Soils & Composts

In his book Growing Bulbs, Martyn Rix describes an overhanging cliff where Turkish shepherds shelter their animals over winter. He remarks that the ground seems to consist entirely of compacted manure. He then remarks that in Spring it gives rise to a luxuriant growth of bulbs including snowdrops.

The upshot is that snowdrops do best with generous conditions. Some, such as the double form of nivalis, can often be found growing in spartan locations but it would be wrong to assume that this is what they like best. In the wild, snowdrops are usually found in good soils relatively rich in nutrients and that is what they like best in cultivation. As we grow all our plants in submerged containers, we use a proprietary John Innes No. 3, annual fertilisation and frequent repotting.

Soils vary widely and are affected by location, underlying rock type, the age of the garden and the enthusiasm (or not) of previous owners. New houses, in particular, can have a compacted hodge podge of clay, subsoil and rubble expertly hidden by the builder under a thin layer of topsoil.