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Snowdrop (Galanthus) book review

Snowdropcover Snowdrops: A Monograph of the Cultivated Galanthus

This is a spectacular book. Over 350 pages of rich and detailed information on every aspect of wild and cultivated snowdrops are illustrated with hundreds of excellent pictures of snowdrops both in the wild and in gardens with many close-up studio shots.

Some gardeners might be surprised that a book of this size and substance is needed to deal with snowdrops… how many are there, after all? They all have white flowers, there’s single and double, some have broad leaves, some have narrow… Not so fast. Apart from the nineteen species, the book lovingly describes over 500 different cultivars (not all with white flowers…). 500! When I visited the painter, wood engraver and snowdrop fanatic John Morley, who provided the lovely endpapers for the book, he had over 300 different cultivars in his Norfolk garden alone. So there’s more to snowdrops than first appears.

This labor of love from three of the most devoted and knowledgeable snowdrop enthusiasts, Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis and John Grimshaw, is a veritable treasure trove of descriptions, histories and every sort of esoteric background information as well as sound and detailed cultivation and propagation advice.

The problem is that it costs, by the time it gets to your door, over £40 in the UK, $108 in the US! It may be a wonderful book but that’s a lot of money. It's available in the UK and USA direct from the publishers, Griffin Press.

For some years I’ve been trying to get other publishers interested in a more modest book on snowdrops, at a more accessible price and concentrating on those that are widely available. A book for gardeners who love snowdrops but for whom £40 or $108 is just too much. But the publishers all say that while there’s this book, and the out-of-print botanical monograph The Genus Galanthus by Aaron Davis (available on at $169.34, as I write, and available on at £69.99), there’s no room for another snowdrop book. Not even at £20? I think they’re wrong, but unless they commission the book there is no book.

So, this is the ultimate snowdrop book. There’s so much good information and so many good pictures that it’s worth every cent or every penny. But that’s still a lot of dollars or pounds.