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Our drive is getting on for 100m long, bordering a wooded stream. We would like to line it with snowdrops but I'm worried this is a colossal task as some sources claim I need 100+ bulbs per square metre. Ultimately we would like a the whole area to be drifted but appreciate this will take some years.

What is the best way to set this up so it will look OK with fewer bulbs, and spread nicely? What is the minimum bulbs we could get away with that it would not look silly, and should they be planted individually or in small clumps?

I don't have a wide shot in season but:

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The woodland is on the right of the drive, falling away into a stream just past the line of trees - the close-up showed it this spring around the stream.

  • @MrBoy: Where are you located? (Zone, Continent, Elevation, etc) What type of soil are you planting in? Is the stream bank gravel, silty, hummus? Are you talking about Galanthus nivalis? Do you already have snowbell established along the bank somewhere? – CloneZero Sep 27 '17 at 13:49
  • @CloneZero northern England, it's effectively the boundary of a semi-ancient woodland area so traditional woodland floor... bluebells grow widely but not snowdrops – Mr. Boy Sep 27 '17 at 13:53
  • Have you had a look at long-handled bulb planters? – Chris H Sep 27 '17 at 15:00
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    Personally I would not plant cultivated plants on such a nice wild place. Eventually I would look for wild snowdrop and "move" them. BTW some consider snowdrop as invasive specie, which escape from us much time ago. – Giacomo Catenazzi Sep 27 '17 at 15:07
  • I bet you have deer and they will eat a lot of bulbs. Daffodils are cheap in bulk and don't taste good to wildlife – kevinsky Sep 28 '17 at 0:13
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I would suggest you plant in small clumps, a minimum of five bulbs, with a gap as long as you like (depending how many you've got) in between each clump, otherwise they will look pretty silly, as you put it. They will multiply over time, and when the clumps get quite large, you can split them into smaller clumps and spread them out more.

But there is another problem; Snowdrops, when planted as dry bulbs, often don't grow - the surest way is to buy them 'in the green', when they are already growing, but that, of course, means waiting until spring. Info from the RHS here https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=703

An alternative to plant now is Eranthis hyemalis, or winter aconite; they are the first bulbs to show themselves, and do come up reliably from bulb packs, but they are quite short in height. A little taller, Chionodoxa, or glory of the snow, are also worth considering, flowering period February to March, but they prefer well drained soil. Fritillaria meleagris might be good too - grows throughout Europe and is naturalised in some areas, it's taller than any of the others mentioned, flowers a bit later in spring, sometimes puts out a flower in autumn, common name Snakeshead fritillary.

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Small clumps will help them to fill in better. You can take a small auger for a battery powered driver, and create all the holes very efficiently before dropping the bulbs in (if you plan to plant in bulk).

Where I am, in clay, zone 6b Pennsylvania, it's about 2 years from one bulb to a group of ten or so, in the shade. A little faster in sunny dry spots. After that, you could easily dig them up and space them to cover more area if desired. I think rather than a line of bulbs, or a line of groups, it looks natural to plant a staggered row of groups, not a straight row, and have it a little heavier in some areas (patches with a wider area of planting).

Also, you could plant something along the back to cover the ground once the snowdrop leaves yellow in the spring (such as slug resistant hostas).

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Buy as many as you can stand, plant them singly (the clumps will form naturally from the single bulbs.)

"Look silly" is a rather vague and opinion-based condition. A single snowdrop looks good, not "silly", IMHO. I suppose you might consider something along the lines of laying a hose or rope into a curvy line and planting along that - perhaps making occasional groups around the line (still single bulbs, but off to the sides of the linear group along the line, making a wider spot.) That can have a certain visual appeal, as can rigidly formal straight lines - the straight lines ARE easier to plant more bulbs without getting into the bulbs you've already planted, though. But ultimately you're hoping they will naturalize and fill things in, so rigid linearity won't be maintained unless you dig them all up and replant them in straight lines...

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    I was thinking that in year #1, a single very straight line would look a bit daft in a wild environment basically! I guess they spread in clumps only, so the boundary of the whole drift area is rather defined by my initial planting - i.e. thinly spread over a wider strip along the drive rather than densely along a narrow strip will look better long term? – Mr. Boy Sep 27 '17 at 13:51
  • IF you have good luck with the bulbs (we typically don't bother) this "broadcast" method has the advantage of more reliably finding the sweet-spots in terms of microclimate and optimal soil/moisture/light conditions. The bulbs that "wind up" in the best places will form better colonies and those that are planted in sub-optimal conditions will die away. This will leave really natural, organically formed drifts. – That Idiot Sep 29 '17 at 12:34

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