March Of Snowdrops

A few years ago, a friend gave me a barely liftable, large trug of snowdrops.  I was very, very grateful and happily began adding them to the Priory’s meagre showing.  Eventually running out of time, I temporarily stuffed the last few into a small bed beneath a standard Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’.


And there they temporarily sat – for three years or so; neglected, multiplying, annoying.  Plonked amongst heucheras, they looked out-of-place and then messy as they slowly died back after flowering.


In April 2014, I finally dug them up.


And then dug up some more – there were far more than I expected.  A little neglect does wonders for increasing your stock, it seems … and produced a second surfeit of snowdrops.  (Now’s the time to dig up, divide and replant snowdrops ‘in the green’ – before, during and after flowering.  You might quake at digging up flowering plants and I normally wait until they finish, but they won’t mind).


Afterwards, the ‘Eve’ bed looked simpler and neater – especially after a top coat of leaf mould.  (The heucheras fill this space later in the year).


Most of this second bonanza of snowdrops went into new planting squares beneath the extended rose tunnel.  I used a bulb planter and filled the bottom of each hole with leaf mould.  If I was over generous with the number of snowdrops I dropped into each hole (and I was) another surfeit in a couple of years wouldn’t be so very terrible.


I back-filled with a mix of more leaf mould and garden compost, soaked well, stood back, studied the horizon, waited 10 months


and up they came.


Some of the original planting pockets are now overspilling but I’ll divide and replant these galanthus soon (there’s only so many times I can use the word snowdrop).


I put more of last year’s excess beneath a newly planted dogwood hedge and – though newly transplanted snowdrops don’t look very promising –


these too are now in flower.


Whoever planted the beech hedge had the same idea but failed to take into account how long beech leaves hang around.  The under-planting of snowdrops is lost somewhat; the flowers almost invisible.


But I haven’t the heart to move them – they seem happy and I, at least, know that they are there.


I’d like the Priory to have large drifts of snowdrops, planted into grass.  I had enough surplus ‘drops last year to start planting the slope beneath the greenhouses (lots more needed here)


and a paltry handful for under the big trees on the meadow (more than lots needed here).


Thankfully, there are several ‘spare’ clumps earmarked for the meadow and the slope.  There’s these in a neglected area.


There are more skulking, unloved, beneath a rhododendron,


a venerable cluster in need of division on a lawn


and a large grouping in one of the borders.  I filch snowdrops from this patch every year but the supply seems to hold constant.


Increasing the number of snowdrops at the Priory has become an ongoing, long-term duty


and I hope that when I leave the Priory, I can leave a legacy of widespread, white and green, nodding carpets.

I had best stop daydreaming and get on with it.

Win A Copy Of ‘Making A Wildflower Meadow’

I try to keep only a sensible number of gardening books – really I do.  Heck, I’ve even given some away to charity … once or twice.  But occasionally I’m offered a book to review and my resolve shrivels.


Making a Wildflower Meadow: The Definitive Guide To Grassland Gardening‘ by Pam Lewis was one of those books; one I needed to have.   My pride and joy at the Priory is an acre of meadow that I’ve developed over the past few years and it was very useful, at last, to read detailed advice from an expert.  I had carried out plenty of research but I hadn’t read an in-depth guide, cover to cover, before.  Some things I knew.  For instance, I knew that ideally I should have scraped off the top soil to reduce the ground’s fertility and then sown wildflower seed – but I had neither the funds nor the inclination to do so on such a big site.  Pam’s book has reassured me that, given the flower species that have sprung up since I stopped weekly mowing (including common spotted orchids, grass vetchling and birdsfoot trefoil), scraping wasn’t really necessary with the conditions I’d inherited.  Indeed, it seems from the book that the soil conditions for my meadow are pretty perfect.  So that’s nice to know, isn’t it?

Some of Pam’s tips wouldn’t work at the Priory.  For example, she suggests mowing a different layout of paths each year so that fresh strips are close-mown throughout the season.  But as I have planted hundreds of bulbs in the areas between my paths and I don’t want to cut those fritillaries, camassias and daffodils in their prime, my path network must remain static.


The Priory Meadow

I’m fascinated by the Priory meadow and its slow development year on year; a steady increase in flower numbers and variety; an exponential increase in insects.  Pam started making her own traditional English flower meadows at Sticky Wicket, Dorset twenty years ago and has guided many others to create their own.  Her knowledge and experience is extensive; her enthusiasm infectious.


The book is beautifully illustrated, very readable and has detailed sections on plants, wildlife and soil conditions, as well as information on creating, maintaining and improving flowery grassland month by month, year by year.  Of course, not everyone has the space to create meadows on an acre or more sized plot but actually the book is specifically written for small landowners, gardeners and conservationists.  In addition to two large paddocks, Pam also has several patches of small ‘meadow’ – just a meter or two square.


One of several smaller areas of unmown lawn at the Priory.


As do I.  My ‘mini-meadows’ are areas of lawn where I planted daffodils.  Originally I left them uncut until the daff foliage had died back … but quickly learnt to leave them be until late summer.  I do nothing other than that.  The result is almost a dozen patches of fine grass heads, self-heal, knapweed, eyebright and clovers – even cowslips.  I added none of these plants which, of course, bees and butterflies love.  How easy is that?

Pam writes that if only 10% of garden area in this country is converted to meadow grassland, we could re-instate 10 000 acres of wildflower and butterfly rich habitat.  Since we have lost 98% of flower-meadow in the past 60 years, 10 000 acres would be a tremendous boon for our beleaguered native flowers and insects.  Pam also bemoans how difficult it is to find contractors willing to cut smaller meadows.  Well, not in my area of East Sussex.  Sam, my mowing man, is exceptionally busy in August and September and I have to book him well in advance (with an eye on the weather).  He tells me he has never been busier; cutting an increasing number of newly made, relatively small meadows.  Great news for Sam and for Sussex, but also great news that meadows are very much in vogue and so popular.  It’s about time.

Making a Wildflower Meadow‘ first appeared in 2003 but Frances Lincoln has just published a new edition for £14.99.  If you’d like the chance to win a copy (not mine!) here’s all you need to do:

leave a comment below saying that you wish to enter


(if you don’t do so already) follow ‘The Anxious Gardener’ blog; follow me on Twitter or like The Anxious Gardener Facebook page.  All three follow buttons are top right of this page.  (You can also enter by simply following me on twitter and re-tweeting this post or liking my page and leaving a comment on Facebook).

Please note that you must have a UK postal address to enter … or the use of one.  (The book can only be posted within the UK).

The closing date is midnight on Friday 27th February 2015.

I’ll draw a name from my


contact the winner and add the result to the bottom of this post.

Good luck!

There will be another book draw soon.


To order ‘Making A Wildflower Meadow’ at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99) telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG282.

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.



The competition is now closed.  Thanks to everyone for taking part on the blog, Facebook and Twitter.  The winner is Jennifer Hawkin.  Congratulations.