Monday, 13 October 2014
'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' ~ A Review
Well rules are made for breaking aren't they? So with the publication of a new book on snowdrops my self imposed embargo on book buying just had to go by the wayside. 'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade has recently taken up residence amidst the groaning bookshelves. Long term readers of this blog will know of my addiction to these early flowering beauties. My initial impressions of the book are favourable although I still have to do it full justice i.e. read it from cover to cover. I'm sure I will do this whilst waiting for my 'drops to appear.
The book starts off with an explanation from the author, who describes herself as not a 'fully fledged galanthophile', as to why she loves snowdrops. Her love affair began as a child when she picked Valentine posies of snowdrops to give to her mother. As she says "snowdrops have no competition for the enjoyment of their charms. They may be small, but they arrive on to an empty dark stage, lighting it up in the very depths of winter. And the hungry audience applauds". Naomi points out that they are a plant that can be enjoyed and grown by anyone no matter the size of your garden. As well as being bewitched by the plants the author explains that she was also fascinated by the people she encountered growing snowdrops and by the stories behind many of these bulbs.
The next chapter of the book looks at designing with snowdrops. Advice is given on finding the the optimum growing conditions for your snowdrops. There are suggestions of good planting companions as well as a useful list of bad companions. The author covers growing snowdrops in containers with other flowers and shrubs of late winter/early spring interest as well as discussing the merits of snowdrops as a cut flower.
This is followed by a section entitled 'Understanding Snowdrops' takes "a brief tour around their history, morphology, tradition, medicine, convention and metaphor - among other things". I appreciated the fact that the make up of the bulb was explained in terms that I understood. I have no knowledge of botany and struggle with dry technical explanations.
A 'Spotter's Guide' offers a 'taster selection of snowdrops' - the choice being based on "availability, charm, interest" as well as the author's personal taste. All the snowdrops included are available in the United Kingdom and most can be tracked down in the USA too. There is sound advice for anybody who has been bitten by the snowdrop bug to walk before you can run by starting with a "few solid bulbs that are distinctive, reasonably priced, and not too fussy". Earlier in the book there are some suggestions of "easy -care" snowdrops which are suitable for the beginner. As the author points out you can always "slake your thirst for fancy-pants flowers with outings to shows and gardens" until you have enough experience and successes behind you so that can then develop your collection. Some 60 odd snowdrops are illustrated and featured here albeit some in more detail than others. Not all of my favourites were included but I was pleased to come across mention of some of them elsewhere in the book.
I giggled at some of Naomi's descriptions of the snowdrops on her list. 'Lady Elphinstone' is described as a "frothy creamy creature, reminiscent of of a good dollop of lemon-meringue pie", 'Blewberry Tart' as "cheeky, charming and decidedly immodest" whilst 'Ketton' is likened to the classic little black dress which can be be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.
This guide is followed by a comprehensive section on growing and propagating. The reader finds how to choose and prepare a site for planting. Planting in the green and as dormant bulbs are both covered along with the pros and cons of both methods. Propagation and pests are also included in this section.
'Where to See Snowdrops : Out And About' suggests gardens and snowdrops events to visit not only in the UK, but also in the USA, in Southern Ireland and the Netherlands. A list of where to buy provides contact details of specialist nurseries selling these little white gems. At the back the 'For More Information' section lists various sources which I'm sure I will delve into over the next few months. A minor nitpick here - many of the sources listed under the heading of books are in fact references to newspaper articles or magazines horticultural and otherwise, some to articles in specialist journals and some refer to online articles. The 'book list' is followed by details of relevant organisations and websites.
Throughout the book are mini - interviews with snowdrop experts who were asked a standard set of questions namely:
How did you fall in love with snowdrops?
What do you particularly like about them?
What is your favourite snowdrop?
If you could go back to any point in snowdrop history, where would it be?
Who is your galanthus idol?
Planting in the green or as dormant bulbs?
What is your expert tip?
I found these interviews fascinating although I would have preferred that they had been grouped together for the sake of easier comparison of replies.
In conclusion from what I've read/seen of the book I wish that it had been available when my fascination for snowdrops started. It is well written, the author has great enthusiasm for her subject and the book has a wealth of clear and good quality illustrations. I'm sure that some of my blogging friends who share my enthusiasm for snowdrops would enjoy this book as well as any other plant lovers.
'The Plant Lover's Guide To Snowdrops' by Naomi Slade is published by Timber Press. It's available from good bookshops, from the usual online sources or you may be able to obtain it from your local library.