This week we have been busy lifting dormant snowdrop bulbs from the garden and nursery. The bulbs are in perfect condition, plump and full - an ideal state for moving them around. When replanted they will soon push out new roots and quickly establish, growing next year as if they had never been moved.
The clump shown above, of the Greatorex hybrid double 'Hippolyta', is typical. It has been in the ground for several years and the bulbs have multiplied well, so there are several layers of them in the clump. If one tried to divide it in growth, as popular custom sugests, you would rip off most of the roots while trying to disentangle the bulbs, leaving each plant in a disadvantaged state for the growing season and resulting in a smaller bulb than if it had been left undisturbed. Last year's roots are still cleartly visible here, showing how long they persist: while not really active, these are very much alive and fleshy.
A clump like this is extracted from the ground in its entirety: at this time of the year the bulbs just fall away from the clump. Then they are graded, with some flowering-size bulbs being retained for sales while others, plus some offsets are replanted in the original (but widened and deepened hole) at a reasonable spacing. These will quickly develop to form a fine flowering clump again within a year or two. A few other smaller bulbs are taken off for replanting elsewhere. This system makes the offtake of bulbs from Colesbourne very sustainable: the spring display is not affected, and indeed enhanced, while providing a stock of bulbs to appear as potted plants on our sales table next February.
'Hippolyta' in flower - only five months or so to go... (for those who are feeling snowdrop-deprived)