door Mijnard Scheers                                                                                 4 april 2016

Snowdrops at the Weem in Warffum. The 'Snowdrop-free strip' is clearly visible. Photo: Tweet 12.03.2016. @marcoglastra, director Groninger Landschap

Snowdrops at the Weem in Warffum. The ‘Snowdrop-free strip’ is clearly visible. Photo: Tweet 12.03.2016. @marcoglastra, director Groninger Landschap

The medieval vicarage in Warffum (province of Groningen), where we moved to in 1972 as the first non-clergy after 700 years of occupation by preachers and vicars, has three-quarters of a hectare terrain with dozens of old fruit trees.

We were told that there were a lot of Snowdrops growing, which after their appearance at the end of January, could be admired for about two months. This turned out to be true; the majority of the terrain turns white because of the flowering Snowdrops and this continues until the end of March.

In the old days schoolchildren were allowed to pick the Snowdrops during the height of flowering, with which, according to the story, the rooms of a hospital were being brightened up. All this happened in a distant past. Until ……. until three girls in the age of 6 to 7 years old were ringing at the door.

“May we pick some Snowdrops?” (in the dialect of the province of Groningen)

Hurray, an old tradition revives. And so unexpectedly and spontaneously. Warm feelings overwhelmed us. Another knocking at the door happened a quarter of an hour later. There they were again, those three girls. The biggest one emerged with a bunch of Snowdrops in her outstretched hand.

“Do you want to buy some Snowdrops?”

Well, back to our subject now. Experts have explained to us that the long duration of flowering in the garden is due to a combination of early bloomers and late bloomers. And that is also true; while some Snowdrops are already shrinking somewhat, the buds of others still have to open up.

There is also a multitude of species present. We do not know the names, but there are big differences in appearance, in flower size and height. There also appear to be non-drooping Snowdrops. All these differences contribute to a lively image.

Meanwhile, we enjoy our Snowdrops already forty four years. We learned at the time that these plants show a wayward behaviour. We found that in some parts of the terrain the Snowdrop population increased significantly in intensity. We thought we could understand that too, because the Snowdrops settled in places where we had removed an obstacle, for example when we had demolished a large terrace and also a second vegetable garden that had once been laid out when the vicarage was occupied by two families. This fitted in with the tendency of Snowdrops – as one expert told us – to fully occupy available land.

What we did not understand, however, was the phenomenon that the population sometimes fell back in certain parts of the terrain. It was also remarkable that there was a strip of five meters wide and twenty meters long in the middle of the terrain, where there were never Snowdrops. The strip became narrower in the long run, but it turned out to be persistent.

However, this year there is a dramatic change. The strip has suddenly become three times wider. What could have caused that? Had the large amount of rain that had fallen in a short time to do with it? Not likely because at other places in the terrain the population expanded. Maybe mice? Also not likely because there was no mouse hole to be seen.

The plausible statement came a week ago from a supplier of rose manure, who wanted to see the Snowdrops, when he first came into our terrain. ‘Snowdrops do not like draught, he said. Then everything became clear.

In order to restore a line of sight in our terrain, we had last year removed two very high and broad European filberts, which were standing in the middle of the terrain. Thus the puzzle of the Snowdrop strip was solved, which we had observed for so long in the middle of the garden. Between the large European filberts a draught path was created that led to a draught over the center of the terrain. And so was the sudden widening of the strip explained; the draught path had become much wider by cutting down the Filberts.
Perhaps the decrease of the population at certain places in the terrain may have been related to changes in the past. Perhaps a dead fruit tree had been removed.

Snowdrops apparently love the lee. They do not seem to need much sun nor fertilisation. We have never fertilised the orchard and the Snowdrops, – apart from the strip discussed -they  thrive very well. The question that concerns us now is: how will the strip behave next year? Our rose fertiliser supplier believes that the strip will start to narrow again from the sides in the future, given the tendency of Snowdrops to occupy the available ground.
On the other hand, we know that for decades there has been an unoccupied strip in the middle of the terrain. Time will tell. Exciting!

Many are interested in our old terrain. That is why we have decided to open up the garden by appointment for groups of interested parties. We also do that for the medieval building.
There are also many other Stinzenplants in our garden. We will write about that next time.

Grietha and Mijnard Scheers
Pastorieweg 24
9989 BM Warffum (province of Groningen)
(0595) 42 23 63