Book Review

The Galanthophiles: 60 years of snowdrop devotees

by Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer

Pub. Orphans Publishing, 2018

Reviewed by Helen Powell, March 2020

This is a well-illustrated volume which brings together the story of cultivation of the Galanthus (snowdrop) through the history of  Galanthophiles (snowdrop lovers) from 1854 to 2014.  The authors have collated the history of the collectors and therefore the interesting progression of snowdrop from the first common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) to the many varieties available today.

The illustrations and photographs are delightful, a Dramatis Personae gives information on the many individuals involved.  The sources, bibliography and the notes give excellent information for further research.

The authors take us on an enthusiastic journey through the history of the snowdrop.  We learn that the only way to acquire the rarer snowdrops was by gifts or swaps with other collectors, either by social connection or being a member of a particular horticultural society.

The book focusses on the central figure and most important members of the inner circles – the Galanthophiles who built up the larger collections and did the most to preserve the history of the snowdrops they cultivated.

The Giant Snowdrop Company of Hyde Lodge, near Stroud helped to bring special bulbs to collectors not linked to the circles.  Their first catalogue was issued in 1952.

This book is a delightful and exceedingly well researched volume, bringing to life the love and enthusiasm of the Galanthophiles.  The authors, in writing the book, are saving the Galanthophiles’ stories for posterity as they themselves saved the many snowdrops they collected and cultivated.

Chris Brickell-Horticultural botanist and first Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society writes: A fascinating, much needed book.  It will appeal to anyone and everyone who grows snowdrops.

Jane Kilpatrick is the author of Fathers of Botany: The Discovery of Chinese Plants by European Missionaries