Everyone probably knows the snowdrop. A bulbous plant with two little leaves per bulb, and a small flower with three large, white outer petals and three small inner petals. Usually that plant is of the species G. nivalis. There is also a double (or double-flowered) form, with the name G. nivalis “Flore Pleno”, and this plant is also well known.
But… there is more. For a complete list of the currently known and recognized species, see Galanthus: The species. There are approximately 20 species. The number of hybrids however is about 1200, according to some people.
One of the misconceptions is that these plants bloom in January and February, and preferably in the snow. This is not the case, as there are snowdrops that bloom in the second half of October. Those are typically plants of the species G. regina-olgae. This species often blooms even before leaves are present. And then there are also snowdrops that flower in April.
If you want to read something about the construction of the snowdrop and to describe the names of the various parts of it, I gladly refer you to this PDF document. (The document opens in a new window).
Snowdrop enthousiasts, also called Galantophiles, go to great lengths to practice their hobby. Especially in Great Britain the so-called “Galas” are renown: gatherings of enthousiasts, who are member of a Galanthus club. Often, only members are allowed to visit these meetings. Also in The Netherlands (De Boschhoeve) and in Germany (Nettetal) these events have grown rapidly into mass gatherings: Snowdrops are “hot”. Cultivators sell their plants there, and the prices may be pretty steep. Bulbs are also for sale on eBay. Expect prices to cost upwards of € 200,00! Obviously, that will give you something very special. It is more fun to not simply buy a collection, but to extend your list of species slowly by swapping bulbs with others.
We try to keep our collection pure. That means that we remove all faded flowers to prevent any unwanted hybrids to appear. Also, all our snowdrops grow in lattice baskets, so that no bulbs are left in the garden soil, of which the name can no longer be retrieved. Furthermore, we try our best to link the names to the bulbs by using labels (one label at the bottom of the basket and one label clearly legible on top of the ground). Finally, all Galanthuses are stored in the computer (including its location in the garden, etc.)