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 🙂

33 comments on “When the going gets tough….

  1. mattb325 says:

    What a great post! I love the Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ it is a real stunner. (I think you are on the road to galanthophile conversion as well as converting your readers with that picture!). Your friend’s garden is lovely; I’m particularly impressed with the Lindera glauca. It’s one I’ve never seen before…but the aconite and snowdrop combination are just beautiful!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Matt. It was a great trip with plenty of new things to see, and I did enjoy the (slightly) warmer temperatures for a change. I saw plenty of nice snowdrops at all our stops and these pictures were just the tip of the iceberg!

  2. My first little clump of Galanthus nivalis came from an abandoned farmhouse, too. But there was an intermediate step–a friend dug them from the farmhouse and brought some to me. From that small clump came the thousands lining the path to the first secret garden. I’ve got some planted along the path to the new secret garden, but they haven’t bulked up yet. Give ’em twenty years or so, and they just might look like that patch at the abandoned farmhouse. My sister, on the other hand, bought a house that has aconites multiplying like crazy, seeding in the lawn and everything. I got some of those from her, you betcha. We had rain today but before it got dark there was still plenty of snow covering the lawn. We are supposed to get down to single digits again (again!) on Saturday.

    • bittster says:

      It still sounds plenty cold out your way. We missed the single digits but only by a few degrees, when I saw it in the morning we were holding at 12F. That was Sunday morning and if you ignore this morning’s dusting of snow I’d like to pretend that’s all been left behind!
      So all your snowdrops were from just that single clump? I love the bunches in your old garden and suddenly have a tremendous amount of optimism for my own few little scattered plants. I guess I just have to wait twenty or so years huh?
      Aconites are another story. They seem to go back and forth between hating where I have them and then loving the spot where I have to move them from. Someday I hope to find a happy medium but for now they seem to be a little fussier than the drops.

  3. Cathy says:

    A successful trip all in all! Having like-minded friends must be a great pleasure too. I have yet to meet anyone in person who has such a lovely collection of snowdrops or any plants in fact… one reason for blogging! Thanks for sharing, and don’t stay out in that cold rain for too long Frank!

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been very lucky in the gardening-friends department lately and the blog has also helped me connect with a few more. The blog has really been a great way to go on and on about plants and not worry about being the person people avoid at get-togethers! Another thing is the nice way it organizes pictures and acts like a diary for the garden. I spent quite some time this winter going back through older posts and dreaming about the season that was and will be!

  4. Pauline says:

    We’ll make a Galanthophile of you yet! What a lovely selection of winter flowers, no wonder you enjoyed it so much. The photo of the Lindera with brown leaves is how our Beech hedges are all winter, they certainly add a certain something to a winter garden. It is strange that clipped hedges hang onto their leaves all winter but trees shed them as usual in the autumn.

    • bittster says:

      I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of galanthophilia. Maybe next year I’ll finally come clean!
      I think if there was enough room here I would try a beech hedge. I do like them with their winter parchment color and I am a lover of hedges in general, but I would just resent giving up the space to them. I am a greedy gardener!

  5. Annette says:

    Wise decision and obviously a worthwile trip, Frank. Snowdrops are over here but one can never have enough of them so I enjoy your pics. So much variety, it’s awesome. I’m trying to establish Eranthis too, it’s a bit of a challenge as corms shouldn’t dry out and suppliers have to be carefully chosen. Hope spring will come your way very soon 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Soring keeps teasing us, one day of sunshine is followed by a stiff wind and more snow squalls. I’m assuming spring has to come eventually but right now I’m not all that confident it will actually happen!
      Hopefully once your eranthis gain a foothold they’ll take right off. Mine are still struggling too but each year seem to find another spot where they dig in. Our sheets of bloom will come someday!

  6. What an amazing bunch of snowdrops to get….some of those your friend has are worth tons of money so what a gift. And I loved that abandoned farmhouse with the snowdrops….fabulous pictures and now I want Galanthus ‘green arrow’. Oh and I grow the native lindera benzoin, Spicebush. Love it and it does not retain its leaves….great spring flower display and fall yellow display too.

    • bittster says:

      It was a fantastic gift. I finally planted them out yesterday and for a moment sat back and felt pretty good about my garden and its snowdrop inventory.
      The native spicebush is fairly common around here since I don’t think the deer like it and it seems to enjoy growing along the riverbanks. I particularly like the smell of the crushed leaves and stems. Fragrance is always a plus in my book!

  7. AnnetteM says:

    Lovely to hear about your trip and to see snowdrops still flowering. I have decided on two I really want to buy next year: Diggory is one and any of the one’s with the yellow tops is the second. They are so beautiful, but I am not sure I could distinguish between them so will probably go for the cheapest. I also planted winter acomites this year but will have to wait a whole year to see if they come up again. What a stash you have. Looking forward to seeing them all planted and flowering.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, funny to think your snowdrop season is over and ours is again on hold as another frew inches of snow settle down on the garden!
      I don’t think choosing snowdrops by price is a bad idea at all, the best growers usually are some of the cheapest and as long as they look special enough to you that’s what’s important. I have two different yellows right now (said with a smug eyebrow raising) and for the life of me cannot tell the difference even though they’re from two far removed sources.
      Good luck on the aconite. Mine’s doesn’t seem sure yet if it’s going to stay or go.

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Fantastic opportunity to see these lovely flowers and enjoy friends.

  9. I thought from a recent post that you weren’t very keen on snowdrops. I got that wrong. But I don’t think I shall ever like double snowdrops. Over egging the pudding, imho. I love the beech hedge where I work holding onto his leaves during the winter – so much better than bare branches. But a second large drop of leaves in spring isn’t so pleasing. I’m not surprised you weren’t enticed into that Blair Witch house *shiver*. I’ve struggled with aconites. I planted a few a while back but they didn’t come to anything. I must try harder. Nice post, Frank. Dave

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Dave. I’ve been in denial over the snowdrop thing for a few years now and I guess the fact I just can’t rationalize the whole obsession bothers me. One day I’m excited and crawling around looking for the smallest variations and the next I’m shaking my head at all the tiny flowers which would be lost without labeling. I do like them though and maybe some day soon I’ll come clean.
      Now that your own drops are coming along I’m sure they’re ready for some serious aconite companions. Here it’s essential since the miserable brown grass is hardly a polite companion for blooming snowdrops.
      I wouldn’t mind a nice beech hedge, but I’m afraid it might be out of scale with my small yard…

  10. Christina says:

    If I lived where there was that much snow I’d be away every weekend! Like Dave above i had the impression you weren’t crazy about snowdrops but I can see you’ve caught the bug! I hate the oaks here that don’t loose their leaves but I love beech hedges that do too. Perhaps it works for hedges but not for individual trees.

    • bittster says:

      You may be right. I’ve always hated the oaks carrying over the dead leaves from last autumn, but the beech hedges always seem comforting.
      It’s snowing again here. I wouldn’t mind another trip south.

  11. Alain says:

    I have never been keen on galanthus cultivars but obviously I have not paid enough attention. Seeing galanthus ‘diggory’ in your post, I have to change opinion!

  12. Chloris says:

    Your friend admits to being a galanthophile? When are you going to stop trying to fool yourself and everyone else that you are not one? You see from the above comments that people thought that you didn’ t even like them much. You didn’ t fool me though, not for a moment. You suffer from a full- blown and probably incurable case of White Fever. And this lovely post proves it. I did enjoy your trip and all the gorgeous snowdrops. I don’ think I can face another winter without Diggory in my garden. He is lovely isn’ t he? Although actually it should be a ‘ she’ with that lovely skirt.
    What a lovely box of treasures you came home with.

    • bittster says:

      Diggory is a nice drop. My fingers are crossed I can add it without robbing the children’s college fund!
      I may be ready in another year or so to come to terms with my more and more noticeable “interest” in snowdrops. It seems so trendy and I always like to think of myself as above those things…. or maybe it’s not trendy at all, maybe it’s just me who has been noticing snowdrops everywhere!
      In any case I’m excited to have the new ones and on the off chance winter ever decides to leave here, I’ll be more than happy to finally enjoy my own anonymous drops opening.

  13. Oh my gosh, I wish I could “like” every photo! By the way, thanks for supplying me with a classy new word (marcesence) to replace my usual description of “looks like h*** in winter”! Henceforth I shall say “This has lovely summer flowers although it is marcescent during the winter months.” 😉 (p.s. It is snowing here as I type. Again.)

    • bittster says:

      Argh. More snow there, more snow here, it’s not the way I wanted to end March! Hopefully some warmer temperatures are on the way. I’m about done with this winter and want to get outside!

  14. Well done on the photography, great shots!! I grow the Galanthus nivalis in my garden beds and also noticed the other day that it’s growing down by the creek too now. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Michael,
      Nice that your snowdrops are spreading. I would be just fine with the same thing happening here, they really do make for a nice ending of winter show.

  15. My plain doubles are the best growers in my garden but seeing these pix suggests they need some companions. I did not like trees that held their leaves but have come to appreciate their color and texture in the winter garden.

    • bittster says:

      Sometimes appreciating dried leaves in winter takes a little getting used to… and sometimes if you have to try getting used to something it’s probably not for you! That’s my theory at least, and I’m wondering if seeing these plants used isn’t similar to that awful song you hear again and again and then find yourself humming.
      I also need more snowdrop companions. The dried leaves and dead grass just don’t show them off as well as blooming aconites and cyclamen!

  16. I like snowdrops best when they’re massed and why should the ghosts of that old farmhouse get to enjoy them? I would have dug up as many as I could have carried. In tiny clumps, like the one in my garden they’re very blah. Maybe if I add 1,000 more I’ll change my mind. As for the spicebush, I have a laurel oak left by the builders that doesn’t drop it’s leaves until late winter but it’s my first sign that spring is on the way.

    • bittster says:

      The snowdrops do seem wasted as they grow and flower between the broken bottles and roadside trash, but I feel so guilty digging more. My friend asked a neighbor about a few others growing nearby and he said ‘whatever, why are you asking, they’re growing on the township roadside anyway.’ So obviously didn’t care.
      But then some people do care, and there probably are liability issues on top of that. But I love the little clump I brought home, and maybe some year I’ll have my thousands.

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