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Christopher Lloyd: His Life at Great Dixter

Snowdrop bulb sold for world record £357 ($576)

The recent sale of a single snowdrop - Galanthus plicatus 'E. A. Bowles' - for a world record £357 ($576) on eBay has collapsed into confusion. Apart from the madness of paying that much for an admittedly lovely variety, in just a few days all sorts of mistakes about this simple story have appeared in Britain’s newspapers and on blogs. Its origins, the grower, the seller, its price, the destination of the funds - all have been wrongly reported.

John Grimshaw, one of the world’s leading snowdrop experts, gave the news of the sale on his blog a week ago. Then yesterday he was forced to post again correcting all the mistakes that had arisen as a result of journalists not checking their facts. One paper even managed to get the world record price wrong. Then today he posted again, making clear (not for the first time) that he had not “bred” this variety himself.

You’d think it was a simple story.

What is definitely true - says he deftly changing the subject - is that the gardens at Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire (managed by John Grimshaw) will be open for visitors to see the superb display of snowdrops every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in February 2011, plus 5th & 6th March, from 1 pm. So the first open day is this coming Saturday, 5 February. Guided tours for groups are available on weekdays by prior appointment. For more info check out the Colesbourne Park website. And don’t be digging up any of their snowdrops in the hope that you can make a fortune. Just don’t.

As I write, the same vendor still has other special snowdrops on sale on eBay.