Snowdropping 2018

Four snowdrop gardens in one beautiful day was a little too much.  We started early, had a tight schedule, but even with the best intentions still didn’t have nearly enough time.  It was still a thrill though, and with brilliant sunshine combined with comfortable sweater weather we really enjoyed our annual Philly drop adventure.

galanthus nivalis

The common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) plus winter aconite (Eranthis hemelis) in the rooty, mossy shade of a large cherry tree.

We started at Paula’s and I couldn’t resist checking up on nearly every drop she has.  Of course that takes time since you don’t just look and move on, you instead admire it, ask where it’s from, how it’s doing…  to keep a long story short you’ll be relieved to know this is the ‘executive post’ and you’ll be spared from at least 99% of our comments and 99.9% of my photos.  You can thank me later.

galanthus kermode bear

Galanthus ‘Kermode Bear’.  One of the ‘bears’ coming out of Canada, an attractive ‘poc’ elwesii with six nice long outers and none of the usual shorter inners.

I did have to show ‘Kermode Bear’.  He’s a newer snowdrop out of the breeding work of Calvor P. in Victoria Canada.  All the Bears are poculiform elwesii which means they’re these nice, large snowdrops with ‘poc’ flowers… meaning the three normally short inner petals are expanded to be nearly as large as the three outers.  I’m a fan, just as I was a fan of many of Paula’s other drops, but the clock was ticking and we were already an hour off schedule by the time we arrived at our second garden.

masses of snowdrops

Sloped beds covered with sheets of snowdrops and winter aconite.  Hard to imagine this gardener began with an empty field and a few gifted clumps.

There were masses of snowdrops at our next garden.  Dozens of years of dividing and transplanting the original clumps can lead to amazing things, and we hit it at the exactly the right moment.  The February sunshine and warm temperatures had everything up and open, including the first hellebores.


An amazing newer hellebore with huge flowers, clear rose with a darker center, and flowers facing out and up.  It was even nicer in person!

Again, I’m leaving out so many hellebore and snowdrop closeups it’s practically negligence, but I don’t want to cause too much suffering for those who don’t have quite as much tolerance or enthusiasm as we do.  Here’s a quick image to give you an idea of just how elaborate the rest of the grounds are.  It was intimidating to think of what a force of nature this gardener must be, considering she does all the maintenance herself and has been doing so for several decades now.  Inspiring is probably a better description.

garden design

A parterre off the house overlooking the open fields.  The homeowner admitted she was still in the process of trimming back the grasses.  I’m embarrassed to say mine look worse.

I’m afraid we overstayed our welcome, but our host was still remarkably gracious, and although we tried to hurry on our way the schedule still suffered further.  The light was getting lower by the time we reached our third garden, the home of the King of Cyclamen (in the US at least), Dr. John Lonsdale.

hardy cyclamen

Cyclamen coum in the greenhouse.  They’re perfectly hardy outdoors but these are all potted up and ready to go on a roadtrip to the next specialty plant sale.

John tolerates us very well.  We’re always late, we always stay too long, and we always ask way too many questions, and I can’t imagine our plant purchases and gifts of beer make up for the time we waste, but he’s yet to kick us out and so far he hasn’t put us to work.  Probably for the best of course, since I’m not sure we could be trusted with a weeder or trowel around so many treasures.

eranthis hyemalis

Snowdrops and several varieties of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).

To put it in perspective, there were probably more treasures seeded into the walkways than I have special things in my entire garden.  Give his online photo database a browse if you don’t believe the extent of his collection, there’s everything from the rarest species to the newest galanthius variety…. oh look at that, I hadn’t mentioned snowdrops for at least five sentences.  Here’s just one which can’t be left out, galanthus ‘Elsje Mitchell’.  She’s a new and extremely rare  snowdrop out of Europe, and rumor has it John might be potting up one or two for this weekend’s Galathus Gala.  The price remains to be seen, but even in Europe the price runs into several hundred dollars…

galanthus elsje Mitchell

Galanthus nivalis ‘Elsje Mitchell’.  A delicate Dutch snowdrop with fine markings both inside and out.

The sun was much lower by the time we started to make our way out to the car.  It was beautiful to see the witch hazel flowers glow in the low sunshine but sad to consider we were running out of time.  One more garden though.

hardy cactus

There’s never enough time to really check out the hardy cactus, yucca, and agaves which fill the side yard.  The light through the spines was amazing.

We got to our last garden as the light was fading and temperatures were beginning to drop.  The snowdrops were closing up for the night and I believe our host had almost given up on us ever getting there, but was still incredibly enthusiastic and accommodating in spite of the unreliability of his visitors.

hellebore planting

A beautiful garden filled with layers of snowdrops and hellebores, witch hazels and dogwoods, and a tall canopy of deciduous trees.

The light was fading and even though this garden also has masses of early spring bulbs and carefully designed vignettes there were far too many distracting snowdrops and interesting garden stories to pay attention to.  I love going here and could have easily spent another hour or two poking around.  I will spare you most of the rest of my dimly lit photos and leave you with just two more particularly wonderful scenes.

galanthus seraph philippe Andre Meyer

Galanthus ‘Seraph’ and ‘Philippe Andre Meyer’ in the protected nursery beds.

Before the most special drops go out into the open garden this gardener bulks them up in one of several nursery beds.  There were a number of treasures such as galanthus ‘Seraph’, “Philippe Andre Meyer’, and ‘Matt Bishop’ plus many, many others.  Some people are really nuts about snowdrops.  With this in mind I’ll leave you with one last drop who’s name really seemed appropriate for our adventure.

galanthus grave concern

I believe Galanthus ‘Grave Concern’ was discovered in a cemetery, but considering how much my wanted list grew on this trip I think it’s a perfect name to end this post on.

If you’ve made it this far I thank you,  just as I thank the wonderful people who allowed us to tie up their schedules for as long as we did.  On top of that I’d also like to point out that this upcoming week is just filled with a bonanza of other Philadelphia PA snowdropping events which amazingly coincide with the peak of this year’s season.

Here’s a quick rundown starting out with my most anticipted event, the >second annual Galanthus Gala< this Saturday (March 3rd) in Downingtown PA.  This celebration of snowdrops and other late winter flowers and shrubs is hosted by the plantsman, author and designer David Culp, and promises to be a wealth of plants, talks, sales, and all things snowdrop on this side of the Atlantic.  Free admission is a plus, but I challenge you to walk out again without some little treasure in your hands.

You might also want to consider stopping by >Carolyn’s Shade Gardens< in Bryn Mawr PA.  It’s about 35 minutes away from the Gala location and word is Carolyn is hosting an open garden Saturday, March 3, from 1:30 to 5 pm, and Sunday, March 4, from 1 to 4 pm.  Snowdrops and hellebores in full bloom plus plants available for sale.  The address is 325 South Roberts Road, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, 610-525-4664.

If that isn’t enough, the >Philadelphia flower show< also kicks off this weekend and runs through the week, and to cap it all off >Winterthur Museum and Gardens< will be holding their annual ‘Bank to Bend’ lecture and plant sale on Saturday, March 10th.  The grounds should be perfectly full of snowdrops snd other spring bloomers, and the lecture by Dr. Peter Zale promises to be exceptional.

The season looks like it’s off to a good start, and as long as we survive this last burst of winter I think we’ll be in good shape.  Have a great weekend!

23 comments on “Snowdropping 2018

  1. From the few pictures you showed I would think you could spend the whole day at any one of those gardens, so it’s no wonder your schedule got off track.

    • bittster says:

      You’re right. I wish I lived close enough to just spend an afternoon in a garden here and there and not have to rush all over the place. But the rush is a little bit of the fun and it does kind of add to the adventure!

  2. Tim Calkins says:

    Sounds like a terrific day, I’m envious. Many more pictures necessary.

  3. haroldCross says:

    Great vocal tour of your snowdrop expedition. Yes need more photos. See you on Sat.

  4. Pauline says:

    Sounds as if you had a truly wonderful day, I would have been happy with lots more photos of snowdrops! All mine are now covered with a foot of snow!

    • bittster says:

      Yuck. That’s what happened to us last year just as the snowdrops were peaking and the other spring shoots were finally coming up. Snow. It somewhat ruined the season, but then by the next week there were all kinds of new things to make you forget.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I don’t have such a Gala to attend here in my neck of the woods. You didn’t show near enough pictures for my taste. Being a bit greedy here I think. What wonderful gardens all. I would love to be able to roam around reading Galanthus tags. I would learn a lot about them. Have fun this weekend.

    • bittster says:

      Keep in mind this adventure required a two hour drive down and then the same back. There really aren’t many things in this neck of the woods either, but at least I have options if I’m willing to travel. I don’t mind doing it, but it’s always a struggle to find the time.
      It is weird being able to wander and look at Galanthus tag after Galanthus tag!

  6. Peter Herpst says:

    What a treat to visit gardens at this time of year! (Mine looks like a disaster area.) Sounds like you all had a great time in the company of equally obsessed galanthophiles. Hope you have an equally delightful weekend!

    • bittster says:

      Not that I’m glad your garden is a disaster area, but I am relieved that mine’s not the only one! Every garden we visited looked as if they were tidied and completely ready to take on the new season. I felt completely inadequate, but trust me it didn’t interfere with my ability to enjoy each garden we were in, and like you said the company was one of the best things!

  7. Cathy says:

    Your enthusiasm for snowdrops seems to grow every year Frank… did you acquire any while on this trip? I must say, a few more photos would have been fine by me! 😉 Enjoy the rest of the snowdrop season!

    • bittster says:

      Can you believe I didn’t add a single snowdrop? I was offered one but took the high road and turned it down. I regretted it afterwards but maybe my selfless act fooled our host into thinking I’m not as entirely gone as I really am.
      Yes, the snowdrop thing gets worse each year. Hopefully there will come a point when I realize they’re all just little white flowers which really aren’t all that much, but until then…

  8. Such a thrill to visit gardens at this season. And we love coming along for the ride!

    • bittster says:

      It was so nice being able to get out and about and see some gardens again. I just wish this snow would stop! Good thing I raked and mulched a few beds before the storm hit 😉

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    So much to see, so little time! Makes one wish for a time machine to slow things down. 🙂

  10. That first picture is gorgeous! I never thought about Snowdrops and Winter Aconite as companion plants, but of course it makes perfect sense.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks, it was such a beautiful spot with all the flowers and moss. Mine always bloom between dead sticks and old leaves, still excellent but maybe not quite as photogenic!

  11. Indie says:

    Wow, no wonder you barely got to all four gardens! What gorgeous Snowdrops and gardens! And I’m intrigued by the unusual Winter Aconites I saw in your picture too! I can’t let myself fall in love with Snowdrops, as my wallet would go into shock, but I am hoping to establish some clumps of more common ones in my garden. The drifts look so pretty in bloom.

    • bittster says:

      The winter aconite are cool aren’t they?
      Hard to believe that all those drifts started with just a few bunches from the neighbor and a little attention to dividing and transplanting. Keep at it and you’ll have a drift in no time at all… sort of 😉
      I started with a handful of maybe a dozen bulbs of the common type and they’re already about a hundred after 9 years. According to that I should enter the thousands range in a few more years!

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