Galanthus nivalis 'Gloucester Old Spot' plant

Galanthus ‘Gloucester Old Spot’

Galanthus ‘Gloucester Old Spot’. What a strange name for a snowdrop. It’s difficult to imagine anything less like a snowdrop than an enormous pig but that’s its name so we can take it or leave it. I choose to take it and, understanding the reason behind it, delight in the delicious incongruity and the play on words.

Phil Cornish found it at Hatherly Manor, Gloucester in 1990 and distributed it as ‘Spot’. However, this name had already been used for a now-extinct snowdrop named by James Allen and so, under the Cultivated Plant Code, could not be used again for the same genus.

Phil Cornish suggested ‘Gloucester Old Spot’. Genius!

Before we look at ‘Old Spot’ in detail we need a bit of background

In parts of the world where it is not native, most Galanthus nivalis plants are quite uniform because they are derived from a limited number of introductions. However, plants with particular variations have been selected ever since people started taking an interest in snowdrops in the early 19th century.

So now we have varieties of Galanthus nivalis with, for example, green, as opposed to grey, leaves, more than the normal three outer segments, inner segments of similar shape and size to the outer ones (poculiform), outer segments having green markings, or inner segments having a very small mark. If a selection is considered to be exceptional then it might warrant a cultivar name but this topic causes a deal of controversy amongst serious taxonomists and galanthophiles.  

So, Galanthus nivalis ‘Gloucester Old Spot’, to give it its full name, is not unusual. It is a variant of G. nivalis with just two small spots, which, according to Bishop, Davis and Grimshaw, writing in their book, Snowdrops, is something that occurs quite regularly. They add, ‘but mercifully they have not all been named.’ They then go on, ‘This particular clone is the best we have seen.’

Galanthus nivalis 'Gloucester Old Spot' in the snow
Galanthus 'Gloucester Old Spot' flowers

What makes it the best they’ve seen?

It is small, slightly shorter than G. nivalis, at about 15cm tall. The flowers too are small at 2.5cm across when open, and delicate, the tiny spots only adding to its look of fragility. But fragile it is not. Just look how it stood up to the cold weather recently. It threw off the snow and didn’t get buried like so many others did. When the ice melted it was ready and waiting to open its flowers and it has carried on looking lovely ever since.

The flowers are held close to the strong, upright scapes on tightly bent pedicels, giving the whole plant a very neat, no-nonsense appearance. The outer segments are of good substance and quite long, the inner ones strongly clasping and with a deep sinus, either side of which are the aforementioned spots. The narrow ovary is another feature that adds to the strong upright look of this snowdrop.

Galanthus nivalis 'Gloucester Old Spot' close-up

Why Galanthus ‘Gloucester Old Spot’ is one of my favourites

It’s a delightful snowdrop, a little gem, and it has a somewhat inappropriate name, which makes it memorable – and causes us to smile. I love it!

Find some useful information

As usual, for anything snowdrop related this is the best there is.
Snowdrops, A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis, and John Grimshaw.

On the web
Spring Platt Snowdrops has a very large collection of snowdrops. The website has lots of  photographs of individual cultivars.
Avon Bulbs has an interesting blog with some articles about snowdrops and lots of photographs of unusual ones – and the chance to buy when the time is right.
Dan Pearson writes beautifully and in a recent newsletter he wrote about snowdrops together with hamamelis and salix.

Keep reading

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1 Comment

  1. Sue

    Another very informative and interesting post, and another snowdrop to look out for.


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