…a term probably first used by EA Bowles to describe a snowdrop enthusiast. So it was fitting that a sale of snowdrop plants was held last Saturday at Myddelton House Garden, home of Edward Augustus Bowles.
Gardener, writer, botanical artist and plant hunter, Bowles is commemorated in the name of more than forty plants and his garden, under the guardianship of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority is being maintained in his style.
Anita, my friend and member of the Surrey PH group alerted me to this event and offered to drive around to Enfield for 10.30 when the sale started. The overnight snow did not materialise and we set off in glorious sunshine making good time and arriving just after ten. Joining behind us in the queue were enthusiasts from Bath and Rugby and we heard of people coming down from Scotland – so Guildford was just down the road. It turned out that I had crossed paths with Tom Mitchell, the man from Bath, at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show a couple of years ago when he staged a display of Margaret Owen’s National Collection of Veratrum.
After a count down to 10.30 we were allowed in. There was no running, just determined single minded plantspeople out to locate something missing from their collections.
Anita had downloaded a list of cultivars on offer and highlighted plants that took her fancy, one of which was G. ‘Godfrey Owen’. I had with me the latest issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’ featuring an article about Margaret Owen who discovered this six petalled form in the Shropshire village of Wrentnall and named it for her late husband. I am not a galanthophile, but I love the idea of knowing the history behind a plant and its name, so I took a deep breath and bought a plant from Andrew Thorp of Leicestershire.
Plants were being selected and large amounts of money were changing hands.
This little collection in the blue tray totalled up at £175.
I was then attracted to a table with some tall, beautifully marked plants.
G. ‘Trumps’, according to Matt Bishop’s article also in ‘Gardens Illustrated’ is his favourite, ‘one of my own, but a damn good garden plant’. The sales patter was amusing, “If you buy one, you won’t need the photograph” and when I realised that it is also scented, I took an even bigger breath and bought one. Thinking that if I ever had a NC of snowdrops (extremely unlikely) I would need to know the provenance of this specimen, I asked John, the creative salesman, the name of the grower. “Matt Bishop” was the reply. Matt was former head gardener at the Garden House in Devon and co-author of Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus and I had spoken to Matt several times on the phone.
Before we left for a warming drink in the cafe I met up again with Tom who was pleased with his purchases and had also bought G. ‘Trumps’ with a view to doing some twin scale propagation. I’ve been reading up about this today in the RHS library at Wisley and will have a go myself in the summer – not with my new purchases but with some of the snowdrops which fill my fruit garden every February.
Myddelton House is also the home of a NC of Iris (Dykes Medal Winners) and I tracked down Andrew Turvey the Head Gardener,
who told me where to find the Collection and of their plans to duplicate the NC of Crocus raised by EA Bowles, currently held by Roger Holland in Cambridge.
The Crocus were just coming into flower in a cold frame behind the greenhouse, a welcome refuge from the cold.
There is an informative display about Bowles next to the cafe and entry to the garden is free.
Before we left I walked back up to the sales area. Clearly it’s a case of early birds – although it looks as though there is stock left, I bet that the choice specimens all went in the first half hour.