“Oh no” was my reaction when a review copy of Naomi Slade’s ‘The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrop‘ dropped through the letterbox from Timberpress, “Not another snowdrop book”. For indeed they seem to be coming out thick and fast over the last couple of years following up on the real renaissance in galanthomania.
The book is part of the new series of Plant Lover’s Guides from Timberpress – other titles to date include Salvias, Dahlias and Sedums. I do like the idea of this series which will make an interesting and informative collection on the gardener’s bookshelf and no doubt is hoping to be a 21st century follow on from the very successful Plant Expert series by Dr D G Hessayon.
Naomi wisely does not claim to be a galanthophile, I say wisely because as a well-respected galanthophile said to me once the term has to be earned not just adopted because you like snowdrops. Her interest in snowdrops has grown over the years and as she states whenever she found out something interesting she wrote it down. Small bits of interesting information are sprinkled throughout the book as highlights just as the profiles of various galanthophiles from both sides of the Atlantic. One of my minor quibbles with the book is the omission of some notable galanthophiles including Margaret Owen, who sadly died a few months ago, even in the description of Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’, which Margaret named after her late husband, there is no reference to her which I think is a real oversight given her legendary reputation in the snowdrop world.
The book starts with how to incorporate snowdrops into your garden whether you have the benefit of a bit of woodland, live in the suburbs or indeed only have a balcony. There is an exploration of what plants make good companions and the various approaches to planting snowdrops in your space. We then go on to explore the history of snowdrops, the various breeding programmes over the years and the peculiar condition that is galanthomania.
Naomi takes time to explain the various terms used in describing snowdrops – oh yes galanthophiles have their own terms for petals etc and how you can identify the different species partly from their different leaves. I have to admit I get particularly irritated when photographs in articles on snowdrops omit the leaves since these are so important to identification and helped me to make sense of this confusing world when it was pointed out to me, so I was glad Naomi spent time explaining this with diagrams.
Then we have a section featuring a selection of snowdrops that the reader might like to consider. This is no small undertaking as there will always be someone who thinks you should have included this or that variety rather than the ones you have chosen. Naomi has included a nice range which demonstrate the variety available – there are species, some with green markings, some yellow markings, some double etc and this helps the novice understand that there really is a difference between snowdrops; well most of them!
The book concludes with a selection of snowdrop gardens and events on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere. Personally I think there are some significant omission in the UK event selection as none of the society snowdrop events have been included and I believe one of the two mentioned isn’t going ahead this year – it’s a tricky thing to include an events list as it looses its currency so quickly.
Overall I think there is just about space in the current offering of snowdrop books for The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops. It is well written, informative particularly for someone who, like me, has a curiosity about this small but revered plant.