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.

12 comments:

  1. It sounds like a comprehensive book, plenty of information, especially for the beginner.

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  2. Hi Anna - I thought your review would be most thorough and I'm not disappointed. I liked that the interviews were sprinkled through the book - I suspect I might not have read them all had they been grouped together, but I take your point about comparing the replies.

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  3. I think you could almost write a book about the delights of snowdrops yourself Anna! I think it was from your blog that I learned it was best to plant them 'in the green'.

    A most enjoyable and informative read.

    Jeanne
    x

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  4. I appreciate your love for them but I wouldn't want to read a whole book on the subject - maybe it would be a good guide for someone who is wanting to start a collection

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  5. I can't believe it will be snowdrop time again soon! I know you have some treasures, and look forward to seeing them again. It seems this book was made for you!

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  6. Thank you for the interesting review Anna. I can see why you had to have the book with your love of snowdrops. It sounds a great addition to your library. Well, we' ll soon be looking at your snowdrop treasures again. It does help to cheer the winter up. I don' t know what we' d look at without them in the coldest months.

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  7. Anna I saw this book and a few others that specialize in one plant. Sounds wonderful....I also have a self-imposed embargo on garden books right now!

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  8. You are a cruel woman, Anna, putting temptation in my way like this - hadn't come across this one yet! I love the descriptions you shared with us, but tell me, does the book offer you any additional info to the snowdrop books that you and I already have?

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  9. As if you needed help encouraging your addiction!!

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  10. Thanks for this review, Anna. Sounds like a tempting and very suitable book for the dark months to come. I also like witty and intelligent writing, so my own shelves may soon groan under yet another book ;)

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  11. I enjoyed your review very much, more I have to admit than I do seeing endless images of individual snowdrops when the season arrives. This only means that I haven't yet been bitten by the bug! I love seeing thousands of snowdrops masses together rather than appreciating their individual charms but then that is my ethos in the garden - a mass of something growing well in preference to one small special gem. But I think there is space in the world for all different kinds of gardens and gardeners! I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

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  12. An excellent and comprehensive review, Anna. I'm pleased to read that Naomi's bubbly personality shines through in her book. I do love snowdrops when I see them in early spring but haven't grown any yet, although I've just bought a small bag as a starter. I'm not sure I'll ever be in the league of buying those expensive individual named bulbs though! I wonder if this book would start a whole new gardening passion?

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.