Back to the Temple


Last Saturday some friends and I made the trip up to Trumansburg, NY for what I hope will become an annual tradition; the open day at Hitch Lyman’s Temple Garden Nursery.  As was the case in 2013, winter still had a firm grip on the weather so a thick coat was essential (and gloves and hat and scarf), but at least there was more mud than ice this year.  That’s a start….

open garden day

First garden tour of the year!

For those who don’t know, Mr. Lyman is (among other things of course) a lover of snowdrops, and his Temple Nursery catalog is the most specialized retail source for snowdrops in the US.  There are other great sources out there now, but Hitch has been dealing snowdrops since before they became cool (am I the only one who considers them cool?), and his collection is considered to be the largest in this country with around 400 varieties planted throughout the property.

snowdrops at the Temple Garden

Snowdrops all over, patches big and small, named/unnamed…. heaven for the galanthophile (snowdrop lover)

The bank along the driveway is the first planting you see, and here’s my first favorite, galanthus “Wasp”, with its long wispy blooms.  Not that I’m stalking Mr. Lyman’s snowdrops, but I just want to say it looks so much better this year upright and not all flat and frozen.   8 blooms this year (up from 4 the year before -in case you’re wondering).  I took a lot of pictures last year too 🙂

galanthus wasp and dodo norton

Galanthus “Wasp” with “Dodo Norton” in the back

I could go on and on about my visit but I’ll try to keep this somewhat short.  I referred to Hitch as a dealer of snowdrops, and I think that’s an appropriate term for someone who sells something so addictive…. here’s galanthus “Naughton” (also just 4 blooms last year)  Hope it bulks up quick enough to make it into the catalog soon!

galanthus noughton

Galanthus “Naughton”. Maybe it’s a little droopy, but the flowers are so big, and I love the little curl to the pedicle(?) just above the bloom.

Doubles are starting to grow on me.  Even the smaller blooms that normally bore me.  “Cornwall Gem” has small sideways blooms that are held further out from the stem.

galanthus cornwood gem

Galanthus “Cornwood Gem”

“Mordred” has a nice fat look that I liked.  It’s hard to say for sure though if this fat look stays,  since it could change completely as the flowers expand and open (if the weather ever improves).  Odd that for this one the sun came out, with a name like Mordred I would have expected even more dark grey ‘Lord of the Rings’ weather to rain down.

galanthus mordred

Galanthus “Mordred”, a nice recurved fat double with green tips.

Once up the driveway we were invited in to the house for signing in and paying the $5 admission fee.  We had only been out of doors for 20 minutes at most, and the break from the cold was already a welcome relief!

inside hitch lyman house

One of the most welcoming sign-ins ever! It’s hard to see, but some of those cut snowdrops were huge, and the cookies and muffins were a nice touch.

Out again and into the snowdrops.  There’s a more formal part of the garden out back beyond the garden’s namesake temple.  My traveling company spent most of their visit inside the temple, next to the warm fire.  Fortunately they weren’t offered wine or else I suspect we never would have gotten them out of there!

hitch lyman temple garden

Hitch Lyman’s backyard temple. Even though the pond was unfrozen this year, the fireplace inside was still a welcomed retreat from the cold.

From what I could see, the formal garden promised an explosion of lilacs , hellebores, and peonies as well as the small bulbs which were scattered throughout.  In past years I’ve seen reports on the summer garden, but I don’t believe he’s opened it in the last few years.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to see this in person when it’s green.

hitch lyman formal garden

A small part of the formal garden. Apples trained to goblet shapes, beds filled with perennials, lilacs and tree peonies everywhere, and buds of hellebores and herbaceous peonies sprouting all over.

Close ups of the beds showed plenty of signs of spring, snowdrops and winter aconite (eranthis) plus many other goodies on their way.

hitch lyman garden beds

Winter aconite waiting for the sun to open up, snowdrops scattered throughout.

Personally I was fine poking around in the still dormant beds looking at goodies, but the bulk of  Mr. Lyman’s snowdrops are in the back of the property and it’s there we rushed off to next.  To keep things moving along, here are more favorites, such as “Ballerina” a very neatly arranged double.

galanthus ballerina

Galanthus “Ballerina”

….and “Flocon De Neige”, a wish list snowdrop.  Easily on my top 10 or even top 5.  It’s hard to say since I don’t actually dare put a wish list together.

galanthus flocon de neige

Galanthus “Flocon de Neige”. Six outers with a doubled inner, very pure looking.

“Pricilla Bacon”, part of a healthy patch all with perfect large rounded flowers.

galanthus pricilla bacon

Galanthus “Pricilla Bacon”

The odd little “Alburg Claw”.  Not a great picture, but There’s some kind of strange attractiveness to this one.

galanthus alburg claw

Galanthus “Alburg Claw”, a tiny plant which I hope to see thriving during next year’s visit.

The snowdrop plantings lined a taped off trail that meandered through the woods.  You could tell quite some work had been done to get the gardens ready for this Garden Conservancy Open Day, brush was cleared, patches labeled, sprouts uncovered.  All this must have been carried out in the last four days since our most recent snow storm!

hitch lyman anowdrop garden

Trail through the snowdrop woodland. Snowdrops extended deep into the trees, and I can only imagine all the additional treasure growing on in the distance.

I felt as if there were easily twice as many snowdrops as remembered from my last visitWarmer weather and another year’s growth seemed to make all the difference, plus I recognized a few names which seemed to have been moved here from off the driveway bank.  “Sophie North” was now in the woods, and this unidentified favorite from last year now has a name too.  It’s galanthus “R.D. Nutt”(and was only two bulbs last year!) 

galanthus rd nutt

Big Flowers, two blooms per bulb, nice wide plicate (folded on the edges) leaves, and olive colored ovaries make galanthus “R.D Nutt” another one of my favorites.

A few really stood out for having big blooms.  This is “Grayswood” who’s blooms are easily an inch long.  I don’t have small hands.

galanthus greyswood

Not the best picture of galanthus “Grayswood”. It’s listed as having four outer petals, but I didn’t have enough sense to look. In my defense my hands were probably freezing at this moment.

“Imbolc” is another one I’d put in the short fat group (a good group to be in if you’re a snowdrop).  Technically it’s out of the “Mighty Atom” group, a strain of stocky, large flowered drops, but until my snowdrop sophistication grows….

galanthus imbolc

Galanthus “Imbolc”. I love this one, but have two related ones which are similar, so it’s closer to top 20, and not top 5.

“Major Pam”, a nice clump which was offered in Mr. Lyman’s catalog this year.  Tight, neatly organized blooms with short inners, it’s part of my “I don’t like doubles” remission.

galanthus major pam

Galanthus “Major Pam”

You’re doing well if you made it this far.  I’m almost done so here’s “Peardrop” showing two blooms per bulb, nice long blooms…. I’m not sure if the bulbs to the left are also pear related, but the one on the right looks to be a real nice drop.

galanthus peardrop

Galanthus “Mrs. Thompson”.  Almost always referred to as a ‘variable snowdrop’ because it can be all over the place with extra petals, twin flowers, Siamese twin flowers…. I think it really makes for a nice display, but I wonder what the real Mrs. Thompson thought of having such a fickle flower named after her?

galanthus Mrs Thompson

Small blooms, big blooms, four petals, six petals; galanthus “Mrs. Thompson” looks good all the time (to me at least)

I included “Richard Ayres” because one of my hardier traveling companions told a nice story about meeting the real Mr. Ayres when this was spotted.  I always love a good story, too bad the sun couldn’t come out to open him up a little.

galanthus richard ayres

Galanthus “Richard Ayres”

Finally a little hope for my ugly duckling of the snowdrop patch, galanthus “Blewbury Tart”.  Grown well and in a bigger clump maybe someday mine can also have an attractive oddness to it, instead of just plain old oddness.

galanthus blewbury tart

Galanthus “Blewbury Tart”, a ‘unique’ looking snowdrop that still needs some time to grow on me.

So thanks for sticking with me for way too much galanthus talk.  We probably spent about three hours out in the cold and I believe it confirmed my and my friend’s suspicions that there’s something deeply wrong with my idea of fun.  With frozen toes and fingers we returned to the house and headed around the side for one last look.  Unless it was the hypothermia talking, there was still a point here when I actually may have skipped across the grass to look at another snowdrop.  I’m that far gone.

hitch lyman house and fountain

A beautiful springtime sky in western New York. It almost makes you want to take a dip in the fountain 🙂

I have my fingers crossed for next year.  Maybe the sun will come out and maybe I’ll even have the courage to talk to Mr. Lyman.  Despite the cold and wind he was out and about in the gardens mingling, answering questions, and probably just plain enjoying the return of green (and white) things such as “Mrs. Wrightston’s Double”.

galanthus mrs wrightston's double

Galanthus “Mrs Wrightston’s Double”

So that’s it.  It may seem odd to those of you in Europe to again be looking at snowdrops (you’re probably in bathing suits by now) but for us it’s only just turning in to warmer weather.  I’m happy for that, and I’m happy to see green things returning here too.

Thanks again to Mr Lyman for another enjoyable visit and continuing to open his garden to visitors, and if you’re interested in receiving a snowdrop catalog, word on the street 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.

20 comments on “Back to the Temple

  1. pbmgarden says:

    Despite the cold this sounds like a fun day.

  2. You are a true Galanthophile, certainly not a fair weather devotee. I do like snowdrops, though I can’t get as excited as some about the different varieties and the subtle variations. Here we just had a blast of warmth, 70 degrees today, and most of our snowdrop blooms are already in decline.

    • bittster says:

      Same thing here. Snowdrops are going past, crocus are ending, and the early daffodils are starting. I much prefer it when these things hang around for a little longer….. But 65 degrees sure was nice!

  3. Cathy says:

    You really have got it bad Frank! Hope you got a coffee to warm you up before the drive home! I like the “Flocon De Neige” very much for its simplicity, but must admit I cannot get excited about all the different ones. Yes, they are all pretty, and I do love to see the first ones peeping out of the soil here too. Ours are long gone now, and we are enjoying tulip season. 😀

    • bittster says:

      There really is something wrong with me. I don’t feel the need to have one of everything and don’t get excited by minuscule variations in the green….. But I sure do like snowdrops!
      I promise this is the last post on them 🙂
      Someday we may get a tulip to open here, and then I’ll overindulge in them too!

  4. Pauline says:

    I’m so pleased that your long cold winter is finally on its way out. You certainly saw a lot of different snowdrops, it sounds as if you had a really good day! Unfortunately our snowdrops are long gone, we will have to wait another 9 months till we see them again!

    • bittster says:

      That’s the down side to spring, so much anticipation and then you realize it’s over for another year. Today is warm and fortunately I’m able to wander the gardens checking things out, there’s so much that’s opened up in the last few hour let alone days!

  5. I had to look up where Trumansburg, NY was on the map. It is over two and a half hours from NF. I do know people go bonkers over snowdrops, but I never got the itch myself. They are cute and I do have some common snowdrops in the garden but never went further to start collecting them. Do you know my friend Carolyn from She sells collectible ones if you are interested.

    • bittster says:

      I’m not sure what happened with the snowdrops, I’ve always liked them and even in my youngster days I would make a point of having mom bring me by the parks where I knew I could find a clump or two…. now in my older days I think I finally went off the deep end!
      I just planted my latest goodies from Carolyn’s nursery a few weeks ago. I’m already looking forward to seeing them all settled in next spring!

  6. I have always wanted to do this but it is the heart of my season. Maybe next year. You saw some great snowdrops and took great photos showing their salient features. Next year come here. I have been selling them for 22 years, but don’t have the variety that Hitch does.

    • bittster says:

      It is a little closer to my neck of the woods (and no traffic!), maybe if I had more here I’d be satisfied, but as it is my garden is still snowdrop deficient. Trust me I’m working to remedy that!
      I’d love to take a ride down your way next spring, it would be a great diversion while I wait for things to thaw out here (although it might get expensive!). I didn’t realize you’ve been selling them for over twenty years…. It’s only just recently that I realized there were more than just a couple dozen varieties 🙂

  7. Chloris says:

    What a great day out. You really have a bad case of galanthomania and of course it is incurable. You seem unerringly drawn to the most expensive. You need a mortgage to buy Flocon de Neige here.
    We are all the same. Fortunately once the snowdrops die down the disease goes into remission and we lose our heads over Hellebores. Over here our madness is taking the form of tulip worship at the moment.

    • bittster says:

      Good thing the hellebores are coming on now and it’s too late to order anything new (but not too late to think about it!) I think I’ve always had galanthomania, there’s even a strong possibility I may have stolen a few bulbs from an old estate garden back when I was still in grade school (in my defense they were mowed and mulched to death shortly thereafter).
      Hmmmmm. I do have a problem with tulips too.

  8. Christina says:

    Glad you are at last enjoying some late winter blooms; the property looks interesting. But it is so strange to see snowdrops when my garden is already moving into summer with roses and cistus already flowering.

    • bittster says:

      I know the feeling, I felt like I went through two or three snowdrop seasons online before anything happened here…. And now a couple days later they’re all gone 😦

  9. Oh all your photos look great! I was so dumbstruck with all the snowdrops I guess I forgot how to take photos lol. It was nice to hear your account of your travels there. Oh and your not the only one that skipped to a snowdrop lol I did and then looked around to and did the “oh no I hope no one saw that” lol I hope to meet up with you guys again next year and that I actually remember how to use my camera lol

    • bittster says:

      Phew! Glad to know I wasn’t the only skipper, I was starting to worry I was the only one who gets a little too excited over plants 🙂
      I saw your snowdrop pictures on Facebook, and don’t try to fool anyone into thinking you can’t handle a camera! Me on the other hand, I really am just a point and shooter, and could really use some pointers.

  10. willisjw says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve just requested a catalog for next year…

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