Matt’s eyes were first opened to snowdrops at the RHS Gardens, Wisley in the mid-eighties, where a large collection had been gathered together on Seven Acres. He was immediately fascinated at the diversity found in these seemingly simple white flowers: rumours of recent finds that were supposedly ‘all green’ and ‘all yellow’ did nothing to dampen his curiosity. Neither did the fact that their following numbered some serious plant people who seemed to be able to recite the provenance and pedigrees of their snowdrops on cue, showing that the mania was not simply for the flowers but also the personalities behind them. The only frustration was that so little had been written on them, the cultivars especially.
1994 provided a turning point in his interest in snowdrops when he helped David Bromley and Margaret Owen, with a joyous group of like-minded enthusiasts, stage an exhibit at the RHS February show. Most of the key figures in the snowdrop world were there and naturally gravitated to the stand. He was struck by their enthusiasm and generosity. Many friendships that would play an important part of his later life began on that day.
Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus
As his interest in snowdrops grew, along with the increasing numbers of new cultivars each year, it was apparent for the need of an accurate record of their appearance and of equal importance, their identification. So in 1996 Matt began collecting information and preparing descriptions of all the new and already established snowdrop cultivars. Realising the mountainous nature of the task he enlisted the help of John Grimshaw and they were soon afterwards joined by Aaron Davis,whose doctoral thesis that would later form the basis for his monograph The Genus Galanthus (1999). In order to maintain control of what the end product of the project would look like they took the pragmatic decision to publish. The result was “Snowdrops: a monograph of cultivated Galanthus (2001)”.
Snowdrops 2: A Supplement Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus (in prep.)
Whilst the inevitability of the need for a supplement wasn’t completely lost on us, we didn’t quite foresee the great gathering of pace in the appearance of so many newly named snowdrops. With over 500 cultivars already discussed or described, the total today (and it hasn’t been counted!) must be heading towards, if not beyond 2000.
No longer is enthusiasm for snowdrops a peculiarly British mind-set, having now spread, especially on the continent, where snowdrop events have also become also regular wintry staple. Websites and discussion forums have made sharing information, images and opinions on new snowdrops far easier. Together, these factors have fanned an enormous increase in the number of new snowdrops with combinations of floral morphology, colours and marking that even recently would have taken some imagination.
Work towards the supplement began in 2009 and continues apace. Matt will be working once again with John Grimshaw and they are thrilled to be joined by Joerg Lebsa the well-known grower and collector from Dresden. Joerg brings with him exemplary observational skills, a wealth of knowledge of recent developments on the continent and help overcome some linguistic obstacles! In addition they are continually grateful to their friends in the ever growing Snowdrop community for their support and help to ensure they can at least try to be in the right place at the right time, for producing portraits and descriptions.
How You Can Help
At the risk of stating the obvious, Snowdrops 2 will be, like its predecessor, your book. We are aiming for it to be as comprehensive as possible but to achieve this we need your help. Despite the word being ‘out there’ that a supplement is pending, we need you to tell us about your plants – either those you have selected or even selections which you think we may not know about.
Your feedback about Snowdrops, mainly concerned the index which we were able to supplement with a more user-friendly version when it was reprinted; the same is planned for Snowdrops 2 along with appropriate cross referencing.
You also wanted to see more portraits of snowdrop cultivars: So did we! Of all the cultivars we describe in Snowdrops 2 we would like to be able to illustrate upwards of 70% of cultivars. For this to be possible Matt needs to have a flower, or flowers, in pristine condition in front of his camera. As Matt is unable to drive dashing around the country every February getting to as many of the main collections as possible is quite tricky. February is frustratingly finite!
So, if you are growing a cultivar or cultivars we are not likely to have seen please tell us. If necessary we will likely ask if you can send specimens. Once we have the necessary portraits and description proformas are complete we will return to what we received along with their increase. Matt is happy to sign any reasonable agreement to this affect in advance.