and like its relations bears two flowers from each strong bulb, one rather earlier and taller than the other. It is a fine large form, but so beautifully proportioned that it is not a bit coarse or clumsy, as I think some of the very globose forms of G. Elwesii are. It is known botanically as G. caucasicus grandis, and is a late flowering form of the Caucasian form of nivalis. It was brought to Straffan by Lord Clarina on his return from the Crimean War together with bulbs of G. plicatus, which was the Snowdrop that spoke so sweetly of home to our soldiers when the Spring melted the snow and the trenches were covered with white blossoms instead. Lovely grandis has never been really comfortable here, and I fear is decreasing in numbers, though its few flowers were very lovely last March.
As this beauty returns my affection and care so coldly I turn to a more generous-natured form which the late Mr. Neill Fraser sent me without a name, so shortly before his death that my letter of thanks and inquiries was too late to bring an answer. The bulb he gave me has grown so well that I am now reminded of his pleasant friendship from several corners of the garden, but the original clump is the best placed. It is at the foot of a large bush of Erica scoparia, a heath seldom seen in English gardens, as it has little to recommend it save a very graceful habit and good evergreen colour, the flowers being very inconspicuous, small, and of a brownish green, but an interesting plant, as it is one of the species of heath which produce burrs or knots on the roots, and though the best are those from E. arborea, in the Landes district (where E. scoparia is very plentiful) its root-burrs are collected and exported for making the pipes known here as briar-root pipes, a corruption of the French name Bruyere. I grubbed up my plant in the woods round Arcachon, and though I tried many that looked like removable seedlings, it was some time before I hit upon one that had not a root fit for a pipe-factory with many large knobs already formed, and even if such as these were likely to live I jibbed at the postage I should have to pay. Now, twenty years after, it is a fine bush five feet in height, and at its feet and under its spread my souvenir of Patrick Neill Fraser attracts everyone in February more than any other Snowdrop clump in the garden. I take it to be a hybrid, and the parents probably nivalis and some form of caucasicus. It is rounder in flower than the Straffan one, but has much the same graceful outline on a slightly smaller scale, but has not inherited the Crimean character of bearing a second flower from each pair of leaves. It is at its best as the Bitton Imperati is going over, and while the Straffan princess is still a sleeping beauty, so these three can reign as queen each for her season.
The fourth claimant may not appeal to everyone, for it is somewhat of a freak, the best-known of the so-called white Snowdrops, which means the flowers have little or no green marking on them. It is known as G. nivalis poculiformis, and appears now and then among the typical common Snowdrops. It originated at Dunrobin among seedlings raised by Mr. Melville, who kindly sent me plants of it. It is inclined to revert to the normal form, but when a flower is as it should be, it makes up for a few lopsided ones. The inner segments should be long and pure white just like the outer ones, and in this condition it is very graceful when half expanded, as without the usual stiff green-spotted petticoat to hide the golden anthers they show out more, and set off the purity of the six equal segments. It is a lowly gem, but it is worth bending one’s back and knees to enjoy it from its own level, rather than playing King Cophetua. In fact, no Snowdrop looks so well plucked as growing, unless one cuts it off at ground level, so preserving it between its twin leaves and bound by the sheathing leaf, and Heaven forbid I should so treat and sacrifice poculiformis. Mr. Allen raised an interesting seedling from it, which he called Virgin. The inner segments are about two-thirds the length of the outer, and curiously shaped, their sides being rolled and forming two semi-cylindrical tubes with the tips bent inwards, and the usual green horseshoe mark is reduced to two round green specks; it is curious and interesting, but not so beautiful as its mother. One Snowdrop time, when Mr. Farrer was here, he astounded me by scorning the charms of poculiformis, even of a perfectly-formed blossom, because he said he possessed a much larger, taller, and finer form, also earlier in flowering, and therefore over for that season, so I bottled up my curiosity for eleven months until, in the following year, he bade me make pilgrimage to Ingleborough and see the marvel. It was a long, cold journey, and how I hated it! but at last, on my knees before the object, I felt well rewarded, for it was a fine form of G. Elwesii that had poculiformed itself with great success. Moreover, it had increased to an extent that permitted of division, and my kind host and I dug it up, replanting the bulbs with great care, with the exception of one fine specimen, with which he sent me home rejoicing. Both our gardens have benefited (so far, of course) by this replanting. He tells me his have been much finer ever since, and mine was replanted and spread out a little this February. It has a solid, waxy white flower of great beauty, not so dainty as the nivalis form, and of rather a colder or greener white, but is a noble and early white Snowdrop.
Yellow Snowdrops sound abominable, and look somewhat sickly when the blossoms are young, for the green of the ovary and inner segments is replaced by a rather straw-coloured yellow; but on a sunny day a well-expanded bloom, showing the yellow glow that the markings lend to the inside of the flower, is not to be despised, and makes an interesting change from the green and white garb of the rest of the family. The best known is lutescens, a form of nivalis, but a larger and more robust form is called flavescens. Both were found in gardens in Northumberland, the first by Mr. Sanders and the other by Mr. W. B. Boyd, who has a better collection of Snowdrops and knows more about them than anyone else. To his generosity I am indebted for roots of the lovely double-yellow one which was found in a garden near Crewe, a loosely-formed, graceful double, with the usual markings of the inner segments of a good bright yellow, and a very charming thing when looked full in the face.
It seems to revert occasionally to its ancestral green markings, and I was rather dismayed to see so much green where I looked for yellow this season, but Mr. Boyd tells me it behaves similarly with him after removal, but after a season or two repays patience with pure gold.
Green Snowdrops suggest the dyed atrocities seen in continental flower-markets, and even our own streets at times, whose unopened buds have been placed in ink instead of water, and so forced to drink up the dye and fill their vessels with gaudy hues foreign to their nature. But several Snowdrops have chosen to add to their greenness by natural means. One of these is a charming little plant. It appeared in the Vienna Botanical Garden, and from thence travelled into Max Leichtlin’s garden at Baden Baden, that wonderful centre of distribution for rare plants which, alas! is now a thing of the past. It is said that he sent two bulbs to England, one to Mr. Harpur-Crewe, the other to Mr. Allen, and I believe all that exist over here now are descendants of that brace of bulbs. It is known as virescens, and thought to be a variety of G. caucasicus, though except that it flowers very late in the season it has no character that I can recognise as connecting it with that tall Russian. It is a very dwarf form, with glaucous leaves and stem, and the outer segments of the flower are striped from their junction with the ovary for two-thirds of their length with a delicate duck’s-egg green, and the inner segments are wholly green, except for a narrow white margin that gives a delightful finish and charm to a very lovely flower. Better known is a very curious freak form of G. nivalis, which was found in a wood in Western Prussia and named G. Scharlokii by Prof. Caspary of Konigsberg after its discoverer. Its claim to greenness rests in a patch of short green strips on the tips of the outer segments, but its chief peculiarity is the very curious pair of leafy spathes that replace the narrow green keels with their membranous connective that are common to all other Snowdrops. In G. Scharlokii, these queer little leaves stand up and spread out over the flower with an expression like that of hares’ ears. In some seasons a number of the flowers may have the leafy spathes partially united, even for about half their length, and then after a year or two all may be divided to the base again. Mr. Allen raised some seedlings that showed a slight inheritance of these characters, but they are not improvements: one of them is a double flowered form, and I think quite the ugliest Snowdrop I possess, only having enough suggestion of green on the outer segments to make it look dingy.
I have also a form known as Warei which has the green-tipped segments without the leafy spathes, and is rather pretty. The greenest of all I have saved to the last, a double green Snowdrop that doesn’t hang its head, which sounds what children call ” perfectly hijjous,” but I assure you it has a quiet beauty and charm of its own. One might not wish for a bouquet of it, or to decorate a dinner-table with nothing else, but when Mr. Boyd kindly sent it to me I greatly enjoyed examining and painting it, and am very proud of possessing so great a rarity. It was found at Ashiesteel near Melrose, in a garden where no Snowdrops but the common G. nivalis are grown, so its peculiarities must be entirely its own invention, a parallel case to that of the small girl charged with biting, scratching, and spitting at her dear kind nurse, who in answer to Mother’s explanation that such behaviour was very bad as being put into her head by the Devil, replied, ” Perhaps the biting and scratching were, but I assure you the spitting was entirely my own invention.” But it is a very curious case of a sudden mutation, for every one of the segments have become long and narrow and heavily striped with green as bright as that of the leaves. The outer segments are slightly longer than the inner, which still retain the emarginate apex, to drift into botanical terms, but in more ordinary English, the little snick round which the green horseshoe mark is generally found. The whorls of these segments occur fairly regularly and alternately till a tassel-like flower is formed, but instead of hanging as tassels, and good little Snowdrops should, it holds its head up with a “bragian boldness” unsurpassed even by Bailey Junior.
I have a pretty form of G. plicatus with green markings on the outer segments, and have had, and heard of, similar vagaries in forms of Elwesii, and Mr. Allen had some very well-spotted forms of Fosteri, so green spots evidently run in the family, and encourage the idea that perhaps a cross between a Snowdrop and the Spring Snowflake might be possible.
Many of the species hybridise freely, and some beautiful seedlings were raised by the late Mr. Allen of Shepton Mallett. Unfortunately many of these have quite died out, and are only known from the mention of their names in his paper on Snowdrops in the R. H. S. Journal of August 1891, in many cases, alas! without any description. These seedlings were never distributed by the nurserymen, and so are only to be found in a few gardens of the personal friends of Mr. Allen, and as I began collecting this family too late to get in touch with him I am indebted to the kindness of his friends for most of my varieties. I think Robin Hood is one of the best of his hybrids; it is Elwesii X plicatus, and a fine bold flower with a great deal of deep green on the inner segments. Galatea is a very well- formed, glistening white seedling, apparently nivalis X plicatus. A distinct one is Magnet, in which the pedicel is very long and slender, and the large nivalis-formed flowers hang and sway in the breeze in a way that reminds one of a Dierama. He also raised a double form with the same peculiarity of a long foot-stalk that I like very much, because, like another of his doubles called Charmer, there are no more than three outer segments, the doubling consisting entirely of a neat rosette of inner segments, instead of the mixed muddle of inner and outer segments found in the ordinary double form of G. nivalis. The beautiful G. Allenii named after him is a wild species, and very remarkable for its immense leaves, which at maturity measure about a foot in length and an inch and a half in width. When the flower is at its best they are much shorter, however, but even when first they unfold they look more like the leaves of some Tulip than of any Snowdrop. The flower is very round in form and of a good size, though not in proportion to the promise of the leaves for then it would have to be as large as a good-sized Daffodil.
There is more than one form of this species, and I have some that it is hard to decide whether they should be placed as varieties of Allenii or of the much smaller but similarly-shaped G. latifolius, a dull little thing that might be attractive if it could be induced to flower more freely. The leaves have a very cheery appearance, being very bright green and beautifully polished, but here the flowers are always few, and too insignificant for the foliage. There is another broad-leaved Snowdrop, G. Ikariae from the Island of Nikara, which is a much better thing, and valuable as being one of the latest to flower. Its broad, glossy leaves look as though they belong to some species of Scilla, but are charming in the way they curve outwards and set off the large flowers, which are of a very pure white, and have a particularly effective, large green spot on the inner segments. In one part of the garden it is sowing itself freely, and I hope for great things from these babes in years to come. I think it likes a warmer situation than most other Snowdrops, except perhaps G. Imperati, for both of these do best under a south wall or in a very sunny spot.
I have never seen more than one variety of it, that is an early flowering seedling with deeper coloured leaves that appeared under the celebrated south wall at Bitton. A bulb, kindly given to me by Canon Ellacombe, has retained its character here, and is always over before the true Ikariae is out. By the side of this in the rock garden I grow another beautiful seedling given me by Mr. Elwes, who found it among a group of G. Elwesii at Colesborne. I call it Colesborne Seedling, and believe it must be a hybrid between Elwesii and caucasicus, as it has the inner segments marked with the second green spot of the former but has the leaves of the latter. The flowers are very large and of a fine globose form, but it has too short a stem to lift them up sufficiently, otherwise I should rank it among the most beautiful of all. I suppose I must not linger much longer over my beloved Snowdrops, nor mention all the forms I grow, but must say a word in praise of a few more. One of these is G. nivalis Melvillei, another Dunrobin Snowdrop, and named after its raiser. It is a very well-shaped, round flower, but still quite of the nivalis type, and very slightly marked with green; in fact in one form I have, sent to me by Mr. Melville, the horseshoe has disappeared, leaving in its place only the heads of two of its nails, little round green dots on each side of the nick. It is a dwarf form, but so sturdy that it lasts a very long time in flower. Dwarfer still is a curious seedling of Elwesii that my own garden gave me. When first it begins to flower the immense globular flowers are borne on such short stems that when the buds hang free from the goldbeater-skin covering of the spathe, their tips rest on the ground, but later the stems lengthen and lift them. Mr. Farrer suggested the name of ” Fat Boy ” for it, when he first saw its solid obesity, and it now behaves as strangely in his rock garden in Yorkshire as it does here. The most curious thing about it is that it produces three and sometimes four flowers from between each pair of leaves, and these follow each other, and each succeeding one is lifted on a taller stem above the swelling ovary of the last and now fading flower. So that it begins as a dwarf early form and ends as a tall and late one. Among some imported bulbs of Elwesii I picked out a very late flowering one; I see by the figure I made of it that it was on the 6th of March 1906. It was also very large, and had the second green spot converted into a band across the centre of the inner segment. This one bulb has flowered every year until this, but has made no increase, and in some seasons the flower has lasted quite fresh into April, being the latest of all my Snowdrops. This year I noticed it had failed to open its flower-bud, so I dug it up to see what was wrong, and found some evil underground grub (the Swift Moth, probably) had tunnelled right through it. I much doubt whether it can possibly recover after such an injury, and I shall have to rely upon one of Mr. Allen’s plicatus seedlings called Belated to keep up my Snowdrop supply from October to April by filling up the last fortnight after G. Ikariae has turned its attention to seedpods.
The Spring Snowflake is so nearly a Snowdrop and flowers with the later ones that I shall praise it here. My favourite form is that known to science as Leucoium vernum, var. Vagneri, but which lies hidden in catalogues and nurseries as carpathicum. Both are larger, more robust forms than ordinary vernum, and strong bulbs give two flowers on each stem, but whereas carpathicum has yellow spots on the tips of the segments, Vagneri has inherited the family emeralds. It is an earlier flowering form than vernum, and a delightful plant to grow in bold clumps on the middle slopes of the flatter portions of the rock garden. Plant it deeply and leave it alone, and learn to recognise the shining narrow leaves of its babes, and to respect them until your colony is too large for your own pleasure, and you can give it away to please others.
L. Hernandezii, also known as L. pulchellum, has won a place in my affections by its useful preference for wet feet. Like the larger and finer, but later L. aestivum, it thrives well on the very edge of water, and looks so much better there than anywhere else, that I advise such a planting. Hernandezii flowers over a long period, throwing up a succession of flower-stems, and it comes in Daffodil days, at a time when other white water-side flowers are asleep. A clump of it that has been slightly overrun by our beautiful evergreen Sedge, Cladium mariscus, makes a pretty picture every Spring, growing an extra few inches under shelter of the Cladium. How seldom one sees this grand plant in a garden, and I think no nurseryman stocks it. Yet there are acres of it in the Norfolk Broads, and half of Wicken Fen is full of it – too full for my taste, for it is only fed upon by one of the rare insects of the district, and crowds out reed and other suitable food plants, and seems to be increasing rather fast in the fen. My plants I hauled up and lugged home from Norfolk – not a very easy job, as I was entomologising at the time, and a pocket-knife and my own fingers were my only digging weapons, whilst its root system is a wide-spreading mass of the toughest fibres, interlaced with those of every imaginable sedge and rush and weed. Once home it made up for all pains of transit, and its great arching leaves are a rich green throughout the year, unlike those of any other water-side plant, resembling some extra fine Pampas-Grass. With the exception of the New Zealand Arundo conspicua, which alas! is none too hardy here in wet places, nor too vigorous in dry ones, Cladium the Fen Sedge is, so far as I know, the only truly evergreen plant of similar bold grassy habit, fit for the water-side. The effect of its deep green among the tawny browns of reeds and bulrushes in autumn and winter is very fine. Nurserymen take note, also take a holiday in the Broads, take a spade and a sack, and make a fortune out of three-and-sixpenny snippets in thumb-pots of Cladium mariscus.
Edward Augustus Bowles