Instead of being able to be outside on the first really spring day this year, I'm stuck indoors with a bad back - caused it must be admitted by lifting terracotta pots. So instead I've just sent off an order for some special snowdrops 'in the green' from the snowdrop King, John Morley. [To receive John's catalogue, send six 1st class stamps to North Green Snowdrops, North Green Only, Stoven, Beccles, Suffolk NR34 8DG.]
I say 'some' but I'm paying more than I've ever done for just thirteen bulbs. I'm a complete beginner when it comes to collecting snowdrops. This is the first year I've had a garden where they would be happy. There are some growing here already but the ones that I covert are the ones that remind me of my grandparents' home in Grantchester near Cambridge. I've never been able to find out what variety they were but they seemed particularly big compared to the ordinary ones seen everywhere at this time of year.
When the house was sold in the 1980s, my mother dug up a few to keep the memories going. Last year her house was sold as well but in the autumn so I had no chance of digging some up to carry on the thread. So now I've picked three choice varieties from John's catalogue in the hope that one of these will be the illusive variety and the other two just as good. I've gone for Galanthus 'Cedric's Prolific', G. 'Atkinsii of Finnis', and G. 'S. Arnott'. They have pretty good provenance anyway which I love. G. 'Cedric's Prolific' came from Benton End, the artist and gardener Cedric Morris's home (and mentor to John Morley, himself a leading artist) via Beth Chatto, another friend of CM. G. 'Atkinsii of Finnis' is a variety from the garden of the late plantswoman Valerie Finnis while G. 'S. Arnott' came via the garden of E. A. Bowles. Some pedigrees!
And finally, no, I haven't been at the sherry - the title of this post is a lovely entry I found in the oven books at the Wedgwood factory when I was researching for my book Potted History. The Story of Plants in the Home. It was referring to this black basalt 'hedgehog' which was used to grow or display snowdrops in the eighteenth century hence the misspelled heading.
Since the Wedgwood business has been sold, there is a real possibility that the marvellous museum will close and the unique contents of the archive collection dispersed. It would be a cultural disaster if that were to happen. Snowdrops are one thing, but losing our heritage is much more serious.