Thanks to a train journey to London yesterday, I've finally had chance to read through Hanneke van Dijk's book Galanthomania, this season's contribution to the snowdrop literature. It develops the theme of her earlier book (with Gert-Jan van der Kolk) Sneeuwklokjes, investigating the fascination for and of snowdrops. Sneeuwklokjes is entirely in Dutch, whereas Galanthomania, no doubt with an eye on broadening the market, is bilingual, with Dutch text on the left of the spread and an exact translation into good English on the right. This works remarkably well, especially as the photographs are spread impartially across the pages. As usual with Hanneke's books these are a mixture of the informative and quirky, with some acutely shot images catching the spirit of the snowdrop season (though they are perhaps not quite as charming as in Sneeuwklokjes). The book is very well designed, and the images have reproduced well though printed on matt paper.
About half the book is given over to portraits, photographic and written, of prominent galanthophiles, and I think this where the book has real value, capturing glimpses of personalities through the eyes of a perceptive observer. Enthusiasts from across northern Europe are portrayed and given voice (although some portraitees have noted that the words are not always direct quotes), but there are some notable omissions: John Morley, whose North Green Snowdrops is the patriarch of catalogues, is missing, and it would have been nice to have seen non-European enthusiasts represented too. One can think of Hitch Lyman, who has almost single-handedly supplied choice snowdrops to Americans for years, and Tomoko Miyashita, who flies the flag in Japan: both are prominent annual visitors to the European snowdrop season. What comes out very strongly in the text is how so many galanthophiles have been mentored in their enthusiasm by members of an earlier generation: among them Herbert Ransom (always spoken of in the warmest tones), Primrose Warburg and especially Richard Nutt, who had a huge influence on many of us.
|Accurate identification of a snowdrop can seldom be achieved|
on flower characters alone. From its markings this flower could belong to at least four species.
|The foliage shows that this plant is Galanthus plicatus subsp. byzantinus, and rules out G. elwesii, G. gracilis or G. fosteri, which all may have two distinct inner segment marks, but are immediately distinguishable by their leaves.|