Rather than face 9 inches of snow and a 12F (-11C) low lets take a trip back to just four days ago when the springtime warmth brought on an emergency trip to enjoy this year’s first snowdrop trip. It’s early of course, but we were on a mission this time and with the thermometer peaking at 60F (15C) it was now or never. The mission was to visit Dr. John Lonsdale at Edgewood Gardens, and take a tour of his overflowing snowdrop and cyclamen greenhouses before the warm weather set all the flowers to seed. We were not disappointed.
John lives and gardens in Exton, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia and from the looks of things you’d never guess he has yet to quit his day job. These thousands of drops and bulbs (plus about a billion other plants spread out across his yard) are just a passionate hobby and sideline which is Edgewood Gardens. You may already know this since he is a regular feature at garden events and lectures up and down the East coast, but to see his garden and hear him talk you would think for sure he lives the life of a full time nurseryman.
I have plenty of pictures here and will likely ramble on too long so to keep things focused I’ll just add that John will be putting out his first snowdrop sales list this summer, and if you’re even just slightly interested in seeing what drops might be available send him an email via his Edgewood Gardens website.
John may be growing a few extra bulbs for sale, but it doesn’t take more than a walk up his driveway to recognize he’s plant obsessed with a weakness towards collecting.
The full range of snowdrops is represented in the greenhouse, selections from seed grown species right alongside some of the most coveted European varieties, many of which are nearly impossible to find on either side of the Atlantic. This is even more impressive when you consider the cost and complications which are involved in bringing these plants into the States legally (something you’ll quickly notice when browsing overseas sources).
When they’re all together like this it’s hard to pick out favorites…. or even distinguish one white drop from another, but a few stand out even to a beginner like myself.
Travel is supposed to broaden the mind but I’m afraid all this trip did was make my snowdrop obsession worse. I picked up several new names to add to the want-list…
Ok, so that might be plenty of snowdrops, but before we leave the greenhouse the hardy Cyclamen coum deserve some attention as well. Not to pat myself on the back too strongly, but these are the same plants which John offers for sale through his website, and somehow through a remarkable feat of self control I managed to limit myself to just four carefully selected plants.
There were also plenty of seedlings coming along for future sales.
… and that’s just in the greenhouses. Because of the exceptional temperatures things were pushing ahead outside as well.
And cactus. I barely mentioned the cactus beds, but there they were looking as if they were growing a few hundred miles West and South of this Philly garden.
Oh and I’m sure you’re done with snowdrops, but there were more outside as well, both in bloom and just beginning to sprout.
Hellebores were also just beginning.
Even a few of the trees and shrubs were showing signs of life. The witch hazels (Hamamelis) were in bloom all over the gardens, but the delicate flowers of the Japanese plum (Prunus mume) really look too delicate for a Pennsylvania February.
I could easily spend all day or another day at Edgewood Gardens, but if you’re at all familiar with our Philly snowdrop jaunts you’ll know we always fit in way too much for the still short days. Before our greenhouse visit we happily dropped an hour and a half at a local park to again admire the sheets of naturalized winter aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis) which grow there.
We even managed to find a few snowdrops just coming up. What a perfect combination, and quite a contrast to the deer chewed pachysandra, weeds and brambles.
We were so lucky with the weather this year. Snowdropping in February is one thing, doing it in short sleeves is unheard of even in the warmest of years. Hopefully when March rolls around and it’s time to head north to visit Hitch Lyman and Temple Gardens we will be just as lucky. History says otherwise though.
As usual a special thanks goes out to Paula for her annual enthusiasm for these trips, and also a big thanks goes out to Dr. Lonsdale for being so generous with his time, his knowledge and also his garden. Truth be told I may have just kind of invited myself over that day, but you would never have guessed it by how warmly I was received by both John and by his other (more scheduled) visitors. It was great getting to see everyone and I hope we do this again!