If people who love snowdrops are called Galanthophiles, then fans of Crocus are called Croconuts, or so said Roger Holland during the talk he gave to the Surrey group of Plant Heritage. Roger is the guardian of the National Collection of Crocus chrysanthus cvs., Crocus biflorus cvs., and Crocus cvs. raised by EA Bowles, which must be the longest name of any Collection and his talk was about Edward Augustus Bowles of Myddleton House, another mouthful.
Bowles, born in 1865, was a self-taught botanist, plant hunter, author, artist and philanthropist who lived near Enfield, North London. His upper middle class family took their position in society and responsibilities seriously and ‘Gussy’ set up an evening school for young boys in the area to teach them the 3Rs and some social niceties. Many of his ‘Bowles Boys’ became gardeners or entered the professions. This is where Roger’s interest in Bowles becomes personal – his father in law was a Bowles Boy. His interest in Crocus was inspired by David Stephens NCH of Crocus in Surrey.
In 1897 Bowles became a Life Member of the RHS, or Fellow, as members were then known, and held many roles, at times as many as ten, over the next 57 years. To mark this dedication there is a Bowles Corner at RHS Wisley, planted up with many of ‘his’ plants and displaying his homemade two-pronged fork, created for working in small spaces.
The Lindley Library hold his paintings of snowdrops and the Crocus paintings are with the Natural History Museum. Some of his books were the standard reference works for years and are still available in libraries or to buy second-hand. There is lots more very interesting information about Bowles, including a list of plants named after E A Bowles that are still available today, on the Society’s website, the only society set up for a plantsman.
Myddleton House Garden is being rejuvenated under the guidance of Andrew Turvey and is well worth a visit; it’s free, has a very nice tea room and is just off the M25 at junction 25. I went there earlier this year for a snowdrop sale. Capel Manor (NC Sarcococca) is also just up the road.
Roger has kindly sent me some photographs of Bowles Crocus and Galanthus to share with you.