Christmas in August

Normal people don’t think about snowdrops in August.  They think about tomatoes and zinnias, maybe a daylily or two, and that’s fine.  They probably also meet friends in the evening and then hit the pool or barbecue.    I’m thinking about snowdrops and I’m a little short on the normal.  There probably wasn’t much of a grey area when considering how wide the gap is between my obsessions and normal, but the fact that there are others much further out there doesn’t make my snowdrop obsession seem any less unhealthy.  The English refer to the love of snowdrops (Galanthus species) as galanthomania, and that has a cute ring to it, but when I think about the snowdrops which rise up in the spring I’m afraid galanthaholic might be a better term.

galanthus primrose warburg

One of the yellow snowdrops, galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’ doing well here in Pennsylvania.

You may be wondering why I’m bothering you with all this right now, and the reason for that lies in a brand new snowdrop source.  Dr. John Lonsdale of Edgewood Gardens has finally cracked open the greenhouse door and put a few of his goodies up for online sales.  Not to sound smug, but I already bought a couple of John’s drops this spring at the galanthus gala hosted by David Culp, and had the chance to visit John’s greenhouse this spring and admire his horde, but to have another unexpected opportunity to add another drop or two this year was more than I could resist.  I ordered of course.


galanthus homersfield

Galanthus ‘Homersfield’ in the greenhouse of Dr. Lonsdale this spring.  It’s one he offered at the galanthus gala and it’s one which came home with me 🙂

Be prepared.  If you don’t know what the big deal about little white winter flowers is I don’t think there’s enough room or attention span here to get into it.  People like them, and some people are crazy about them.  Crazy enough to think that $20 or $40 dollars for a single bulb isn’t unreasonable.  It is of course, but in a moment of madness I may admit I’ve spent that and possibly bought more than one.  The English, who before their Brexit vote had seemed awfully reasonable, have been known to go off the deep end with snowdrop prices and I believe the eBay record for one (single) bulb currently stands at ~$2,100 US.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

I just ordered Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’, based on this February photo at Edgewood Gardens.  It may be too early a bloomer for this far north but nothing ventured…

Still with me?  The reason I’m posting now is I just received word my order is set and on its way, and I’m no longer worried other addicts will edge me out and I’ll be left with a ‘sold out’ sign.  It may sound extreme, but typically that’s the case.  With only three or four sources in the United States and strict import restrictions it’s a seller’s market and some varieties have been known to sell out within minutes of a list going live.

galanthus plicatus trymlet

Galanthus ‘Trymlet’ at Hitch Lyman’s Temple Gardens.  It’s a new look in snowdrops out of the ‘Trym’ and ‘Trumps’ family.

So if you’re curious or serious send Dr. Lonsdale an email at for a copy of his updated list.  It might be a little overwhelming for a newcomer but it’s a fun read and who knows what will come out of it.  Maybe you’ll be tempted… another person joining the competition might cut me out of a drop here and there but I could really use some company at the next local galanthaholics anonymous meeting.  Right now it’s just me.

galanthus magnet

Galanthus ‘Magnet’ in my own garden.  This clump was just one bulb a few years ago.

Not that you asked, but if I were looking at the list and just starting a collection of February joy in the garden (aka snowdrops), I’d consider a couple of these more reasonably priced and distinctive choices.  For a big white single, you need either ‘Bertram Anderson’ or ‘Bill Bishop’, ‘Magnet’ is a reliable standard, ‘Modern Art’ has a unique look which many appreciate, you need a yellow and choosing between ‘Primrose Warburg’, ‘Spindlestone Surprise’, ‘Madeline’ or ‘Wendy’s Gold’ will be your own business, ‘Wasp’ is cool, ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is a decent double which may bloom yellow if the mood strikes, you need ‘Viridapice’ for it’s green tipped petals,  and ‘Trumps’ or any of his cousins will make a nice contrast.  That’s eight drops.  Entirely sane and if you order four this year that’s a great start.  Just remember to stick with ones which look distinct, leave the “subtle markings” to the crazy people.

galanthus e a bowles

Galanthus ‘EA Bowles’.  Listed at $125, I’d say that’s probably the best price you’ll find for this drop in the states.  Once before I saw it for $200 but it was sold out then and it’s likely sold out now so don’t get your hopes up.  

Just keep in mind Dr. Lonsdale still has a day job, and although working at Longwood Gardens may seem like a dream to many it’s got its own responsibilities and could keep him from getting right back to you.  My advice would be as long as you’re emailing John for a list you might as well cover your other snowdrop bases and email Carolyn at Carolyn’s Shade Garden to get on her always tempting list of (usually) December offerings, and of course now is also a perfect time to request The iconic (not to be found online) Temple Gardens snowdrop catalogue from Hitch Lyman.  Send $4 to: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you’ll be in for a treat this winter when the catalogue shows up.  Until then enjoy!

18 comments on “Christmas in August

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This must be similar to tulipmania. I can much easier get into galanthomania. Those sweet white flowers peeking out during the end of winter just make my heart go pitty patter.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I know what you mean. As soon as the snow starts melting I make hourly runs out to see if there’s a sprout or some other sign of spring. We’re so desperate after a long winter!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    I do look forward to seeing my snowdrops here in March. But I don’t think I’d pay a fortune for a bulb – I’ll leave that to the connoisseurs like you. 🙂
    Question: I’m curious, how do you keep the bees from cross-pollinating your hybrids? Do you deadhead?

    • bittster says:

      I like to think of snowdrops as my midlife crisis. I just couldn’t justify a fancy sports car and instead settled on a used generic Honda Accord. Based on how much I’m saving each month without a car payment is clearly reason enough to buy a new snowdrop for each of the twelve months! -so far I’m up to June 😉

      • bittster says:

        Oh and the bees are more than welcome to cross pollinate. The more hybrids the better and I’ll be thrilled if something new and exciting shows up. Actually I’ve been trying to collect seed and nurse them along… but my snowdrops in containers skills are flimsy at best…

      • Eliza Waters says:

        🙂 A healthier way for sure!

  3. haroldCross says:

    Frank; Enjoyed your comments on John’s listings and others you are growing. My wallet was sewn tight for this sale maybe in the spring again.

    • bittster says:

      Your wallet will get a break soon enough. This has been the first year I was able to trade a few, and it’s amazing how generous other snowdroppers can be.
      … myself excluded of course. For as much as I try to be generous in other things, it’s always a struggle for me to open a clenched fist and give away a snowdrop bulb.

  4. Paula S says:

    My name is Paula and I am a galanthoholic.

  5. Christina says:

    Ok. It’s August and you’re talking snowdrops; now I know you are crazy, but I suppose it’s harmless, does your wife know about this?

    • bittster says:

      Yes. Yes I am.
      She knows about the snowdrops and has entirely no interest. Her eyes glaze over instantly when I mention them, but at least she knows enough to put the packages in a safe place when they arrive… and she doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when I’m crouching on the cold lawn for five minutes examining a flower barely big enough to see.

  6. Pauline says:

    How wonderful to see a post about snowdrops in July! I’ve been planting in one of my new beds, hoping that I haven’t planted on top of some “specials” that I put in last year, I didn’t find any bulbs while I was digging so they should be ok!

  7. I have not gotten Hitch Lyman’s catalog for a long time but I still have the first one I sent for and the beautifully handwritten envelope. I am not as lucky as you being able to go to such places and see them in person. I love ‘Magnet’.

    • bittster says:

      Sometimes the life of a galanthophile is a lonely one. It’s at least two hours in the car before I can walk with anyone who can relate… which might not be the worst thing for an addict.
      The Temple Nursery catalogs are always a treat aren’t they? I’ve been saving mine as well and he usually acknowledges orders with a handwritten note on an antique postcard, which I hold onto as well. It’s a nice touch in an ever more hectic world.

  8. I think “galanthophile” has a nice ring to it. Sounds quite respectable, almost like some kind of philanthropist.

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