Snowdrops and snow

First days of spring come and go but for me a major turning point is the first garden tour.  Saturday was the day, and a friend and I headed up to Trumansburg NY to visit Hitch Lyman’s garden and his collection of snowdrops and other early bloomers.  I won’t bore you with the details of the “should be a 2hr drive” but the clock put it at closer to 4 hours and I’m sure that was due in a large part to not having a map, not really paying attention to directions, and having a co-pilot with a lot of new stories to share.  So we got there a bit later than planned, got to see a little more of the country side, and got to see a few more cities than we should have.  At least we didn’t end up in Canada is all I’ll add.

A snowdrop visit to upstate New York in below freezing weather and amidst snow qualls isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time.  Most of the garden is still asleep and when you pull up it’s more the house you notice, and less so the gardens.

The house at Temple gardens

The house at Temple Gardens

This open day was organized by the Garden Conservancy and according to their description the 1848 farmhouse was moved to the site in 1990.  What a job that must have been, and I’m going to guess it needed a bit of restoration when it got here.  On our side trip to reach Trumansburg, we came down rte 414 from Geneva Falls and experienced first-hand some other “in need of renovating” historical houses.  Some fascinating buildings, almost kind of ghost-towny in spots, and I’m going to make another guess that the local economy can’t support the upkeep on these grand old houses.  So they sit and slowly decay.

Back to the garden.  As you can see from the house photo most of the front acreage is naturalized fields with a few specimen plantings here and there.  The drive up to the house is also a mix of naturalized shrubs and trees, but along both sides are banks of earth spotted with all kinds of treasures.

hardy cyclamen and snowdrops

A sloped bank of hardy cyclamen and various snowdrops

The snow and cold had many of them lying down but there was still plenty to see.  We checked in for our visit and headed around the house.  Plantings close to the building were pretty subdued and actually the direct opposite of what most gardeners do.  I put all the little stuff right up around the house, but here the only plantings were a raised terrace with a planted fieldstone sitting area.

winter aconite terrace

The terrace out back

I’ve seen springtime pictures from this vantage point, and the white wisteria and crabapples make for a much more lush view than the current frozen winter aconite among the paving.

temple gardens

Around back is the namesake temple for Mr. Lyman’s Temple Nursery…. snowdrops are the specialty in case you missed that.

Behind the temple you can make out the dark green of the yew and boxwood that surround the formal garden.  I didn’t get any pictures inside the garden, but it’s a formal layout of geometric planting beds filled with lilac, peonies, colchicums, hellebores, and of course snowdrops and other spring bulbs.

yew formal garden

The formal garden entrance

Deer seemed to be a problem outside the hedge and protective fence, with plenty of nibbled and buck rubbed shrubs, but once inside there were many signs of spring… in spite of my freezing fingers and cold toes.

helleborus niger

Some early Lenten roses (Helleborus niger) in the formal garden beds

galanthus jade

Galanthus ‘Jade’

Of course there were snowdrops(here’s “Jade”), but the bulk of the snowdrops were in the next (and last) section of the garden.  The woodland garden was furthest from the house and consisted of a narrow path that wound its way through the secondary growth of trees and shrubs that lined the back field.

Here’s how the path looked.

woodland path

The carefully marked woodland path, lined with snowdrops.

There were small clumps of drops everywhere and I was nervous to even use the outer edges of the trail since many clumps edged up to the path.  For a snowdrop fan there was interest galore…. for a non-snowdrop person I suspect they would want someone to widen the path, throw down some mulch, and pick up a few of the fallen twigs.

snowdrop woodland

An authentic snowdrop woodland peppered with clumps of named snowdrop varieties

Here are a few clump closeups from the woodland area.

galanthus nivalis sandersii

Galanthus nivalis sandersii

galanthus diggory

Galanthus ‘Diggory’

galanthus lapwing

Galanthus ‘Lapwing’

galanthus R D Nutt

Galanthus ‘R D Nutt’


double snowdrop

Unlabeled double snowdrop










I’ve got a few more pictures taken of the bank along the driveway but I think I’ll save them for another post.  For now I’ll leave you with some interior shots of the temple (it’s not just for show!).  After losing all sensation in my fingertips, we allowed ourselves a break inside by the temple fire.

Hitch Lyman garden

Warming up in front of the fireplace at the Lyman garden.

I hope we weren’t crossing any poor-garden-conduct boundaries by going inside, but the door was slightly ajar and the fire was so inviting.  Plus by then we were freezing, and a passing snow squall wasn’t helping matters much.  As we were looking around and considering building our own garden temples, I saw this above the door and had the feeling we were just as welcome here as we had been in the rest of the garden.

lyman temple garden

Inside details of the temple

Thanks for having us Mr. Lyman.

5 comments on “Snowdrops and snow

  1. Pootershow says:

    You’re a good writer Bittster, I enjoyed your narrative. I hope weather permits me a visit this spring 2014. P.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pootershow, your comment would make my HS English teacher proud 🙂
      I’ve had my fingers crossed for good weather since sometime in early January, that must be good for something!

  2. brenda says:

    thanks for all the details. I just heard about their open house, and was wondering whether it was worth 4 hour roundtrip, didi a google search, and you convinced me. thanks!

    • bittster says:

      I hope you let me know how it went, I made the trip again this year and really enjoyed it…. But clearly I have a problem and my travel group wasn’t nearly as in to it as I was. But regardless, fun was had by all!

  3. […] felt as if there were easily twice as many snowdrops as remembered from my last visit.  Warmer weather and another year’s growth seemed to make all the difference, plus I […]

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