BRAKESPEARE: “Stealing snowdrops is like stealing a Van Gogh,” says Cambs collector

FASCINATING new word crossed your diarist’s threshold this week: galanthophiles.

In case you didn’t know it’s the term used for snowdrop collectors – the snowdrops above are at Peckover House, Wisbech – and I came across it after following the exploits of Joe Sharman, who owns Monksilver nursery at Cottenham.

Mr Pearson recalled how 25 years ago his mother summoned him to a Victoria era walled garden to show him a Galanthus plicatus, a rare yellow, white and green snowdrop.

Mr Sherman persuaded the garden’s warden to allow him to have a couple, one of which he gave to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens and the other he kept.

When it finally produced what he says was a small clump he put a photo of it in the Royal Horticultural Society magazine “and, immediately, people began turning up at my house. I was overwhelmed. I feared they would steal my bulbs, so I had to hide the plants until the frenzy died down”.

So began a quarter of a century of snowdrop development and collecting which culminated this year in selling a rare bulb on eBay for �357, the world record for a snowdrop.

Mr Sherman is security conscious about these rare bulbs and says he doesn’t allow people into his garden, doesn’t tell people where he is and always gives away one bulb from a new variety to a friend so in case his goes missing he knows he has a back-up.

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“Stealing snowdrops is like stealing a Van Gogh,” he remarked.

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