Or how the bulbs in your garden kept their secret all winter.
Snowdrops (Galanthus) and Tulips are both bulbous plants, as are Daffodils (Narcissus) and Hyacinths.
All of these are well known spring flowering flowers. Hyacinths may be ‘forced’ that is specially prepared, to flower for Christmas, but naturally they would flower outside in April and May. Snowdrops flower from January through to the end of March; Daffodils flower from February to April and Tulips from late March to late May. The dates do vary with where you are (local and regional weather and micro climate) and how long the bulbs have been in the ground (did you plant them late for example).
Unless, of course, the bulb in question is a corm, or a rhizome or a tuber (not the wind instrument, that’s a tuba). What is the difference? An extract from our eBook “In Your Spring Garden” may help explain…
“A bit of botany about bulbs
Some of the flowers we think of as growing from bulbs are in fact from corms or tubers. Although these are fundamentally the same, in the sense of being a storage depot where the plant keeps it resources in order to flower the following year, there are differences. Bulbs and corms are stems, whereas just to confuse you, some tubers are stems, such as begonias, and others, dahlias for example, are roots.
Bulbs have a swollen compact stem with fleshy leaves attached to it; daffodils (narcissi) tulips and the onion family are all bulbs. New bulbs are formed from buds between the leaves of the parent bulb, which itself will last many years. These small bulbs can be separated from the parent and planted separately, its best to take ones with roots buds showing at the base to be sure of their growing on. Corms have a short swollen stem in which the food is stored; this is covered by old dead foliage. New corms are formed on top of the old one which will eventually wither away. Crocus and gladiolus are corms.
Stem tubers such as begonias and cyclamen, are long lived or perennial; although not all stem tubers are. Their tubers have developed from the ends of rhizomes, which are underground stems; hence stem tubers. Dahlias and some day lilies (Hemerocallis) are root tubers.”
So what about those heroic Snowdrops I mentioned? Galanthus nivalis ‘Robin Hood’ is the snowdrop in question and I was busy admiring it again at the RHS Plant and Design Show in London this week. First mentioned as a snowdrop variety in 1891, Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’ has markings on the inner flower that look like crossed sabres, which is arguably a disappointment, I feel the markings should look like a bow and arrow. But I am fond of this particular snowdrop nonetheless.
The Horticultural Halls were full with many different plants, but I always see the Snowdrops and Daffodils as the undisputed stars of the show – they are at their prime. And it’s when you view snowdrops that are at table height that you begin to realise that not only are their flowers beautifully marked with green and yellow and cream, but that many also have a delicate scent that would be totally lost if you only planted them in the flower borders in your garden. My planting tip for this week is to have some sweetly scented Snowdrops in a raised bed or tall pot so you can enjoy both their gentle perfume and the pretty markings n the inner flower. Snowdrops are a bit perverse, they like cool dampness when flowering and dryness during the summer, but this can be easily arranged if they’re in a pot.
And the vodka drinking tulip? An attractive white flower with fringed petals called Tulip ‘smirnoff’; although I’m not sure that its cup shaped flowers would work as a shot glass, it is a very attractive plant. I’ve added it to my list of bulbs to buy next autumn.
Snowdrops, Plews and Chartwell
Since first writing this blog, Marie has won a competition for a photograph she took of snowdrops in the winter garden at Chartwell, Churchill’s home. You can find it in the 2014 National Trust Chartwell calendar – and in the blog Marie wrote about her garden visit.