Snowdrops are a county speciality

Snowdrops grow well in Northumberland.
Snowdrops grow well in Northumberland.
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The earliest bulbs to bloom are led by the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). Snowdrops (galanthus) follow close behind. Both are spot-on for February bee visitors.

The yellow aconites respond well to autumn planting of their dry corms, but success with snowdrops is best achieved through planting ‘in the green’ – groups of lifted bulbs with foliage intact straight after flowering.

Look out for outstanding woodland displays at local venues as February unfolds. My favourite is Howick Hall, whose snowdrop festival begins on February 11.

Our county is recognised as a place they grow well and gives rise to special varieties. Spindlestone and Chatton are well known, but don’t be put off by the single bulb of newcomer Golden Fleece, exchanging hands for over £1,390. Most varieties are available at a modest price and make a wonderful swathe of early colour, appreciated by bees.

Once your snowdrop colony is established and naturally cross-pollinated, there is the option of getting down to ground level with a hand lens in search of a flower with slight variation that might make a fortune.