When to lift and divide snowdrops

March is the month for snowdrops, which is terribly exciting for us gardeners as these little white flowers signify the arrival of spring.  There’s also little else to fuss about in the garden this early in the year, which is probably the reason why I’ve been so engrossed with the snowdrops I’ve seen popping up in the garden of my new house.

While I love seeing snowdrops in any form, there’s no question that they look their best when planted in large swathes or in a flowing river down the side of a path, and that’s just what I’m going to do in my new garden.

However, I hadn’t realised till now that choosing the ‘correct’ time to lift and move snowdrops is something that is a hot topic of debate amongst gardeners and horticulturalists.

One school of thought suggests that snowdrops should be lifted and replanted in March, when they are in flower or have just finished flowering (referred to as “in the green”), whereas the other says that you should wait until June when bulbs are dormant (“in the brown”).

Last weekend we visited Cambo Estate in Fife, which is famed for its annual snowdrop display. There’s been snowdrops at Cambo for many years, but its current owner, Lady Catherine is a keen advocate of planting them “in the green”, and quite frankly, if she can create beautiful displays of snowdrops like the ones at Cambo, and also profess to be a ‘galanthoholic’ with her own renowned mail-order snowdrop business, I’m going to follow her lead.

As well as taking the advice of lady Catherine, March seems like the best time to lift and move snowdrops from a purely practical point of view.  I know that by the time it gets to June I’ll be so engrossed with my herbaceous borders that I will have forgotten where the snowdrops are and it won’t be a priority for me to find them when I’m consumed in summer maintenance tasks such as tackling weeds.

Also, in June there is no bare earth, and even if I put labels on sticks to mark the snowdrops, I would do untold damage by stepping into beds where herbaceous plants and roses are on the rampage.

Where we do need to listen to the “in the brown” school of thought is on their advice on how to buy bulbs. Buy them in a pot, or dormant unless they come straight out of the ground, when they really can be labelled “in the green”.

So, this weekend is snowdrop weekend, and when they crop up again next year they will be in the right place, at the right time and will make the biggest impact to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Happy planting!

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