Snowdropping 2017

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.

galanthus and cyclamen

Snowdrops and hardy cyclamen filling the greenhouse benches.

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.

galanthus homersfield

Galanthus ‘Homersfield’ in the Lonsdale greenhouse.

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.

forced snowdrops

I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I thought.  Most of my visit was spent poking through the benches admiring all the characteristics and nuances that a plain little green and white winter flowering bulb can give.

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.

potted snowdrops

Hundreds of carefully inventoried and labeled pots fill every square inch.

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).

galanthus green tear

An all green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Green Tear’, is one of those drops which broke records a few years ago when first offered on eBay.  Someone thought $500 for a single bulb was just right for feeding their obsession.

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.

galanthus diggory

The puffy pantaloons look of Galanthus ‘Diggory’ (pantaloons as in pants, not the twenty one pilots song)

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…

galanthus duckie

Galanthus ‘Duckie’ on the left and top.  I loved the wide flat petals.

galanthus moortown

I also like how the green mark inside Galanthus ‘Moortown’ bleeds up a bit and stains the inside.  Plus it’s a nice big sturdy drop 🙂

galanthus green mile

Galanthus ‘Green Mile’, another sought after, deeply saturated green snowdrop.

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.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum at their peak in the greenhouse.  It will be another few weeks before the ones I have here in my own garden begin to flower, and weather permitting they will be just as nice.

There were also plenty of seedlings coming along for future sales.

hardy cyclamen seedlings

Various hardy and not so hardy cyclamen seedlings coming along in the “other” greenhouse.   If you look closely you can even see some of the cool purple centered C hederifolium coming along in the center of the photo.  Even the little babies color up!

… and that’s just in the greenhouses.  Because of the exceptional temperatures things were pushing ahead outside as well.

colchicum kesselringii

The absolutely perfect Colchicum kesselringii, a late winter flowering relative of the more common fall blooming colcicum.

adonis amurensis

The first of the Adonis amurensis were coming up to take advantage of the sun.

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.

purple opuntia

An opuntia (prickly pear) which wrinkles up and takes on an unusual purple color once temperatures fall.  I wonder if it blooms as nicely as the regular version, the spines sure do look just as fierce!

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.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

I believe this is Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a perfect beauty and surprisingly hardy and early.  Word is this bunch has been going strong for a couple weeks already, and still looks this good.

Hellebores were also just beginning.

helleborus niger

A few of many Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) which were coming up around the garden.  Here on the slope they looked absolutely perfect.

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.

prunus mume

Prunus mume.  Dr. Lonsdale told me the cultivar but at that point I’m pretty sure my brain was way too full to retain any lengthy Japanese names.

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.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

The forest floor was buzzing with hundreds of honeybees taking advantage of these first flowers of 2017.

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.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

Naturalized eranthis and snowdrop bulbs.  Given a few acres and about 150 years and you might also have a similar show.

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.

playing in the snow

Temperatures dropped to normal within 24 hours of our visit and we finally got a good coating of snow to cover up any signs of spring.  It now looks more normal for February, but that doesn’t explain why the kids can’t just go sledding in their snow pants like everyone else.

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!

The Temple Nursery 2016

I’m not exactly sure how many years it takes before something becomes a tradition but I’m going with two, and since this year marks my fourth springtime visit to the Temple Nursery’s open garden day I guess it is now a tradition, and tradition shouldn’t be tampered with.  I say that because up until the morning of the visit I wasn’t entirely sure I would actually make the drive up to Ithaca NY and beyond since this season’s early warmth had me pretty sure there wouldn’t be much left to look at as far as the garden’s snowdrop (Galanthus) collection goes.  To a certain extent that turned out to be true, but at the end I realized a day visiting a garden in the (almost) spring is never a bad idea, and even if the weather’s not perfect it’s always fun to get out once winter starts retreating.

hitch lyman garden

Side view of Hitch Lyman’s upstate NY garden.  The nursery’s namesake ‘temple’ is visible in the back.

If this visit has become tradition, imperfect weather has also become a tradition, and after weeks of above freezing, almost balmy weather, the bottom dropped out of the weather system two nights before.  Light snow for Saturday and then a low of 17F (-8C) the next morning did in many of the remaining snowdrops and wilted many of the emerging perennials.  We’re used to freezing our kazzoies off on these visits though, so by the time the temperature rose into the 40’s it felt downright balmy.  No wind either and not a single snow squall during the visit… unheard of!

galanthus ex. highdown

The Lyman garden is known for its snowdrop collection, and only a few remained in bloom after all the ups and downs of the weather.  Here is a Galanthus labeled ‘ex. highdown’ which has held up remarkably well to the cold.

The majority of the snowdrops were past, which is somewhat surprising considering The Garden Conservancy had already moved the open date forward two weeks and the date was nearly a full month earlier than last year, but what can you do at such an unsettled time of the year?  I just felt a little bad for others who had traveled much further to see what is normally an exciting collection of hundreds of different snowdrop varieties growing happily in the garden’s small woodland area.

eranthis hyemalis noel ayres

Just a few late blooming winter aconite remained.  This might be Eranthis hyemalis ‘Noel Ayres’ or something similar.  Compared to the bright yellow blooms of the species, this might be an Eranthis only a collector could love. 

I also felt bad for the plants.  The majority of the snowdrops were flat on the ground from the previous night’s cold, and overall the garden did not show well for someone expecting swaths of snowdrops and early flowers.  They’ll recover I’m sure, but frozen plants are never fun.

freeze damage primula

Early primroses wilting as the warm sun hits them.  This would have been a much cheerier sight just a few days ago.

Still I found plenty to keep me entertained, and I enjoyed the company of the garden’s owner, Conservancy volunteers, and several other entertaining guests.  Hanging out… is that too common a term for a Conservancy event?… outdoors with other like minded gardeners on a not-too-cold March afternoon is something I don’t get to enjoy too often in my neck of the woods, so I was quite pleased for making the drive up.

galanthus dr dress

It looked like some kind of sea creature to me, but it’s a Galanthus labeled ‘Dr Dress’ which I believe is the source of this unusually curly leaved snowdrop.

Of course there were blooming snowdrops as well.  I was pleased with some of the later blooming varieties such as the daintily named ‘Dumpy Green’

galanthus dumpy green

Galanthus ‘Dumpy Green’

and the very attractive late 19th century snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

galanthus virescens

The classic green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

Luckily for me one of my favorites was still in bloom.  It’s been divided since my last visit and is still doing well, Galanthus ‘RD Nutt’ is one that always catches my eye, even though it’s no more white or green or fancy than any other of Mr. Lyman’s many other snowdrops.

galanthus rd nutt

I’ve asked and then forgotten if ‘RD Nutt’ is the name or source of this snowdrop.  It always seems such a neat and heavy bloomer, and appears to be holding up well to the weather.

So I’m glad my schedule cleared up enough to make the trip again this year, and it was a treat to finally see the gardens with a few traces of blue in the background sky.  We will see what next year brings but I’m sure as usual we will make the best of it!

hitch lyman garden

Hitch Lyman’s home, moved to the spot in the 90’s and restored back to it’s original grandeur.

One final note though.  I was a little insulted by how well the hardy cyclamen were doing considering the sad state of my own plantings.  My own Cyclamen coum were killed back to the roots and failed to put on much of a show this spring.  I’m going to blame a lack of mulch and see if I can’t do something about that next year.  We just didn’t have the protection of a snow cover last year, and it looks like these did.

cyclamen coum upstate ny

Some Cyclamen coum looking quite happy in their upstate New York home.  A nice woodland mulch and most likely a protective blanket of snow have them blooming happily with nearly perfect foliage.

Thanks again to the Conservancy and Mr. Lyman for another enjoyable visit, and in case you are interested the Temple Nursery sells snowdrops as well as growing them.   To get on his mailing list (there is no online available) send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you should receive a listing in January.  Act fast, they sell out in just a few weeks 🙂

Have a great Easter!

Snowdrops part II

By now I’m going to guess several of you know I have a “thing” for snowdrops.  It’s a lonely thing since my nearest fellow snowdrop lover lives miles and miles away, but it’s a thing and like all things you just have to deal with it.  With that said I will forgive anyone who glosses over this post since not everyone will ‘get’ this thing, and many will not even want to appear as encouraging this thing, but that’s fine.  Once the daffodils open I’ll move on and we can again comfortably ignore my little secret until next year.

Luckily for you the season is practically over in my garden (so this will not drag on for the weeks which it normally does)  and here’s only just the briefest summary of a few of my favorites from this year’s snowdrop season.  We will begin with a new one, ‘Daphne’s Scissors’, which came via Carolyn’s Shade Gardens last spring.

galanthus daphnes scissors

Galanthus ‘Daphnes Scissors’, an early bloomer with me and early enough to open at the same time as the winter aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis).

‘Blonde Inge’ sometimes gives trouble as far as her blonde highlights go, but this year there’s a nice touch of yellow to the insides of her flowers.  This is her third year in the garden and she seems to be settling in nicely.

galanthus blonde inge

Galanthus ‘Blonde Inge’, the covergirl for Naomi Slade’s great little book “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops” which I had the pleasure of reading this winter.

I’m trying to stick to snowdrops which don’t all fall under the same old same old category… this is still a stretch since green-white-yellow is the slightly limiting range which we’re always working with, but to the obsessed even the plain old white and green can be something special 🙂

galanthus straffan

Galanthus ‘Straffan’, an oldie but goodie which has been gracing the gardens of snowdrop lovers since 1858.  This is year three for my plant and I’m quite pleased to see its graceful upright blooms multiplying.  Maybe someday I’ll be up to the hundreds you see in other gardens 🙂

Galanthus ‘MoretonMills’ was the first expensive snowdrop I splurged on.  I won’t say how much I paid but it was a ridiculous amount for such a tiny little thing and each spring I hold my breath until it sprouts.  Fortunately it’s one of my favorites and is also beginning to multiply.

galanthus moreton mills

Galanthus ‘Moreton Mills’, a poculiform snowdrop where the three inner petals are as long as the three outer petals.  If this plant breaks the four inch barrier I’d call it a growth spurt.

As a variation on the green and white theme, here’s one which is more green and green and white 🙂

galanthus kildare

I love this one, it’s Galanthus ‘Kildare’ doing very well in its second year in the garden.  The blooms are huge. (relatively speaking of course!)

Another of my very favorites is ‘Primrose Warburg’.  It’s been doing very well here and is actually becoming what I could optimistically call a clump.  The downside to collecting unusual little bulbs is that you must often start with just one and to be completely honest a single snowdrop, no matter how special, does not exactly put on a major show in the garden.

galanthus primrose warburg

Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’.  Even those who yawn at the sight of snowdrops will acknowledge the bright yellow differences on this one 🙂

I’ll leave you with my lovely little golden snowdrop patch, and repeat that the snowdrop season is essentially over here.  It was a weird one, and for me it was a lame one with harsh late freezes damaging many of the blooms followed by a warm couple days which wilted the rest.  Add a few days out of town for work and snowdrops which came up before my schedule allowed me to fully admire them…. well enough said.  At least I was able to enjoy a few crocus.

natuaralized crocus

All the crocus came up nicely in the meadow garden and even the rabbits couldn’t keep up with them all.  Luckily mother nature and global warming stepped in and wiped them all out with back to back hailstorms.  Oh El Nino, you’re really having your fun this year.

The crocus season felt like it lasted three days.  They burst up and bloomed and then the weather did them in.

dutch crocus

A few of those fat hybrid Dutch crocus growing by the front steps.  To get really nice clumps it helps to dig them up and spread them around every three of four years.  Forgetting where they are and accidently digging them up in June is my method of choice.    

Fortunately there’s still plenty of spring left since it’s only just the end of March.  A cold spell last week slowed everything right back down, but the first weeks of April look remarkably mild and I’m sure there will be plenty of things sprouting up and blooming and helping me ease my snowdrop hangover.  Don’t get your hopes up too much though, I did visit another snowdrop garden last weekend and have one more white and green post yet to come.

If I don’t speak with you before Sunday, have a great Easter!

Were those snowdrops all just a dream?

It’s hard to believe that just over a week ago this gardener was completely consumed by snowdrops.  Today the grass is green and people are nursing sunburns but just seven days ago we braved the usual snow squalls and windchills to pay Trumansburg NY and Hitch Lyman’s Temple Nursery a visit.

snowdrops temple nursery

The garden’s namesake reflected in the overflowing waters of the garden’s pond. There had been plenty of rain in the days previous… good for melting the last of the snow.

This was our third visit to the gardens and for a snowdrop lover it’s always a treat.  Mr. Lyman opens his garden through the Garden Conservancy, an organization committed to opening gates and preserving gardens across North America, and although this one’s early spring drabness might not appeal to everyone, it’s a treasure chest for those interested in seeing what is likely North America’s most diverse collection of galanthus (snowdrop) cultivars.  But perhaps your interests lie in the warmer seasons and silly things such as sunshine and butterflies.  If so check out the other garden open days listings, and you may be surprised at what’s open in your neck of the woods!

snowdrops at hitch lyman garden

Snowdrops along the woodland path of Hitch Lyman’s Temple Gardens.

Since most of the rest of the world is well beyond snowdrop season I’ll try to keep this quick.  Interest in little white flowers dims quickly once the tulips start to open and I want to list this year’s favorites so I have something to look back on next January when the fever starts up again.

galanthus mrs backhouse #12

You can’t go wrong with the clean and simple. This is an old classic, galanthus “Mrs. Backhouse #12”.

Since I’ll be the first to admit that nearly all small white snowdrops look remarkably identical I’ll try to focus on a few that stand out.  The ‘greens’ caught my eye this year, and galanthus ‘Greenish’ was looking perfectly different this spring and really makes a nice clump among the whites.

galanthus greenish

Galanthus “Greenish”

Green is different, but a green ‘spikey’ is even more different.  I’m not sure if this tiny burst of flower is to everyone’s taste but it is definitely what I’d call ‘interesting’….

galanthus boyd's double

Galanthus “Boyd’s double”

Yellow is also different, but on a flower like “Spindlestone Surprise” it looks just great.  This was one of several nice clumps of yellow drops.

galanthus spindlestone surprise

Galanthus “Spindlestone Surprise”

Ok, so one more picture of an interesting green.

galanthus green arrow

Galanthus “Green Arrow”

I hear that when temperatures rise enough above 40F (5C) the flowers in this garden will actually open wide and show off their inner markings.  I have yet to experience that since we always seem to be at the garden the day before the sun comes out and the air temperatures rise.  This year was par for the course since the Sunday forecast called for a calm and sunny 60F.

galanthus augustus

Even when still closed, the puckered petals and grass green foliage of galanthus “Augustus” still make for a great show.

I hate to admit that over the years I’ve added quite a few snowdrops to my garden, and with each new one I somehow tell myself it’s exactly the drop to complete some final empty void in my collection.  To publically admit I have a collection is a bad sign in itself, but to admit I NEED even species snowdrops is probably another bad omen.  They’re all white and green, just like every other snowdrop, but each one is just so much more special than the last 🙂

Galanthus koenenianus

Galanthus koenenianus. How can you not love those fat grey leaves? This was just one of several interesting little species snowdrops Mr. Lyman grows.

Now that we’re getting into special little things which make your fulfilling life seem just a tiny bit lacking lets look at this early blooming scilla relative which goes by the name of puschkinia.  This strain is supposed to have more rounded heads with darker lines of color and since I don’t grow it (yet) I’ll take their word for it.

Puschkinia scilloides 'Aragats Gem'

Puschkinia scilloides ‘Aragats Gem’

…and what gardener goes on a garden visit without adding something to the wishlist?  These last two will surely remain on the list for a while since even I can’t justify the pricetags which usually accompany them.

galanthus phillip andre meyer

Galanthus “Phillip Andre Meyer”.  I think of these as pagoda shaped although they’re usually referred to as inverse poculiforms (ipocs, or inpocs if you fear the wrath of Apple’s trademark police).  The flowers are reversed (inverted) with the green inner petals on the outside, and all six petals nearly similar in length.

“A. E. Bowles” will not likely visit my garden anytime soon but I’m going to put it as number one on the wishlist.  How exciting (for me at least) to be able to see it in bloom, and what a great way to commemorate such a talented plantsman and author.  Actually the snowdrop “Augustus” is another drop which is named after him, as well as dozens of other cultivars of plants.  Not a bad legacy in my opinion.

galanthus e a bowles

Galanthus “E.A.Bowles”

Of course it’s not all about pedigreed names and high pricetags.  There were plenty of clumps who’s names were known only to Mr. Lyman yet were still fantastic first signs of spring.

double snowdrop galanthus elwesii

No obvious label on this one, but its fat, rounded blooms made me happy to see it. Nice foliage as well.

After a long visit we were finally on the road again and made a quick pit stop at Ithaca’s Cornell Plantation.  The plantation is part of Cornell University and we wanted to stop in quickly for a look at their gardens, in particular their winter garden.

cornell plantation winter garden

Cornell Plantation’s winter garden.  Bright conifers, colorful bark, and a few winter bloomers all just recently released from underneath a cold blanket of snow.

The winter garden was a nice stop but since our fingers were still tingling from the cold we didn’t exactly linger much.  I don’t think I’d mind coming back in another few weeks when things really explode, but on this particular day the conifers and bare twigs, for as colorful as they were, just couldn’t keep us away from the heated car seats.

cornell plantation winter garden

More gardens at Ithaca’s Cornell University. The arboretum and other parts called but we wanted to get home before dark!

In spite of the weather we always end up enjoying our visit up to Trumansburg, Ithaca, and the Temple Gardens and are grateful that Mr. Lyman opens them up each spring.  In case you’re unaware Mr. Lyman also sells snowdrops so if you’re interested the process is to send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886.  Catalogs go out in January and the drops are usually sold out within a few weeks so you need to be quick!

Enjoy spring and your very own garden visits 🙂

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

A few weeks ago I posted about the trouble with idle hands and how they were inching me over to the dark side.  It sounded funny at the time but the string of bad luck and minor tragedy which followed reassured me that there will be no deals made on this end and I would in fact like to stay on the lighter side.  So to sum it up surgery has been scheduled for some, blood tests every three months for others, stitches have been removed, and the family has a new bunny.  Hopefully garden cleanup will now continue to bring us back into good graces.  It’s about time for both 🙂

yard cleanup perennial beds

The front yard is definitely looking a little wild and wooly now that the snow has melted.  Probably time to get rid of the sled.

Cleanup has been ongoing all week (in between April showers) and this morning the sunshine and leftover morning frost are making the front yard glisten with springtime promise.

front yard garden cleanup

front yard garden cleanup

The view from inside the front door was also in need of some sprucing up.

messy yard spring cleanup

I sometimes think my entire neighborhood is an advertisement for plastic and vinyl.

Cleanup this spring is nearly all power tools.  Everything gets cut down with the hedge trimmer into manageable bits and then the largest bits are raked onto the lawn for mowing up into the bag.  The bag is then emptied onto the beds out back.  The front yard then gets a nice topping off with shredded leaves from last fall’s cleanup.  Not only do the shredded leaves cover up all the twigs and debris I was too lazy to remove, they also frame the first crocus nicely.

spring garden cleanup mulch

Mulched leaves on the beds and the lawn mowed at its lowest setting.  Things look better already.

Work has an annoying way of getting in the way of spring cleanup, but whenever I have a chance it feels great to get out there again.  The birds follow behind looking for worms and the kids rediscover all the messes they can make with the most simple of tools.  Spring mud and mulchpiles are fun but I’m just happy enough to see plants finally growing again in the open air.

hardy cyclamen with leucojum vernum

The pink cyclamen coum look much better this spring even after our insulting amount of cold and snow.  Temperatures were actually lower than last winter but a good amount of leaves and flower buds made it through and at least I have something to set off the spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) flowers this year.

I’ve added an embarrassing amount of snowdrops since last year.  These showed up in the mail one day as a baggie full of washed clean, sprouting bulbs.  I planted them immediately and they are perfect this spring.  In contrast the dry bulbs of the same type which looked perfect upon planting barely sprouted last spring and have now died off completely.

double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno

The double snowdrop (galanthus ‘flore pleno’) hopefully settling in nicely under the apple tree.  FYI -the apple tree is that twig at the back of the photo 🙂

I will bore you with more snowdrops at a later date but for now other spring bulbs.

corydalis George baker

The first corydalis, this one’s “George Baker”, looking good and reminding me I should divide my other overcrowded clumps.

Ok one more snowdrop.

galanthus wonston double

Galanthus ‘Wonston Double’.  I have to keep reminding myself I don’t like doubles.

This little bulb who’s name I will never be able to spell without looking up (scilla mischtschenkoana) is one of those unassuming things which you never NEED but you should always have.  This one’s been with me for a while going all the way back to a single stray bulb which must have been overlooked or abandoned by squirrels after all its brothers and sisters had been planted.  Being the daring teen who I was and feeling a little dangerous, I pocketed the bulb and brought it home.  Somehow it survived being unplanted all winter and within a few weeks even put out the first of many pale, icy blue flowers.  It has never reseeded (likely because they’re all the clone descendants of one single bulb) but it’s multiplied and followed me from garden to garden over the decades.  hmmmm.  I should go back to that park some day and see how the original planting has made out.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana.

The hellebores are starting as well.  This one is right up against the porch foundation and lives the good life.

white ashwood hybrid hellebore

I bought this one as a white Ashwood seedling from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I bought this one as a started plant, but deep down inside I covet seeds from the Ashwood line.  They’re either crazy expensive or I just can’t find them here in the states.

A few of the other hellebores are also coming along.  Drought last summer has really taken a bite out of this year’s show but the real killer was my transplanting several and then not really bothering to give them any aftercare.  A sprinkler would have done wonders in August, but you can’t dwell on these things in April.

double pink hellebore from seed

A nice double pink hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.  I’m glad I had the chance to buy seed from them before they closed retail sales…. but I’m still missing all the cool seedlings coming along each spring.

Last spring’s late blasts of arctic weather didn’t please the hellebores at all but this year the more settled pattern has done them well.  I finally get to see a nice clean bloom on my yellow.

yellow hellebore from seed

This one, also from Elizabethtown seed, looks buttery enough for me to think ‘yummy!’  I’ve been wanting a yellow like this for years.  Wish me luck it clumps up and continues to do well 🙂

The warmer temperatures and singing birds have me completely optimistic and I’m starting to rake back the winter mulch from around my late fall conifer splurge from Conifer Kingdom.  They all look great and I’m hoping for healthy new growth in a few weeks.  Just think… if my blue spruce (p. pungens ‘Walnut Glen’) doubles in size this year it may break the four inch mark!

late planting conifer winter protection

A late planting of conifers still snuggled in under a thick winter mulch of shredded leaves.  Time to start peeling it back.

So spring is finally here.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m buying pansies today.  The only snow left are snowdrops and since I paid a visit to the Temple nursery on Saturday you’re still going to have to sit through that, but fortunately the pictures aren’t all that great so you’ll be spared much of the repeating white and green.  Enjoy!

When the going gets tough….

The tough go elsewhere…..  like south a hardiness zone or two!

Leaving the below freezing temperatures behind for a couple hours doesn’t make me a quitter, right?  It was only a day, and when a friend and I worked out the details some cold, snowy, January night, the idea sounded like a great one.  It was, and the adventure started off with a two hour drive south to her place.

hellebores and snowdrops in the garden

An early hellebore (didn’t get the name) highlighting the early blooming snowdrops (flore pleno) and darker leaved hellebore sprouts.

My friend admits to being a galanthophile and since I might also be drifting in that direction I suppose it’s only fair I warn you ahead of time.  There will be plenty of snowdrop pictures.

galanthus green arrow

Snowdrops with a touch of green on the bloom are always a little different. Galanthus ‘green arrow’ looks nice enough, but I of course am still in my big-and-fat-is-better stage.

I tried to resist hinting too much that I wouldn’t mind one of nearly all of them!

galanthus cowhouse green

Here is a snowdrop with a green blush, which is how I like my greens best.  A good guess on the name would be galanthus ‘cowhouse green’.

What can I say about a fantastic clump of yellow?

galanthus primrose warburg

Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg”. Wow!

This was a long garden tour.  We talked about the different varieties, where they were growing well, what seemed to be doing best, and what we still dreamed of getting our dirty little fingers on!  It was a great visit, and it’s not that often I can mention snowdrops in every sentence and not get some kind of sideways glance or a poorly concealed eye roll.

galanthus flore plena

We came to the conclusion that the common double snowdrop, galanthus ‘flore plena’, is among the best drops for making a nice display in your garden beds.

Of course one cannot live on galanthus alone, so the supporting trees and shrubs also called out for attention.  Here’s one which caught my eye and caused a little bit of inner conflict at the same time.  It’s the willow-leaf spicebush, and after a bright show of autumn color the leaves hang on throughout the winter.  I thought I despised trees and shrubs which play the trick of holding on to their dead leaves (fancy term for this being marcesence), and would never have considered adding it as contrast and winter interest, but I found it oddly appealing and might have hinted towards a few seeds or a cutting or two someday.  What do you think of it?

lindera glauca winter foliage

Not the best picture, but it shows lindera glauca’s smooth khaki winter foliage. According to my host it will all drop off (making a mess?) once the buds break.  Hardiness is zones 5-7 according to what I found, so it should be ok in my frigid garden.

How can you resist a late winter carpet of blooms with crocus studding the lawn?

naturalized bulbs in lawn

I loved this old cherry tree underplanted with a carpet of late winter bulbs and snow crocus naturalized in the lawn. A perfect view for right outside a window.

The garden tour (and lunch of course!) were only the start of our adventure.  We jumped into the car next and set off to a nearby abandoned farmstead to check out the naturalized drops there.  Clearly a different setting than my friend’s garden!

abandoned stone farmhouse

Your standard abandoned Pennsylvania farmhouse, all grown up and over with invasives like locust, bittersweet, and multiflora roses.  General decay all over but I was impressed by how well the chimney brickwork was holding up.

Back in the day I’m sure this was a completely different place, and while investigating the property my friend found she actually knew one of the former occupants.  It was a different place back then, one where children were being raised, lives were being led, and someone planted a garden.  A garden which likely contained a small patch of snowdrops at the doorstep, a patch which during the years of abandonment has spread.

naturalized snowdrops

Filling in between the house and street, naturalized snowdrops between the weed trees and vinca. They look cold because they were, and even with warmer air temperatures the ground was still frozen solid.

Naturalized snowdrops spreading over the years look even better when paired with a few decades worth of winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis).  Throw a few cyclamen in and you’d think you were at one of the great estates!

galanthus and winter aconite

Galanthus and winter aconite

There was little variation amongst the plants (all galanthus nivalis), but how can you beat the pure white flowers and fresh healthy clumps.  Special or not I admit I “liberated” a bunch found growing in a rubble pile next to the foundation.  Maybe they’ll start their own sheet of white at my own house, and live on after these drops are likely erased in some future redevelopment plan.

wild galanthus

Galanthus nivalis filling in and doing its thing before the oriental bittersweet leafs out again and refreshes its chokehold on this woodland.

Abandoned house=spooky, and no matter how blue the sky or how nice the sun was coming out it still wasn’t a place we wanted to open the picnic basket at, so we wrapped things up, jumped back in the car, and headed on to our next spot.

abandoned farmhouse pennsylvania

I sure didn’t want to enter the building even if the walls still look solid… but even if I was feeling brave, those dark, empty windows still give me the creeps.

We are such slow, lingering adventurers that by the time we made it to our final stop the light was already at that low springtime evening angle which gives everything a nice glow.  Perfect for a real photographer, but even my point and shoot method gave me a few decent pictures.

galanthus sam arnott

Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’.  Seeing this makes me forget all the snow and ice back home.

When we first pulled into our friend’s driveway I just let out a hushed wow.  I’ve never been anywhere that has clumps of special snowdrops lining the driveway, and to tell the truth I was so distracted I forgot to take pictures.

galanthus diggory

This clump of galanthus ‘diggory’ makes me understand why it’s such a coveted snowdrop. Those fat little pantaloons of white would look great in any garden and I’m excited to think I might have one lined up for this summer 🙂

We spent the rest of the day here of course, talking, exploring, and just plain old soaking up the time with snowdrop friends.  Of course there were other plants too but I think all involved were just a little obsessed with one plant group right now 😉

adonis amurensis fukujukai

Yellow adonis amurensis ‘fukujukai?’ with what else but a snowdrop.

This friend likes to bulk the clumps up before putting them out in the open garden.  This was another wow moment looking at the drops which I only knew by name until today.

named galanthus with mrs thompson

Along the back are a few ‘Trym’ types with their green outer patches and the lovely ‘Mrs Thompson’ is in the front.  This is the kind of planting which makes me glad I wasn’t left alone with only my conscience to guide me.

There were plenty of things for the wishlist on this trip, but gardeners if anything are sometimes generous to a fault.  I couldn’t believe the haul which filled my trunk on the way home, a mix of purchased plants which my friend had picked up for me on an earlier trip, plus some other goodies which she knew I wanted.  I felt guilty as we walked from spot to spot with a shovel, but to look at them now just makes me even more excited about spring.

galanthus and eranthis for sale

This tub of galanthus and eranthis could be its own garden.

Spring has got to be close now, and the fact that it rained today made me realize just how long it’s been since something non-frozen has fallen from the sky.  I wasn’t thrilled to be out there, but it was perfect weather for planting new snowdrops from our trip, plus two new ones which I found in the mailbox today from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens! Bring it on I say 🙂

A snowdrop or two.

Tomorrow promises a few inches of fresh snow, so what better act of defiance is there than to enjoy a few spring flowers today?

galanthus Gerard Parker and Wendy's Gold

‘Gerard Parker’ and ‘Wendy’s Gold’, two of the earliest favorites.

I probably shouldn’t refer to them as spring flowers, it’s still clearly winter when you look at tomorrow’s snowy forecast and last night’s low of 18F (-8C), but I just feel funny calling them winter bloomers.  Winter is definitely not a time for flowers around here.

galanthus elwesii

A nice little bunch of the giant snowdrop (galanthus elwesii) with the first winter aconite opening up behind them.

Even so, the hold winter has on the calendar is starting to loosen and I for one am fine with that.  After snapping these pictures I trimmed a few hellebores and cleaned out the front porch bed so that these new little sprouts could show off to their fullest.  I didn’t get much further than that though.  The whole time I was haunted by little people asking about a baseball game and whether or not I was done yet.  The other snowdrops will have to wait.

galanthus elwesii snowdrops

Some of last year’s forced snowdrops.  They spent last winter flowering under lights in the garage, now they’re settling in outside.  By next year they should make for a nice show in this spot. 

Something else which I hope is waiting are the cyclamen coum.  They don’t seem as winter-weary as last year but the foliage still looks a little worse for wear.  Last year nearly all the flower buds were lost to the cold and ice, but this year looks a little more promising.  A few have already taken advantage of the four warm days without snow cover and have opened up their first blooms 🙂

early flowers on cyclamen coum

Last year every last leaf on this hardy cyclamen coum was a soggy frozen mess.  This year looks a little better and I’m hoping for a nice bright springtime show!

Another first for the year is the snowdrop “John Gray” from Far Reaches Farm out in Washington state.  Last winter I enjoyed this one under lights in the winter garden and it doesn’t seem to have minded the time indoors at all.  This year it’s on Pennsylvania time and is blooming much later of course.

galanthus John Gray

Look, another white snowdrop.  FYI for all those snowdrop snobs out there, it’s galanthus “John Gray”.

The rest of the snowdrops are still laying low.  I’ll try to show restraint in the coming days as they open up but I’m not making any promises.  It’s been a long winter and it’s not just the birds who are singing a springtime song!

cool weather vegetable seedlings under lights

Cool weather vegetables are on their way in the winter garden.  The last cyclamen are shoved to the side and the few sad little snowdrops have been kicked to a windowsill to make room.  Even my treasured yellow primroses had to step to the side.

In all honesty the weather is rarely warm enough for the real spring bulbs such as crocus and hyacinths until the last week of March, so even with our February snowpocolypse we really aren’t much off from a normal year.  Still I would have been fine with an early spring, and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing for even more sun and warmth!