Monday, April 08, 2013

Planning for next year's snow

Now's a good time to be planting up snowdrops. One extremely good reason is that they settle in better when planted "in the green." Another is that it's a lot easier to get your planting design worked out in practice. One of the big problems with planting dry bulbs is that you soon lose track of where they were planted and you end up either accidentally digging some of them up while planting the rest or ― worse ― planting them in serried rows like some old-fashioned municipal park. When you're planting in the green the leaves stick up out of the ground and you can check what pattern, if any, you're imposing.

When I moved into Railway Cuttings I made a big bed at the end of the garden, there to plant a damson tree underplanted with hardy geraniums, bluebells and snowdrops. By and large it works quite well as all three thicken up of their own accord, self-seeding where they're happy (and they seem to be a bit giddy down there!)

There's a nice easy way to plant snowdrops in the green: stick a pade into the ground; waggle it to and fro to create a slit in the soil; drop the snowdrops into the slit, 1-3 bulbs at a time, about two inches (5cm) apart. Then stamp down the sides of the slit to settle the bulbs in the soil. Now move the spade towards the centre of the line as if to create a T-shape but before you dig the spade in, rotate it slightly so that the new slit's something between 30° and 60° from the first one. The repeat until you've run out of either snowdrops or space. Don't worry that you're occassionally going back on yourself or crossing some of the existing lines of snowdrops: in moderation this is a good thing. If you find yourself naturally gravitating towards a herringbone pattern or a Catherine wheel-like circle ask yourself how much you're bothered about it. (I'm a bit peculiar about this sort of thing and get quite bothered about it; many wouldn't see what the fuss is about.) Whatever your decision on that one, this is quite a good way of creating a fairly natural looking pattern reasonably quickly: it takes a year or two for the lines to blur but the intersections between the slits naturally form clumps almost from the start. Five or six years in and it looks like the snowdrops did all the work themselves, which is nice.


libby said...

Are you feeling alright? this post is calm, reasoned, informative, sensible and gentle......has someone been watering down your medicine again?

Kevin Musgrove said...

It's been a long and harrowing week

Gadjo Dilo said...

Once again our lives mirror each other, Kevin. The year before last I planted a bagful of snowdrop bulbs I'd bought but only about a third survived and not all of those have managed to flower. My wife's country cousins, always eager to help, then started bringing me snowdrops 'in the green' that they'd dug up in the forest - yeah, I know, shouldn't do it, but they ABOUND there, and this country ain't Switzerland. They aclimatised immediately. Over the years I'll watch to see how shop-bought and savage divide up the territory between them.