What exactly is a galantophile?

Clue: Galantophiles come into their own at this time of year.  Coming from all quarters of the globe, they may be identified by their specialist walking sticks with tiny mirrors fixed to their tip.  Willing to spend upwards of £300 for a bulb, one galantophile’s deep pockets resulted in them paying a record-breaking £725 for a single bulb.

These are not flashy types however – their prize may be less than 15 centimetres tall, with blooms the size of a postage stamp.  They don’t go in for gaudy colours either – these plants come in a narrow range of exquisitely detailed shades.  However, despite the subtlety of the prize, galantophiles have often been associated with crime.

What we are talking about here are snowdrop fanciers, an obsession that appears to show no signs of abatement.  Most of us feel the spirits lift when the first doughty snowdrops peek through the piles of dead leaves on the border.

Whereas major collections such as RHS Wisley’s Bowles Corner, named for the plants man of Myddelton House who devoted his life to breeding and collecting snowdrops have been the subject of some notorious raids, these days you are as likely to suffer a theft from your own border.  It seems that the idea of plant pinching is spreading but this isn’t about the bulbs as much as the rich profits to be had as bulbs change hands on ebay and the like.  It is widely thought that the thefts are being encouraged by unscrupulous gardeners who are not able to acquire certain varieties any other way, due to their rarity.

There are things you can do to protect your precious plants.  Container growing where the pots can be located in a secure, alarmed greenhouse seems to defeat the very purpose of cultivating snowdrops for pleasure alone but  the employment of a subterranean cage in which to grow the bulbs makes them harder to dig up.  As with other vulnerable outdoor possessions, night-time anti-theft lights and CCTV can be a real deterrent.  As of course can  be a good house-dog!