Judy
The Snowdrop Year

This is my guide for “what I do when” during the year and is based on lifting the bulbs while dormant, not “in the green”.

MARCH

Traditionally, this is when the vast majority of snowdrops are sold by mail order; plant immediately, either in the garden in pots, or as I do, in a nursery raised bed. Water daily for the first week, every other day for the following week and then when necessary, depending on the weather. Try to protect the newly planted snowdrops from strong winds as this can hamper their re-establishment. A weekly liquid feed will be beneficial.

For the established snowdrops, check regularly for signs of distress, disease, virus and damage caused by weather or pests; treat accordingly. Keep competing vegetation away from the snowdrop leaves, allowing them enough sunlight in order to lengthen. A liquid feed during March will be beneficial.

Make a note of any clumps that will need dividing later; make a note and mark up any areas that can be used for future plantings.

Continue to water and feed the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings; shade the greenhouse if necessary.

Prune early flowering shrubs as soon as they have finished flowering.

APRIL

Continue to water and feed regularly the newly planted/acquired snowdrops; if any have died down prematurely, lift the bulb and pot up in damp compost and place in a shed or cold frame, anywhere that it is cool but dry. Replant the bulb in August.

Continue to be vigilant regarding virus and diseases.

Keep a look out for developing seed pods; any that I particularly want to keep, I encase in a two inch square of muslin which is loosely tied with cotton. This stops the ants from pinching the seed pod, allows me to find it should it become detached from the pedicel and catches the seeds if I fail to pick the pod early enough.

Another liquid feed during April will be beneficial, but not essential.

Continue to water and feed the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings.

MAY

Make a note of which snowdrops are required for twin-scaling, as these need to be lifted as soon as the plants go dormant.

If narcissus fly is a problem, loosely cover the snowdrops with lightweight green house shading material if they are in full sun; the flies are attracted to the warm soil.

Stock up on compost, vermiculite, fungicide etc.

Check seed pods; if there are any that are ripe then sow the seeds immediately.

Start to water sparingly the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings as the foliage begins to yellow.

Cut down the hellebore flowers before the seeds ripen, unless they are required.

JUNE

This is the main twin scaling and seed planting period; I find that the success rate for seed germination is greater the fresher the seeds are when potted up; by starting the twin scaling as early as possible and given an incubation period of 12 to 14 weeks, this allows the tiny bulbils to be potted up well before the cold weather commences.

Collect and discard seed pods not required; tidy up withered foliage.

Once the foliage has died down on the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings, cover the pots with layers of newspaper to protect from the heat of the sun or move pots to underneath the staging.

JULY

Continue to twin scale but try and complete by the second week in July so allowing the tiny bulbils to be potted up before the cold weather commences.

Continue with seed sowing.

Check regularly the incubating twin scales for any signs of decay.

Start to lift and divide the clumps of snowdrops; inspect each bulb and only keep those that are firm and plump; discard any that are dodgy. Re-plant immediately or store in deep trays of just moist compost for replanting at a later date or selling/swapping.

AUGUST

Continue to lift and re-plant clumps.

Continue to check the incubating twin scales.

Start to re-pot/plant out the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings.

SEPTEMBER

Continue to lift and re-plant, but try to complete by the second week of September as the bulbs will want to start forming new roots as soon as the soil temperature starts to drop and the autumn rains commence.

Continue to re-pot/plant out the previous year’s twin scales and seedlings.

Check on incubating twin scales; if any after 12 weeks have produced bulbils, then these can be potted up.

If any bulbs are required to be grown in pots then they should be potted up now; water well.

OCTOBER

Continue to pot up this year’s twin scales.

Tidy/weed around the garden snowdrops and mulch, before top growth commences.

Make sure that any labels are legible and securely in place.

NOVEMBER

Start to put the garden “to bed”; prune any shrubs, rake and collect leaves for leaf mould; cut down hellebore leaves and spray with fungicide; feed the garden (not the snowdrops) with a manure based food; mulch the garden (not the snowdrops) with leaf mould, rotted compost or composted/chipped bark.

Check ventilation in greenhouse; check that heaters are in good, working order; insulate with bubble wrap if not heating the greenhouse.

Check for top growth on twin scales of early varieties; water sparingly if the weather is frosty.

DECEMBER

Check for germination of seeds and move into the greenhouse if the weather is too cold, i.e. freezing temps.

Keep the greenhouse at just above freezing, if possible, as young bulbs can perish if pots become frozen.

Water sparingly all pots of twin scales that show top growth.

Order next year’s snowdrops.

Tidy up any excess leaves around emerging snowdrops to discourage slugs.

Update records.

JANUARY

Start to enjoy the early flowering snowdrops and other plants.

Plan garden visits etc for February.

Keep the greenhouse ventilated in the day but be careful of cold draughts as they can desiccate tiny leaves.

FEBRUARY

This is the month to sit back and see if all your hard work has paid off.

Try to get out and about and visit as many places/events that you can.

In your own garden, verify any snowdrops that have flowered for you for the first time that they are what you think they should be.

If any bulbs from previous year’s twin scaling have flowered for the first time, check that they are true to type.

Water and feed regularly the twin scales and seedlings.

Any potted up snowdrops that you purchase, try to plant out as soon as possible; if this is not possible then put the pots under cover; do not leave them outside to freeze

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