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Planting ideas with Snowdrops

By garden designer Alice Bowe. Unlike most bulbs, which are best planted in the autumn, Snowdrops can take a while to establish as dry bulbs and so they are best planted "in the green" (that is just after flowering, while still in full leaf).

Galanthus elwesiiFebruary is the best time to do this, so persuade a friend to let you divide a clump, or buy them mail-order from one of the specialist nurseries listed in Shoot.

The essential beauty of the snowdrop lies in the linear perfection of the single bell. Classically, they are planted in sweeping drifts beneath deciduous trees, demonstrating the awesome power of repetition. But they can also be used in stunning modern combinations.

Of the 500 varieties of snowdrop (yes, really), Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii are the most common. They'll go with anything. Those with double bells need a bit more thought.

Some great snowdrop planting combinations

Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens with Galanthus

This contemporary design classic of pure white flowers emerging from matt black Tulipa 'recreado' strappy foliage exploits the drama of tonal extremes. The slender, linear thrust of the snowdrop punctuates the black grass and lifts an otherwise dark, flat scheme. In the autumn, it's worth planting some tulips - I like the maroon Tulipa 'Recreado', which creates a suspended sea of colour against the black, once the snowdrops are over.

Coloured Dogwoods, hellebores and lords and ladies. A haze of bare red stems draws the eye from a distance, but close up the combination of red Cornus against the green foliage of Arum and Hellebores can appear harsh. Snowdrops can be used to successfully break up the harsh contrast. Plant a milk-white Narcissus such as triandrus 'Thalia' for later interest.

Matrix planting with architectural grass

For a more modern but equally breathtaking planting combination, why not try using one of the larger flowered snowdrops e.g. Atkinsii with an ornamental grass. Stipa Stipa giganteagigantea or Anemathele lessoniana work brilliantly in this way, although perennial grasses such as Molinia can also look stunning. The bright dots of snowdrop bells appear to hover above the stipa as their stems disappear into the coat of grass. Catching the breeze, the Stipa shifts between an opaque mass and a transparent screen, peppered by the white points of the snowdrops. A smaller variety could get lost, but Galanthus 'Atkinsii' is a relative giant at 20cm tall. Try a burnt-orange foxglove - Digilatis parviflora - for later colour.

TOP TIP: For those of you gardening in drier conditions, or with gardens succeptible to drought, try planting Galanthus ikariae which is better suited to drier situations

By Alice Bowe

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