Shepton Mallet – Home of Snowdrops
The first Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival was a huge success and we would like to thank
everybody who helped to make it happen. We are so grateful to you all. We offer our special
thanks to the shops, the sponsors, the Friday market, Tesco, Framptons and
the Council, all the volunteers who gave of their time so freely, and the Journal
for its support. Thank you to everyone.
We have listed our sponsors and individual thanks on the website
Next year the festival will be held on 16-18th February 2018
Bags cost £5
Available from Shepton Mallet Tourist Information or from Hort Soc Secretary
(contact via Face Book page – The Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project)
All proceeds go to our Snowdrop Project
Shepton Mallet is the first place in the world where new Snowdrop varieties were bred.
James Allen was the first person ever to breed new varieties from wild snowdrops – pioneering work he carried out in his home town of Shepton Mallet. The Snowdrop Festival is a vibrant community project to plant Shepton Mallet with thousands of snowdrops and celebrate its place in gardening history.
In the late 19th century breeding snowdrops became highly fashionable and one of Britain’s top snowdrop hybridisers lived in the Mendip town. James Allen grew all the species and varieties then known and was probably the first person to deliberately cross them and raise hybrids from seed.
He undertook this work at his home here in the heart of Somerset at Highfield House, now part of the Mendip District Council site.
It’s thought there were more than 500 cultivars of these dainty ‘milk flowers’ as the snowdrop’s scientific name Galanthus translates, and Allen is credited with breeding at least 100. Sadly his astonishing work was blighted when a fungal infection of Botrytis followed by an attack of narcissus fly destroyed much of his collection.
However, all was not lost – two of the varieties he bred here in Shepton Mallet still survive to this day; ‘Merlin’ and ‘Magnet’. Merlin’s inner flower segments are completely green, and Magnet has an unusually long stalk, so its flowers wave in the slightest breeze. Magnet is considered to be so beautiful that the Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit.
Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society is keen to rekindle James Allen’s enthusiasm and passion for snowdrops in the town, and has adopted the flower as its emblem. We are now encouraging the planting of Magnet and Merlin, as well as a whole host of other snowdrops, in gardens, schools, parks and other public places in and around the town.
If you would like to join us and bring the snowdrop back to Shepton, or take part in any of the society’s other gardening activities, then please contact our secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01749 830205
Saturday 8th April (& 22nd April) – Snowdrop planting days
Saturday 8th April saw two teams from Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society head out into the town centre to plant 1000′s of snowdrops ‘in the green’.
The church yard team were joined by the church volunteers as part of their annual ‘spring cleaning’ day.
A range of different varieties were planted whilst the common bulbs were donated by local residents and supporters of the festival.
Saturday 4th March
Taking in the planters, great team work by our members and – so many of the public came up to us to express their delight in the planters and how they wish they could be out all year round, the comments made all the hard work worth while.
Monday 20th February 2017
We have had a very exciting and successful first snowdrop festival celebrating the life and work of James Allen. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in so many ways, with their time, goodwill & deep pockets.
Our sincere thanks go to them and everyone involved. We are proud to be part of this great community
Here are some snap shots from the festival.
Monday 16th January 2017
Please see our Face book page for latest community involvement in the project ” The Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project “. Here are some pictures of a few of what has been going on over the last few months
Tuesday 15th November 2016
Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society braved the fog to plant 10,000 snowdrop bulbs on the roundabout at Tesco’s Townsend store. “We are so grateful to everyone who braved the weather to come and help with the planting, and to Tesco for their generous help and support (great coffee and cookies). The snowdrops will be the first flowers to bloom at the end of winter and in the years to come they will multiply to cover the ground. This will become a great community asset for the town”.
Saturday 12th November 2016
Ann and Angela planted 1000 snowdrops on the roundabout at Whitstone school this morning. Despite the slightly damp weather and drips from the cedar tree, the soil was surprisingly dry. They lifted turves of grass with a spade, placed the bulbs beneath then flipped back each turf, it will be interesting to see how the bulbs grow. Sheets of plastic were used when lifting the turves so as to make it a clean and tidy job.
Saturday 29th October 2016
This weekend two of our members planted 2000 bulbs of Galanthus nivalis around the Allen Memorial
Saturday 22nd October 2016
We held an Awareness Day at Tesco in Shepton Mallet to explain our Snowdrop project to the public and we sold 100′s of Snowdrop bulbs (Galanthus nivalis) as part of the drive to plant snowdrops all over the town.
It was a great day, we felt we were able to raise awareness of the project before the Bags of Help vote and it was great to see how interested people were. We are very grateful to Tesco for their support. The Shepton Snowdrops will be a real asset to the town and as they multiply each year they will become a huge attraction in February.
Monday 10th October 2016
First mass snowdrop planting took place on the Rock Flock (Sheep) Roundabout with about 30,000 snowdrop bulbs and plans to plant another 30,000 around the town this autumn. All these plantings are of Galanthus nivalis.
Monday 12th September 2016
Shepton Mallet Horticultural Society are delighted to have secured funding from Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative for the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Project.
Tesco has teamed up with Groundwork on its Bags of Help initiative in hundreds of regions across England and Wales. Bags of Help offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 416 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the 5p charge levied on single-use carrier bags. The public will now vote in store from 26 September to 9 October on who should receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 awards. In total, there is over £12.5 million up for grabs.
Vote in Tesco stores from 26 Sept – 9 Oct to help us secure a Tesco #BagsofHelp grant
“We are extremely excited about our nomination for this award and very grateful to Tesco for this generous initiative. This funding will allow us to get off to a flying start with the Snowdrop Project which will be a community asset for years to come. By early February, the first snowdrops will emerge and we will be well underway. We look forward to a great display to honour the memory of Shepton resident James Allen”.
Please visit us our stand on Saturday 22nd October 10am – 4pm at Tesco (Shepton Mallet) to learn more, to purchase snowdrop bulbs and to get involved.
Saturday 14th August 2016
Two of our members, Chrisi and Angela, visited the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Group on Saturday to help with their ‘Its a Knock Out’ event. This involved the un-potting of Shaftesbury’s National Collection snowdrops, counting them and counting any offsets that may have grown, then potting up the parent bulbs and the offsets separately.
Detailed records are kept : name, quantity, health, offsets, donor, location. A label is immersed in amongst the bulbs as well as a stick in label put in the top of the pot for easy reference (i.e. double labelling).
Knocking out - The Aquatic pots that the snowdrops are grown in were immersed in plain black pots for display purposes only for the snowdrop festival in February.
Pots are carefully emptied and sorted through in a container, parent bulbs are kept separate from off sets (bulbils that easily separate from the parent bulb). Vigilance for pest and disease is very important and any bulbs that are slightly discoloured (e.g. yellow, rot…) or soft, any doubts and the batch is put in isolation and pots are disinfected.
Bulbs are potted up quite close to each other as long as they are not touching (this saves space, pots & compost but also creates a better display when in flower).
Spent compost is disposed of in a dedicated site just in case any bulbils escaped notice and they will then be able to grow on happily in a mixed planting.
There was a lot of root growth on some of the bulbs suggesting they are coming out of dormancy, ‘knocking out’ could take place in July to make the potting easier.
The mix - there is no one mix recommended, everyone suggests something different but this is what the Shaftesbury group use and they find it works well for them.
5 parts Canna Terra : 1 part vermiculite (or perlite) : 1/2 part John Innes No. 2 compost : 1/4 part cat litter (for water retention)
13cm aquatic plant pots were approximately 1/3 filled with the above mix topped with a 2cm layer of hortcultural grit . Smaller square 11cm aquatic plant pots were used for off set bulbs
Bulbs were sat on this layer of sand then topped up with the special compost mix and labelled
Wedneday 15th June 2016
Our fourth propagation event, we used the chipping method on smaller bulbs and a mix of chipping and twin scaling on larger bulbs. This year we only managed to source Galanthus ‘Magnet’ although we had hoped to start propagating the other of John Allen’s varieties Galanthusi ‘Merlin’.
The bulbs this year were sourced from Foxgrove Plants http://www.foxgroveplants.co.uk/
Collett park Day 2016
One of our members, Wendy, made a beautiful cake decorated with snowdrops to raffle off at Collett park Day 2016. The raffle raised £75 towards the purchase of snowdrops to plant in Shepton Mallet in November
2nd April 2016
Today marked the first phase of planting snowdrops in Shepton Mallet. We planted our three year old own propagated Galanthus ‘Magnet’ around a tree outside of Highfield House where Jame’s Allen used to live. It was a very special moment planting out these young plants that each of us had been nurturing over the past 3 years.
After planting our special bulbs we walked to Rectory Road where we planted approximately 4000 common snowdrops which were donated by members of our group and dug up from our gardens (special thanks to Irene Minty who supplied us with a massive tray of plants). Our thanks go out to two members of the public, Peter Hillman and Eleanor Norman, also donated plants. We also thank Sue Church from Mendip District Council who joined the planting party and gave support to the project. Dredge and Male, our local hardware store, saw our activity and pledged to support the project in the future for which we are very grateful.
1 March 2016
Two of our members, Simon and Wendy, both have flowers on the bulbs that were propagated by chipping in 2013 – very exciting! Hopefully everyone else’s bulbs will flower next spring.
Wednesday 22nd July 2015
Bulbs are supposed to be fully dormant when chipping or twin scaling, I noticed that the flower bud had started to grow and therefore the bulbs were not fully dormant. I did not attend last year’s propagation session so did not spot this. I think propagating in late July is too late. Many of our members report failure from last year’s propagation. In 2016 we should set a date for late June.
Chipping appears to raise more new plants than twin scaling when using snowdrop bulbs or at least it is easier to cut chips with a piece of basal plate. We found that we were only getting about 8 twin scales from a bulb compared to about 10-12 chips using the chipping method. In 2016 we will probably go back to chipping rather than twin scaling.
11 December 2014
This is a brief summary of a very detailed talk given by Jennifer Harmer at the Shepton Mallet History Society on Thursday 11th December 2014
Jennifer Harmer has compiled a database of gardeners who in their day were galanthophiles. In the 19th century there was a huge mania for snowdrops just as there is today. She is co writing a book on the stories of the galanthophiles with Jane Kilpatrick whose latest book, The Fathers of Botany, has recently been published by The Royal Botanic Garden Kew.
The snowdrop is not indigenous to the UK and no one is sure when or how it came here, there is some speculation that the Romans brought them but this is not proved. Galanthus plicatus being amongst the first new species to arrive in the early 19thcentury.
The Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop which is often found naturalised in churchyards has religious significance due to it being white and flowering at Candlemas.
The 19th century galanthophiles either collected, bred and / or selected snowdrops. The good cultivars of snowdrops could not be bought, they were swapped or given amongst each other
In chronological order:
James Atkins (1804–1884) a nurseryman, who had a brief partnership with John Jeyes (a chemist who invented Jeyes Fluid), collected many plants but the snowdrop for which he is remembered for is Galanthus ‘Atkensii’.
Peter Barr (1826-1909) was interested in species rather than the specialist cultivars and his G. ‘Atkinesii’ stock did not survive.
George Wheeler (1791-1878), however, was the only commercial nurseryman to buy stock of G. ‘Atkensii’ from Barr and his plants thrived.
Reverend Harpur Crewe (1828–1883) is considered to be the one of the earliest galanthophile writers.
James Sanders found the first yellow snowdrop Galanthus nivalis Sandsersii Group growing in Northumberland. Last year one bulb of a yellow snowdrop fetched over £700.
James Allen (1830 – 1906) was a very influential snowdrop breeder writing in the Gardeners Chronicle for many years on a variety of plants and was one of three who presented a paper at the Snowdrop Conference in 1891. He is most notable for introducing Galanthus ‘Magnet’, Galanthus ‘Robin Hood’ (fetching today about £8 bulb) but not a very strong growing
variety), Galanthus ‘Merlin’ and Galanthus ‘Galatea’ (similar to Magnet). There is also a Galanthus ‘Allenii’.
Henry Elwes (1845-1922) after whom Galanthus elwesii is named (easy to identify for its lovely wide leaf and glaucous foliage colour).
John Gilbert Baker (1834 – 1920) was very important in his time working at Kew verifying new species of snowdrop.
Frederick Burbidge (1847-1905) was a collector rather than a breeder of snowdrops but he had huge knowledge of their history and was one of the three who presented a paper at the 1891 Snowdrop conference.
David Melville (1870–1924) introduced Galanthus nivalis ‘Melvileii’ which James Allen used as a seed parent in his breeding programmes. David was one of the three who presented a paper at the 1891 Snowdrop conference and therefore very influential.
Maximilian Leichtlin (1831-1910) had a botanical garden in Baden Baden in Germany was a friend of James Allen swapping both information and bulbs.
Theodoros Orphanides was a Greek poet and botanist who found and introduced Galanthus reginae olgae which flowers in the autumn.
A E Bowles (1865–1954) renowned horticulturist and important in the world of snowdrops. He was friends with both the Victorian galanthophiles and later gardeners such as Amy Doncaster, therefore acting as a link between James Allen and the younger generation of galanthophiles.
Amy Doncaster was a one of the best of the 20th century plantswomen and a link ensuring the survival of snowdrop into the mid 20th century. She created a large woodland garden in the Chandlers Ford and lived to over 100 years old. She is known for many snowdrops including Galanthus ‘Doncaster’s Double Charmer’ which she thought to be derived from one of James Allen’s although modern galanthophiles believe it is not the true Allen plant.
Samuel Arnott (1852-1930) bred in the 1920′s Galanthus ‘S Arnott’, an excellent snowdrop with some scent (but no James Allen connection!).
Winifrede Mathias and her galanthophile gardener (Herbert Ransom) were responsible for introducing snowdrops to a much wider range of people through their nursery The Giant Snowdrop Company during the 1950′sand 60′s. Up until then snowdrops had nearly always been swapped or given away amongst collectors.
Ruby Baker – a great modern galanthophile historian who has recently died and will be a great loss to the snowdrop world.
James Allen (1830 – 1906)
Born at Windsor Hill Mill (family milled corn for bread and animal feed) just outside Shepton Mallet where he lived until the 1850′s helping his mother and brother John run the mill. During the bread riots of 1842 the mill came under attack, but John, then aged 18 persuaded the rioters to leave on the written promise that if they returned in the morning they would give flour to those who came from of Shepton Mallet. After the death of their mother the 3 brothers, John, James and Joseph moved into Shepton Mallet. They purchased Old Mill in Park Road, John lived in Highfield House next door and James was opposite at Park House. James moved into Highfield House in the 1890’s after John’s death.
Botrytis eventually destroyed his snowdrop collection but in an effort to save his plants he sent some to Henry Ewbank (1828-1906) on the Isle of Wight however there is no evidence that the bulbs survived and therefore (the Botrytis probably went with the bulbs).He suffered ill health from the 1880′s, dying in 1906. He is burred justoutside the chapel at Shepton Mallet cemetery with his family. A tall ornate stone obelisk formed part of his grave stone however it was dismantled by Mendip Council in 2002 on the grounds that it was not safe. James Allen’s correspondence is held at the RHS.
James Allen also bred Anemone nemorosa ‘Allenii’ (and there reports that blue anemones still grow at Highfield house however they need to be formally ifentified) and Chionoscilla allenii which is also commercially available.
1st march 2014
The bulbils have produced good sized leaves, soon the tray will be placed outdoors
1st January 2014
Our control snowdrop bulbs (potted and kept in a cold polytunnel) are flowering. There are 100′s of snowdrop species all looking much the same to the untrained eye. Here are some portrait photos of our Galanthus ‘Magnet’ for you to compare with snowdrops you might have growing in your garden.
Some more reading:
Experiment up date notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk
17th June 2013
We chipped about 30 bulbs of Snowdrop ‘Magnet’ which were kindly donated to us by Worcester College, Oxford
At our November meeting we all brought in our chipped snowdrop cuttings to compare bulbil and root growth. It is such an exciting project, we have already potentially propagated about 400 new plants from our chip cuttings in June. They will probably take 3 years before they flower, each year slowly becoming bigger and fatter bulbs.
- Lift and clean a mature, virus-free bulb while it is leafless and dormant
- Remove any papery outer skin and trim back the roots with a sharp knife
- Remove the growing tip and ‘nose’ of the bulb
- Hold the bulb with the basal plate uppermost and cut it into 8-16 sections (chips), each of a similar size, depending upon the size of the bulb. Make sure each chip has a portion of basal plate
- Leave the chips to drain on a rack for 12 hours
- Place the chips in a clear plastic bag containing ten parts fine vermiculite to one part water. Blow up the bag with air and then seal and label it
- Keep the bag in a dark place at 20ºC (68ºF) for about 12 weeks, checking occasionally to remove any rotting chips
- During storage, the scales (layers) of each chip will separate out and bulblets should form between the scales, just above the basal plate
- Pot the chips up individually in 8cm (3in) pots of free-drainng loam based compost such as John Innes No.2. Insert the chips with the basal plate downwards and the bulblets covered by about 1cm (½in) of compost. Leave the scales exposed – they will slowly rot away as the bulblets develop
- Grow on the developing bulbs in conditions appropriate to the specific variety