Darn Leap Year

Even though most of the long range forecasts hinted at a shift to colder weather, I’m 99% sure it’s because of the leap year.   I haven’t filled in all the gaps in my new theory but Saturday was much colder than I think we deserved and I bet it would have been a much nicer day if it were March 1st rather than February 29th…. unless that’s not the case.  Come to think of it February wasn’t all that bad this year, with a couple days in the 50’s and plenty in the 40’s to counteract the odd 4 degree night.  Much warmer than normal and practically snow-free, and that made for some wonderfully early snowdrop visits.

galanthus rodmarton arcturus regulus

‘Rodmarton Arcturus’ to the left of ‘Rodmarton Regulus’.  Two stand out snowdrops in a stand out NY snowdrop collection.

First on the list was a visit to an open garden on Long Island NY.  I was in the area to visit my parents and with beautiful sunshine and warm weather in the forecast it just made sense to drag mom out to look at drops.  Dad has learned his lesson on previous colder visits so he wisely stayed home, but even he would have enjoyed the location and warmth.

long island snowdrop garden

The garden’s host leading a group around to admire the drops.    

This is the same garden my friend Paula and I visited last year (nearly a month later btw), and this visit made me realize how spoiled were were the first time.  We had our host nearly all to ourselves that time, and all the stories and tips and conversation made the time fly by too quickly.  This time even though we had to share him with the other groups flowing through, we were still able to catch a glimpse of several treasures and check out what the new season brought.

galanthus joe spotted

Galanthus ‘Joe Spotted’ was looking much finer than my overexposed photos show.  Pity that we were forced to endure such strong sunshine and warm breezes during our visit.

This garden has clump after clump of rare and special snowdrops, so it takes a while to inch through the plantings, but as we got around to the end the healthy clumps of “wild” ‘viridapice’ scattered all through the hedges and shrubbery reminded me that the tried and true also has incredible value.

galanthus viridipice

Patches of Galanthus ‘Viridipice’ around the garden’s edges.  

Come to think of it I may have to order a few more ‘viridapice’ this year when I send in my wish list.  Earlier orders are well on their way to clumping up here and if you’d like to do the same, check under sources on my snowdrop page for the owner’s email address.

winter beach long island

It’s a shame to be less than a mile from the ocean and not stop by.  I miss the winter beach.  

For as pleasant and warm as our February snowdrop visit was, the fake February visit I made yesterday was a far different experience.  On a day which should have been March I set off to the Philly area to meet with my friend Paula for our traditional snowdrop tour.  Cold it was.  And windy.  It was ridiculous to stand out in the wind and cold for nearly three hours but we did, and I’m not sure who was to blame.

winter garden northeast

The garden looked March-ish with witch hazels, snowdrops, and hellebores.  The green of winter aconite looked awfully fresh for a day hovering just above freezing.

Normally Paula and I have much more adventurous spring snowdrop agendas but this year she abandoned me to take on a big overseas adventure in the UK amongst more ancient and vast snowdrop gardens.  Just catching up on that alone took most of the afternoon!

leucojum vernum

Spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) and some yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) carpet the mossy ground under the central cherry tree.

The garden was filled with enough other distractions to compete with the trip stories.  Snowdrops are nice but the hellebores were also coming up all over, and the mix of colors made me grateful there are plenty of fantastic gardens on this side of the Atlantic as well.

winter hellebores and snowdrops

A real winter garden with awesome hellebores and snowdrops seeding and sprouting everywhere.

I also had an experience which shook me a bit.  There’s a leafy evergreen perennial called the Japanese sacred lily (Rohdea japonica) and although some people go absolutely nuts for them, paying thousands of dollars for special forms, I have remained entirely immune to any desire to grow them.  Then I saw Paula’s.  It was kinda nice.

winter hellebores and snowdrops

More snowdrops and hellebores plus a nice clump of Rohdea japonica.  Hmmmm.

I’ll have to be careful the next time I’m around Edgewood Gardens.  John Lonsdale has a nice variety of them scattered across his hillside and what harm could a second look do, but in the meantime let’s think about cheaper plants.  Galanthus worowonii is a species snowdrop which can be had for a few bucks a bag and in general is nice enough, but not much of a bloomer for me.  Then I saw a nice bunch at Paula’s.  Out of all the many goodies this is the one I was interested in, and I think you’ll see why.

galanthus woronowii

A good blooming, nicely formed Galanthus woronowii on the right, and a regular one on the left.  As you would expect most of what I have in my garden are leafy and floppy like the ones on the left.

So now I’m thinking of more unnecessary plants to try,  Might as well add another.  Winter jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum) is a floppy, messy, wanna-be shrub that sometimes identifies as a vine.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s as fragrant as its cousins (it’s not), but it is a surprisingly floriferous late winter bloomer that doesn’t mind freezing more than it thaws.  I see it listed as hardy to zone 6, so I may poke a stem in here (it roots easily wherever a stem touches down) and give it a global warming try.

winter jasmine

Winter jasmine artfully slung over the perfect boulder.  I’m sure it takes a little trimming to keep in check, but the effect is worth it.

Hmmmm.  It seems like I’ve mentioned quite a few new things to try out this year, and there have only been two garden visits so far.  Luckily it’s March and even though the month is a day late in coming, flipping the calendar means one really important thing which you may or may not know about.  It’s the month of official snowdrop events, and next Saturday, March 7th is David Culp’s Galanthus Gala.  From 10-3 Downington Pa shall transform into the epicenter of rare snowdrop sales, hellebore offerings, uncommon plants, and a celebration of all types of plant nerdery in general.  Alan Street of Avon Bulbs will be offering two lectures and I suspect many plants will find new homes that day.  Admission is free, but pre-sale entry and the lectures will require ticket purchase.  All the cool kids will be there and hopefully I can sneak in as well.

Hope you have an excellent week.  March does have its benefits, and hopefully one of them is warming temperatures.  Not an insignificant point since it took me about 8 hours to warm up again after trying to pull off a garden visit in Fake February.

23 comments on “Darn Leap Year

  1. Hmm. I should check my rohdea. Oh, wait. It’s still under snow. Maybe later this week after we have our string of warmer days and rain.

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Better leave your credit cards at home, hehe! 😉

    • bittster says:

      I try, but nowadays there’s paypal and all kinds of other things that make it even easier! Fortunately these were all just visits, no buying 😉

  3. Pauline says:

    I enjoyed your garden visit as our snowdrops are now finishing and it will be 9 months before I see any again! We have been warmer than usual but also a lot wetter, so much flooding over here but the plants don’t seem to mind..

    • bittster says:

      The snowdrops may be ending, but I bet the fritillaria love all the wet! It’s great how one high leads on to the next as the new season unfolds 🙂

  4. Tim says:

    Envious of your Long Island visit, hope to see that one day. Best start right away on the rohdea, some are very slow growers, and the more highly marked, and marked-up, varieties are harder to find. This may or may not be a blessing.

    • bittster says:

      If you tackle the LI trip be sure to let me know!
      Currently trilliums and now rhodea are both listed on the no buy list. The soil here needs a few more years of work before it stops being a death sentence for these guys, and they’re a little pricy for experiments.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh be still my heart. You saved the best photo for last. That boulder with the jasmine cascading over the top and snowdrops at the base. Gorgeous. I envy you the garden tours available in your area. Jam packed with doable ideas and plants to drool over. Maybe you need a nice big boulder in your garden as a heating pad for the jasmine to keep warm. All of those galanthus. They would be enough to lure one out of the house to walk the paths daily I would think. I hope you saved all year for the special Galanthus sale. Don’t come home with any $$ left in your wallet. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Don’t worry! I spent plenty at the Gala, those little pots add up fast 😉
      I forgot to mention I may be headed to Indianapolis this summer. You’ll have to let me know what the must sees of the area are!
      We don’t have any big enough boulders to hang out on and warm ourselves up on. Coincidentally the roof of the house sounded like a reasonable alternative, so today we went up there to lay in the sun and have a rooftop picnic. It’s much safer than it sounds, but you can see why I’m not considered the responsible parent.

  6. Totally jealous that you are off to David Culp’s to see snowdrops. But I am glad to know that I have those two more common snowdrops that look so good in your pix. Maybe I am more of a cool kid than I realized. Can’t wait to hear about your next trip.

    • bittster says:

      You’re absolutely one of the cool kids 🙂
      The trip was a lot of fun, Didn’t fit in any garden visits but ti was great seeing all those other snowdrop crazies and meeting up with good friends.

  7. I am definitely going to put that East End open garden on my calendar for next year! (And as an aside: One can always identify a native Long Islander by the way he or she says “on” rather than “in.” 🙂 People who say “in Long Island” invariably set a local’s teeth on edge, lol)

  8. I grew up on Long Island and am intensely curious about which gardens you visited, and where they are located. And which beach is that? I no longer have any relatives in NYC or LI and am kind of missing it.

    • bittster says:

      Only the first garden is is on Long Island. It’s a private garden in the Hamptons, the owner of which is listed as a source on my ‘snowdrop page’. The beach is ‘West Scott Cameron’ beach, but I had to google it since we just found it by picking a road that ended in water!

  9. Cathy says:

    Your winter seems to have been mild too Frank, but spring is slow in coming here nonetheless. Hope it is a sunny day for your next snowdrop trip. Have fun and forget about budgets! 😉 (I shouldn‘t encourage you should I!)

  10. Annette says:

    Oh, all those little gems, Frank, I’m smitten – thanks for sharing your visits 😀 It’s been raining here almost non-stop for the past ten days and I’m getting a bit frustrated. But as you say February was a good month. I must really plant some Leucojum this year, they’re so pretty. Just as well we don’t get any special snowdrops or helleborus here otherwise I’d be broke 😉 Happy March days x

    • bittster says:

      heh heh. Distance has not protected me from picking up special snowdrops ;). Most of these trips involve at least two hours in the car both there and back! It’s an obsession that doesn’t make much sense.
      The leucojum would love all the wet, mine do best in the areas where other plants just give up. They like a soggy, wet spot.

      • Annette says:

        anything to raise the spirits these days is welcome, Frank, hope you’re alright and not too badly affected by the C-madness, take care x PS: My soil is only soggy in winter so that’ll be a challenge.

  11. Interesting theory about leap year, Frank. The temp was nearly 70 here today. Amazing. I hope you had a lovely time at Brandywine Cottage on Saturday. Hoping to get there before I need someone to push me around in a Bath chair. P x

    • bittster says:

      Haha, viewing gardens from a Bath chair doesn’t sound all that bad. I bet you could get beverage service with that 😉
      We weren’t able to visit Brandywine cottage, the Snowdrop Gala was at a site a few minutes away, but with all the people to talk to and plant purchases to consider there wouldn’t have been enough time anyway. It’s a busy day!

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