Snowdropping 2016

*ok so I’m trying to get back onto the blogging ball.  With a schedule finally cleared up I have a bunch of catching up to do here as well as on other blogs… so flashback to something I began writing about two weeks ago!*

Spring doesn’t normally roll around to this end of Pennsylvania until the end of March,  but this year on the tail end of El Nino it looks as if winter has just thrown in the towel and let spring walk right in a few weeks early.  “Sit down and stay a while” I say, and although I should speak glowingly about my own spring treasures in bloom right now, my first panicked thought was I might miss the snowdrop season down south.  I promptly sent out a few emails, jumped in a car and met up with my friend Paula at a park near her home for our second annual Philly snowdrop adventure.

naturalized snowdrops united states

Snowdrops naturalized on the grounds of a former Philadelphia estate.

Last year our snowdrop adventure was a response to the miserably long winter, this year it was a desperate attempt to catch the season before it flashed by.  We made the trip on March 8th and even though we were nearly a month earlier than last year many of the earlier bloomers were already past.

leucojum vernus yellow

A nice yellow tipped spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) blooming amidst the rubble.

In spite of the advanced season we did manage to catch plenty of snowdrops still in bloom, and it was fun wandering from patch to patch searching for those little “specials”.  Maybe someday after a hundred years of abandonment and years of gentle woodland protection my own garden will produce something different but for now I’ll have to rely on these hidden treasures.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus nivalis

We saw plenty of patches of four petalled snowdrops, but also a wonderful range of larger and smaller, thinner, longer, taller…. all the tiny variations on white and green which may make some gardeners yawn, but which make me smile.

But there was only so much time we could spend sweating our way through the underbrush.  We had bigger fish to fry this morning and for us it was a visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.  John grows and sells (but more just grows and grows) about a billion plants in his suburban landscape and the plantings range from high desert cactus to mountain to woodland to everything in between.  I was lost on much of it but I’m going to try my best and show a few favorites even if the names are lacking.  If you are more cat-like and on the verge of death due to some unsatisfied identity curiosity then I would absolutely suggest contacting John directly via his website.  He will surely have an ID for you, as well as cultural conditions, related cultivars, the exact source of his plant…. and to top it all off he probably grew it himself from wild collected seed!

iris and hardy cactus

A beautiful species iris right alongside hardy cacti.  Did I mention the cactus?  There were beds planted full of them as well as agaves and yucca, all surviving the Pennsylvania snow and ice without any additional winter protection.

I need to just move on here.  I love growing bulbs and there were more here than I’ve ever even considered so here are just the highlights of our visit.  Keep in mind the calendar is still saying winter for a few more weeks and the real show is still at least two months off!

eranthis guinea gold

Winter aconite (Eranthis species)  galore in the Lonsdale garden.  We missed the peak for many of the Eranthis hyemalis types but these crosses with Eranthis cilicica (similar to the ‘Guinea Gold’ cross) were just opening…. don’t let the label throw you off, that’s for something else yet to come right in front of this patch of gold.

At nearly 80F (26C) and sunny even a few of the first primula were opening.

pale yellow hardy primula

The winter may have been short, but even here a sudden drop to around 0F (-17C) did its damage to winter foliage and early sprouts.  Still bright and beautiful though, and its location on what looked to be a dry shaded slope has me rethinking how tough primroses can be.

Hellebores were everywhere.

speckled hellebore

Just a plain old hellebore which caught my eye.  a little winter damage but I love the speckling.

John said he was in the process of working through the hellebores, getting rid of many older and self seeded plants, and ‘upgrading’ some of the hybrids… and I wish him luck.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, and it would take a more critical eye than mine to thin the herd.

hellebore anna's red

One of the newer, cross-species hellebore cultivars.  I forgot what it was, but maybe it’s ‘Anna’s Red’?

Plenty of hellebore species as well.  All over the garden were bits and shoots coming up from seed collected throughout the hellebore world.

green hellebore

A cool green species hellebore.  Green may not be the showiest flower color but they sure look great close up.

hellebore tibetanus

Hailing from China is Helleborus thibetanus. This plant was only just brought into cultivation in the 1990’s and if you can believe it John says this plant plant produced only one flower last year. What a difference a single year can make!

Trilliums were also everywhere.  John kept naming species, naming ranges and ecotypes, naming seed sources, describing how many were yet to come…. it was all a little overwhelming.  I think to return in May and see patches and patches of trilliums blooming across the hillside would be quite the sight.

trillium foliage

One of the earliest trilliums already up.  The foliage is just amazing and there were hundreds more sprouting or just waiting to burst out of the ground.

There were tons of early trout lilies (Erythronium) coming up as well.  More cool foliage, exquisite flowers 🙂

trout lilies erythronium

Just a few of the earliest of the trout lilies coming up.  I love the fine markings on these and the fancy purple pollen just as much as the silvery speckling on the leaves.

I’ve never seen blooming Hepatica (liverwort) in person but recognized the little jewels the minute I saw them.  Maybe this will finally be the spring I venture out into the woods and find a few blooms of my own in the wild.  I’ll be excited to find anything, but suspect they won’t hold a candle to some of the selections and hybrids which we saw springing up out of the leafmould.

red hepatica

What color on such a tiny bloom.

violet hepatica

The detail on these flowers is amazing in all its intricate perfection.

It was also well into Adonis season.  Several cultivars were spotted throughout the beds and each one seemed better than the last and we hit them perfectly with their flowers open wide in the warm winter sun.  The saturated colors were almost too bright for an early March afternoon.

double yellow adonis

Double yellow Adonis Amurensis

I’ve heard that this native of NE Asia isn’t all that hard to grow it’s just a little slow to start and a little pricey to get a hold of.  Spring sun and a sheltered woodland location for the summer seem to work well for it, just know that the ferny foliage dies back and the plant disappears once the weather warms for summer.

orange adonis cultivar

An orange Adonis cultivar with a nice bunch of hardy cyclamen leaves.  Cyclamen were nearly everywhere, I began to not notice them unless I had to step over a particularly nice one seeded into the path 🙂

fringed orange adonis

Dark ferny foliage, a fringed pale orange flower…. what’s not to like about this Adonis?

We spent way too much time at John’s but it wasn’t until we checked our watches that we realized how much we had actually imposed on his day!  The poor guy had just finished up about ten days of on the road and had been through more states in a week than I hit in a year and here we were not even giving him enough time to enjoy his first day back.  So we tried to get a move on it, thanked him again for his hospitality and time, and then rushed through the last hordes of snowdrops, cyclamen, and cacti between us and the exit… did I mention the cacti?  I could easily fill a second visit with just the cacti (not that I’m really hinting).

Off to Paula’s!

snowdrops galanthus in garden beds

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis mostly) scattered throughout the garden beds.

Paula has really put in some work into collecting and dividing and spreading snowdrops throughout her garden, and it’s really an inspiration to see the possibilities of what a few years hard work can produce.  It makes me wonder when and if my own garden will ever start to show a similar effect of late winter interest.  There were goodies everywhere and of course it was the snowdrops which I really honed in on.

galanthus elwesii

Nice established clumps of Galanthus elwesii (the ‘giant snowdrop’) with it’s bigger blooms and grayer foliage.

Paula really has a great winter garden going with snowdrops galore and plenty of color from the earliest bloomers.  It’s here where we wound down from our latest snowdrop adventure.

double snowdrops galanthus and hellebores

Double snowdrops (Galanthus ‘flore pleno’) and hellebores fill in a shaded slope.

There were hellebores, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflakes, witch hazels, crocus, all kinds of flowers coming out to brave the last few weeks of winter.

raspberry veined hellebore

A real nice raspberry veined hellebore.  I really need to do a little ‘upgrading’ of my own!

Of course we got bogged down in examining every tiniest bloom and discussed every growing nuance.  That’s what makes these garden visits so special.

galanthus gloria

Galanthus ‘Gloria’, a perfect flower with such long inners with just the smallest touch of white.  I really like these ‘pocs’ where the inner petals nearly match the long white outers.

By this point my winter knees were starting to complain about all the kneeling and bending which I’d been putting them through all day.  Maybe I should have started getting back into gardening shape a few weeks earlier, but in spite of the little aches and slower pace we carried on for a few more closeups.

galanthus doncasters double charmer

You almost wouldn’t guess this were a snowdrop, but it’s Galanthus ‘doncasters double charmer’ in all its crazy, spiky, greenness.

And a final snowdrop….

galanthus big boy

Galanthus ‘big boy’, just coming up and already big even before it expands to its full size.  The green tips are a nice touch and I think I like it!

And then the day was over.  Time to hop in the car and head back North.

orange witch hazel jelena

An orange witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ ) in full bloom as the day ends.

A special thanks to John Lonsdale for a great visit, and thanks of course to Paula for putting up with me for the whole day.  It wouldn’t have been half as much fun without her, and when we were pulled over and asking a stranger if they’d mind us traipsing around in their side yard looking at the snowdrops I knew I had the right travel buddy.  Until next year!

24 comments on “Snowdropping 2016

  1. Sounds like a great trip all around.

  2. Christina says:

    Always a pleasure to visit a garden with a like-minded friend Frank, welcome back to the gardening world!

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Enjoyed your post. You’re really having some warm weather. The Adonis is interesting–never seen it before. The hepatica is beautiful.

    • bittster says:

      The hepatica are even more delicate in person!
      We are in the middle of a cold spell (I’m sure you as well) but this really is an unusually warm end of winter…. I wonder what spring will bring?

  4. johnvic8 says:

    I know you must be encouraged.

  5. It’s amazing how really short a drive it is to enter a warmer climate zone! What a great day you had! I really have to try snowdrops and winter aconite again–so nice to have such early bloomers! I’m trying to get myself back into the swing of blogging–I do have a couple amaryllises to report on, and a few things outdoors now. Life’s been awfully busy, though, with a very active senior boy in the house! (He’s been accepted at Pitt, RIT, and RPI so far. Lehigh announces this week, Cornell on April 1, and Carnegie Mellon on April 15. We’re really hoping for Cornell! MIT did not accept him–their loss!)

    • bittster says:

      So great to hear about your son, I’m glad he has so many excellent options for next year! There’s been a lot of running around here as well, and it doesn’t help that our entire kitchen has been ripped out and is in the process of being put together again…
      I hope to see a few more posts from you in the near future, but I’m not one to speak since I’m only just now getting back into things. Spring has a way of snapping you out of a funk I guess 🙂
      I think you could grow some perfect snowdrops and aconite up there in the highlands. Mine look good this year and there are seedlings of both, so I’m happy to say they’re spreading. If you visit there’s a possibility I could be shamed into sharing, although I will admit to being ultra-selfish with my snowdrops -in spite of the fact many were given to me quite generously!

  6. rusty duck says:

    Wow, a fabulous collection of blooms to see. I am trying to grow hepatica from seed, it will be worth persevering having seen those little jewels. I love the last shot too, the beautiful witch hazel in the low sun.

    • bittster says:

      I saw a few hepatica seedlings and they were nothing to sneeze at… literally! I think if someone were to sneeze on them the whole tiny little thing might just blow away so I’m quite impressed you’re giving them a go. Good luck!

  7. Annette says:

    He ho, roll on spring! Beautiful pics. Most of these beauties have finished flowering here. I saw pics of a woodland full of Leucojum the other day. Mind blowing, didn’t know this existed.

    • bittster says:

      Most of the earliest bloomers are finished here as well, and yesterday and today’s warm weather have brought on a new flush of blooms to replace the battered blooms. Even the grass greened up so I’m particularly excited. the down side is I suddenly feel behind in everything and regret not being more of a planner, and realize I’ve missed a few things I wanted to see such as my own local Leucojum patch. It’s nota woodland but I do enjoy seeing it!

  8. Paula says:

    Had a good time again Bittster, never boring to hunt down snowdrops 😀 And thanks again for bringing lunch !

  9. Lonsdale has an excellent selection of early bloomers! I can’t believe his cactus weren’t frozen solid. I love those adonis. Just beautiful! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      The cactus were an amazing sight. I’d love to see them later in the year and in bloom, but the idea of weeding among the spines does not thrill me.

  10. Cathy says:

    There is so much to like in this post Frank! I suppose I have a soft spot for the Hepatica though, as they grow wild all around us – in fact just a few metres from my house. I’ll be out there with the camera when/if the sun comes out this weekend. That pink one is stunning. Also adore that frilly snowdrop ‘Doncaster’s double charner’. Certainly is charming!

    • bittster says:

      I hope you get the chance to post a few Hepatica photos. I doubt they would grow well here, but I think they are one of the prettiest little spring wildflowers and of course I love seeing them!

  11. Chloris says:

    What a great trip and some lovely plants to enjoy. The yellow- tipped Leucojum looks like Leucojum carpathicum. And orange Adonis is new to me, how lovely.
    My galanthomania has gone into remission but I would love to collect more hepaticas if they weren’ t so expensive.

    • bittster says:

      I do like the yellow leucojum, but those which I grow here all seem to change back to green the next spring! Still nice though.
      I would be tempted by Hepatica but they are never available unless it’s an online source, and it’s slightly easier to resist when the flower is not in front of you. I’m sure they would shrivel up and die here as well…
      My galanthomania has calmed as well. After months of waiting, a few overly warm days wilted nearly every bloom and as a result I resent the plants, my garden, and the weather system. Small good that will do, so I shall enjoy the survivors and look forward to tulips… and I’m sure be twice as excited again next spring.

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