Being a botanist, Richard enjoys exploring the diversity nature offers. And snowdrops, which originated in the woodlands of Europe and Asia Minor, are surprisingly diverse. Most people are familiar with the common snowdrop (G. nivalis), a small, vigorous grower that naturalizes easily into lovely drifts of white in late winter or early spring. But there are hundreds of snowdrop varieties that bloom from November to March.
Admittedly, the differences between them are subtle. However, as Richard likes to point out during his many talks to garden groups, they are there. People just have to take a closer look.
For instance, there's G. elwesii var. monostictus (Hiemalis Group), a sub-stantial plant with showy flowers, while G. elwesii, commonly known as giant snowdrop, is larger, more colourful and has two green spots inside the petals. A robust, vigorous variety with striking double flowers is G. nivalis ‘Flore Pleno'; G. ikariae, meanwhile, is a low-growing species with recurved green leaves.
Richard, who grows 14 varieties, says he doesn't have a favourite. “The next one I see is my favourite.” And being a habitual collector (he still maintains the large stamp collections he started as a child), you can bet if there's any chance to acquire his next favourite snowdrop for the garden, he will.
Shipping and handling
Richard Hebda's passion has grown along with the number of bulbs in his fields. It's grown so much, in fact, that five years ago he and his wife, Elaine, established a small farm business to ship bulbs—primarily Colchicum and snowdrops—to garden centres in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Though snowdrops are relatively easy-care (they prefer humus-rich, porous soil that remains moist but not soggy, but will tolerate drought once established), it's far more work growing them for sale than for personal pleasure. His growing season begins in February or March, as soon as the snowdrops can be moved and the weeding started. The snowdrop beds and Colchicum fields must be kept weed-free until the bulbs are dug up, sometime in early summer. Then they're packaged and shipped from summer into early fall.
Photo: Richard Hebda, photographed by Bert Klassen.