History of snowdrop collecting
The term galanthophile was probably invented by the noted British plantsman and garden writer E. A. Bowles (1865–1954) in a letter to his friend Oliver Wyatt, another keen collector of bulbs, whom he addressed as "Dear Galanthophil". Wyatt may have been the first person to whom the term was applied but he was by no means the first galanthophile; as well as Bowles himself there had been keen collectors of snowdrops since at least the mid 19th century. Many galanthophiles are commemorated in the names of snowdrop species or cultivars. Nurseryman James Atkins (1804–1884) of Northampton was one of the earliest, and the tall, early-flowering, robust Galanthus 'Atkinsii' is still widely grown: Canon Ellacombe of Bitton distributed 'Atkinsii' widely.
James Allen (1832–1906) of Shepton Mallet was probably the first person to raise hybrid snowdrops from seed made from deliberate crosses. In 1891 he reported that he grew every known species of Galanthus and had raised over 100 distinct seedlings, but much of his collection was lost to botrytis and narcissus fly soon afterward. At least two of his cultivars, G. 'Magnet' and G. 'Merlin', survive and are widely grown by collectors. He also raised hybrids which he called G. 'Galatea' and G. 'Robin Hood', but the plants now grown under those names today may not be the same as those he selected. Galanthus x allenii is a hybrid, of unknown origin, that appeared in a batch of G. latifolius (now called G. platyphyllus), which Allen had got from an Austrian supplier in 1883 (according to Bishop et al. it is more likely that the bulbs were another broad-leaved species, G. woronowii, often confused with G. platyphyllus). The bulbs were most probably collected in the Caucasus but G. x allenii has never been found in the wild since then, so one can only speculate where the cross occurred and what other species may have been involved. It is a handsome plant with broad, greenish-grey foliage and fairly large flowers which smell of bitter almonds. Margery Fish at East Lambrook Manor was another enthusiast and popularizer of Galanthus nivalis and its varieties in the 1950s and 1960s.
Notable modern galanthophiles include the late Primrose Warburg (1920–1996), after whom G. 'Primrose Warburg' is named: appropriately, it has yellow markings and a yellow ovary (primroses are generally yellow). She was married to the noted botanist E.F. Warburg. Several other fine snowdrops originated at her garden at South Hayes in Oxfordshire, including the unusual cultivar named G. 'South Hayes' which has strong green markings on the outer "petals" (actually tepals) of the flower.
Botanist Aaron Davis and gardeners Matt Bishop and John Grimshaw, authors of the works on which these notes are based, also qualify as galanthophiles.
- Aaron P. Davis, The Genus Galanthus, A Botanical Magazine Monograph. Timber Press, Portland, OR (in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) ISBN 0-88192-431-8
- Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis, John Grimshaw, Snowdrops - A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus, Griffin Press, January 2002 (ISBN 0-9541916-0-9)
- Stern F C, Snowdrops and Snowflakes – A study of the Genera Galanthus and Leucojum, The Royal Horticultural Society, 1956