An End Before the Start

Yesterday I made a point of getting outside for a few pictures before whatever happens happened.  Those of you who’ve visited this blog ever probably know that this gardener has more than a passing fancy for snowdrops, and sadly this year the season has passed in a blur with other things and weather taking priority over the hope for idle days in the sunshine crawling from snowdrop clump to snowdrop clump.  Instead I was out at night with a flashlight, out in the rain, or wind, or cold, and none of those scenarios make for good picture taking.  It happens, it could be worse, and with several clumps disappearing or dwindling this year I guess it was as good a season as any to have fly by.  Next year will be perfect I’m sure!

galanthus flore peno

A grainy, just before dark photo of the ‘White Trash’ bed from about a week ago.  Galanthus ‘flore peno’ and other “common”, “messy”, and “no special merit” snowdrops fill this bed, and it’s one of my favorite plantings.  

We won’t dwell on the weather of course.  If a gardener ever hopes to enjoy their snowdrops in this area they need to be prepared for a season which goes from an early spring thaw one week, to frigid temps and snow and ice the next, to overly warm shorts and T-shirt weather for five days, back to snow and a hard freeze.  I can always stay inside, but the snowdrops can’t and sometimes end up a little beaten down.

galanthus nivalis

A nice galanthus nivalis with just the tiniest green mark inside.  Someday I hope to find an albino, but for now this one keeps me happy.

So here’s where the survivors are at.  For you’re sake I’ll try to write less and photo more 😉

galanthus cordelia

Galanthus ‘Cordelia’ a little sloppy yet hanging on and Cardamine quinquefolia just starting with its pink flowers.  A few people have lodged complaints about the cardamine’s spreading ways but it looks like I’ll have to learn the hard way.

galanthus imbolc

I can never speak poorly of big flowers on a non-floppy plant.  ‘Imbolc’ is representing and hopefully hangs on for a while during our cold spell.

galanthus erway

Galanthus ‘Erway’ has a nice paleness this spring which is fairly normal but not always this pronounced. 

galanthus moortown

I think I show galanthus ‘Moortown’ each spring.  He’s such a hefty brute.

green poc sharlockii galanthus

My thoughts are always mixed on anything from sharlockii blood, but this one has turned out nice.  A Belgium drop with lots of green and inner petals almost as long as the outers.  

Please don’t even fall for my woe is me comments on this year’s season.  Even a bad one is still better than the suffering my non-snowdropping neighbors are enduring.  I see them washing cars and trying to liven up a dead yard with a few plastic Easter eggs and realize that my yard has been bursting with bulbs for the last month and more, and the garden year is already off to a good start.  Missing the snowdrops is as much my own fault for not being independently wealthy as it is the cruel ups and down of the weather, and maybe a few less garden visits and ski trips would have also helped.  I’ll try to work on that… maybe…

eranthis gothenburg

A doubled winter aconite (Eranthis ‘Gothenburg’) flowering for the first time after two other years of ‘no thanks’.  Please don’t die now is my reply.  In this garden new and hard to find winter aconites like to die the year after finally looking nice.

So now I have nothing to look forward to except hundreds of spring bulbs and sprouting perennials and wave after wave of new color every day!  Sure there will be a few hiccups along the way, but still I can’t even imagine things being bad enough to make washing the car a decent alternative.

minor spring bulbs

More bulbs popping up.  The unspellable Scilla mischtschenkoana doesn’t ask for much but does fade quickly in anything warmer than sweater weather. 

I don’t know how people manage self restraint around all the small ‘minor’ bulbs which could fill their gardens.  I mean I do, but there are so many tempting crocus and bulb forming iris and corydalis that I really can’t judge anyone who ends up with a bed devoted to species tulips or spring blooming colchicums.

minor spring bulbs

I vaguely remember these not blooming and me digging and dividing the clump.  For a couple days they’ll be amazing and then the next great thing will roll along and I won’t even bother to dig out a label for an ID.

Even for someone who is the definition of restraint, things can build up.  If I had any backbone whatsoever I’d mow down seedlings, dig bulblets, divide crowded clumps, and just toss the excess but I’m like one of those people who grew up poor and then for a lifetime can’t throw out a decent pair of shoes or nice cardboard box, or even throw out the last six Easter eggs even though you did manage to eat at least two dozen of the ones the kids dyed.  Waste is a sin, and who wastes corydalis seedlings?

Hyacinths, corydalis, crocus, and winter aconite were never planted here.  I wouldn’t even know where to start if I tried to return this to the original species peonies, single snowdrop, and Muscari azureum (both white and blue forms!)

Before I leave the subject of restraint, here’s a link to an International Rock Gardener article on >the many species and forms of winter aconite (Eranthis)<.  I’m not tempted, but perhaps others will enjoy looking at all the different variations you can plant in addition to the not-common-at-all yellow.

minor spring bulbs

I have no plans to show restraint towards witch hazels.  They will be crowded and poorly grown but Hamamelis ‘Aphrodite’ needs more company.

I do need more spring snowflakes (Lecojum vernum).  I consider them the messy big brother of snowdrops but they come in yellows and doubles and I’m forced to live with just the species form and that’s been making me sad.  Not sad enough to go wash the car, but sad enough to wistfully search for other forms which exist but are separated from me by an ocean and at least seven time zones.  I don’t think adding two or three new ones would count as a lack of restraint, it’s definitely more of a widening your horizons kind of thing.

leucojum vernum

The straight form of the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum, not the summer snowflake L. aestivum, that’s different!).  

Unlike most bulbs, Leucojum actually enjoy a poorly drained soil which doesn’t dry out and will suffer in a drier spot.  Think riverbanks and wet meadows, and if you find a spot they like you might as well plant a few snake’s head fritallaries (F. meleagris) since they also like that same mucky kind of spot.

leucojum vernum

A nice pure white form I found a few years back.  It’s a nice thing and nicely complements the “yellow tipped” ones behind them… if only they would stay yellow…

And again I’m going on too long.  Let’s just photo along and get through hellebores and the current weather.

yellow hellebore

The first hellebores are starting.  A couple nice yellow seedlings.

anemone hellebore

A surprise anemone form hellebore seedling.  I was hoping for a double, but this might even be better.

garden construction

Construction continues. Maybe today I’ll bundle up and try and dig out the snowflakes and hostas which probably won’t come up through the two feet of excavated fill, but then I’ll look at the rocks and dirt in the pond and feel guilty about not addressing that. 

Yesterday it wasn’t raining and snowing too much (just like last Sunday which was the only other time I’ve been out during the day lately) so I spent a few hours scraping fill off the lawn and hoping that at least half the yard can be sort-of back to normal for the year.  For what it’s worth “scraping fill off the lawn” means shoveling wheel barrow after wheel barrow of hard-packed rock and dirt and then trying to find the old turf underneath and then exposing enough with a rake so that it comes back to life.  I suspect in another week or two it will be mostly smothered and dead so that’s why I’m trying now.  In spite of the biting wind… and on again off again rain showers…. and frequent snow squalls….

spring bulbs in snow

The snow stopped melting and the light was fading, so the lawn is as good as it’s going to be.  

spring bulbs in snow

I might not like it, but most of the garden doesn’t mind a little snow and sleet this time of year.  We will see what happens tonight though.  It’s supposed to be frigid again.  

hardy cyclamen

Back in the day I never even imagined I’d have bunches of hardy spring cyclamen here in the mountains of Pennsylvania but then they happened 🙂

I might look at the pond this afternoon.  We will see.  The winter garden might be a nicer option with its somewhat warm temperature and lack of an icy wind and gloomy skies.  It’s a jungle and I need to trim it back which of course means cuttings since I can’t waste a single shoot.  Obviously these will be cuttings I do not need.

growing under lights

A patriotic blend of geraniums, oxalis, and streptocarpella.  The blue streptocarpella is much too large.

growing under lights

Cuttings galore and I think I should chop everything first and then see how much I can use afterwards.  Right now I’m not sure if the water I throw on this thicket even hits the pots underneath.  

growing under lights

The amaryllis have been nice.  This is a seedling a friend gave me and I might need a big pot of it, even though it multiplies like a pair of miss-sexed hamsters.

growing under lights

I’m going to have way too many geranium cuttings.  What to do, what to do…

barnhaven primrose seedlings

…and the primrose seedlings have come along nicely.  I can sit at my little table contemplating seed orders all the while enjoying the promise of spring and an occasional wiff of primula fragrance.  

So that’s where things are at and I’m hoping for a few less-busy weeks to come.  In the meantime thanks for sticking it out and if you’re relieved over the missing snowdrops don’t get your hopes up too much.  Cooler weather means the season may stretch out the further north you go and I still haven’t ruled out northern snowdrop visits 😉

Have a great, restrained, week!

21 comments on “An End Before the Start

  1. That anemone form hellebore is excellent. Maybe I could take some cuttings off your hands, or a primrose or two. Just to help out.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is difficult to be restrained when the sun is looking so good. All I have to do is step outside in that cold wind and I don’t need a restraining order. Brrr…
    Your cyclamen look good blooming so nice. I bought one last fall and stuck it in the ground wondering if I finally found one that will live in my garden. Sure enough it has survived the winter. I wonder when it will bloom.
    I have grown the Streptocarpella before but it didn’t survive the winter in my house. I just love the way it blooms all summer in my not so sunny garden.
    Have a great week and here is to not so busy weeks and sunny days.

    • bittster says:

      I gave up this afternoon. The snow was really coming down, the wind kicked up again and finally I called it quits. For all of fifteen minutes I thought I might take a few cuttings, but then just grabbed a bag of Doritos and watched some Gardener’s World on Tv. Probably should have sipped tea, but meh.
      Glad to hear the cyclamen pulled through! Once you get some going they will usually find the spot they like and seed into it, or at least that’s what mine have been doing. I hope yours settles in and blooms.
      I killed a free streptocarpella given to me last summer, and couldn’t resist redeeming myself by taking better care of this one. I did not expect it to be such a nice winter plant, so hopefully it does as well this summer outside. I shall find a ‘not so sunny garden’ spot when the time comes 😉

  3. Deborah Banks says:

    Hopefully you will be able to come to the ACNARGS member plant sale on Saturday May 14. We would all eagerly buy your cuttings. 🙂

    • bittster says:

      That sounds like a plan! …and it sounds like I’ll be up for a day at least in June as a volunteer for the NARGS meeting. Plant sale there as well 😉

    • bittster says:

      I think I’m set to come up on the Tuesday as a volunteer for the plant sale. Fox guarding the chickens if you ask me, but I’ll try to limit myself to the cash at hand and NOT pull out the credit card 😉

  4. Paddy Tobin says:

    Your “white trash” bed is replicated here several times and white trash provides the very best of the snowdrop display – big patches of white to brighten up the spring garden, patches of snowdrops of no particular individual value but which make great clumps and spreads which can be seen from afar. I feel they are the essential balance to the small clumps of those special ones which merit closer inspection.

    • bittster says:

      I had the same exact conversation with a friend last week. There are landscape drops and there are specials, and you can use them interchangeably, but sometimes a plain white sheet of flowers is best.
      Paddy you would cringe to see the forecast for the next few days. -8C tonight and thursday may go up to 20C. It’s often a roller coaster this time of year!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        We’ve had very pleasant days recently but a change is coming by Wednesday – cooler days and nights and that would mean night-time temperatures dropping almost to freezing with around 10C during the day. It’s a tough old world.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Always a pleasure to peruse your garden, Frank. Restraint? What’s that? Why? 😉
    Your winter garden is looking like a plant shop… maybe sell those extra cuttings on Etsy? It could fund a few new purchases! 😉

    • bittster says:

      I was mulling over the idea of a spring ‘garage sale’ with just plants and not the usual household items, but the Etsy process might be more involved than I’d like to take on… at the moment that is 😉

      • Deborah Banks says:

        That sounds like the start of a big enterprise like the “Rob’s Plants” plant sale. I never made it down to PA for one of his sales but they sounded special. Do you know him? I think he’s somewhere near you.

  6. We began last week with a high of 72° and ended with snow and lows of 17°. As far as I’m concerned, “March madness” has nothing to do with basketball. Your garden is much further along and looks better than mine at the moment. The snowdrops that are up here are not happy and the Iris reticulata have not done more than poke their noses up. If I had a spot with all those beautiful plants that you have in your “winter garden” I would have trouble getting outdoors in this weather. I was looking at a rusty orange Eranthis and debating whether I wanted to blow that much on a single plant. Sold out before I made up my mind. Now I can obsess about it endlessly. Did your snowdrops disappear from overcrowding? I’ve lost my biggest group and wondered if that was the cause.

    • bittster says:

      I’m looking out the window and listening to the rain beating down on the roof and almost can’t imagine those 17˚ mornings… even though it’s only been about a week since the last one. The lawn is suddenly starting to green up, bulbs are sprouting, and it’s looking spring-like even if the rest of the neighborhood is still as dull as ever. I think the lawn is green beacause I ran the mower once to pick up thatch and twigs, so the tiniest grass sprout is more noticeable, and not because of any serious attention to the lawn. I hope my neighbors don’t consider me a lawn fanatic!
      Yeah… fancy Eranthis are coveted by snowdrop fanatics, and snowdrop fanatics have a much higher tolerance for the sticker shock of ridiculous prices on tiny bulbs. I look at a single $40 snowdrop and say ‘hmmmm’ while a $40 tag on a small tree has me shopping around for something more ‘reasonable’. Golly I’m messed up.
      I don’t know what killed off the snowdrops. I suspect some kind of rot related to the endless rain of last summer, we had a similar result a few years back after a really wet season. I think it’s worst for elwesii in damp summer soil, and also a few others when the soil stays endlessly warm and wet. I’ve considered working over the beds, but then came to my senses and just move the unhappy bulbs while keeping the survivors.

  7. Oh my gosh, you are SOOOO far ahead of us! No scilla to be seen here, and the early daffs JUST put out buds, which I’m sure, at 15 degrees here this morning, they sincerely regret! I’ve given up on spring crocuses because they get to bloom for just one or two days before the woodchucks find them. But I miss them . . .
    I know where you can get rid of some cuttings, BTW, lol!

    • bittster says:

      I moved the trampoline out back and now it looms over the crocus patches. The shadow seems to scare off the rabbits and I’ve never enjoyed such a long crocus season! The rabbits are about, but either got tired of what my yard has to offer or more likely don’t appreciate all the mud and construction. I did see some nibbled tulips though and that’s unusual around here in this deer-free paradise.
      I’ll try and time the cuttings so they’re perfect for pickup during daffodil season 🙂

  8. Cathy says:

    Seeing all those lovely lush indoor plants and knowing there will be cuttings makes me want to move to Pennsylvania! Even with your winter dragging on, you have loads of flowers. The yellow hellebore is gorgeous and the cyclamen too I will have to try growing some one day soon. You are probably only about ten days behind us so you have lots of spring sunshine to look forward to! We have had a mini ‘heat’wave (15°C) (but snow is forecast for Friday😯).

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I don’t think you would consider a move here to be an upgrade!
      The yellow hellebores are probably my favorites. There’s another with clear yellow flowers and I can’t wait to see it again as well as the doubles which are on their way. Someday soon I hope to see a few ‘neon’ seedlings open up flowers as well, and in my head they’re an astounding blend of yellow and gold that almost glows on a damp spring morning 😉
      In the meantime I keep hoping to stumble across something in bloom and on sale, but that’s unlikely scenario in this part of the world.
      Rain here today and for most of the week. Tomorrow is the only promising day and I’m extremely excited I might be able to sneak out of work early!

  9. WOW! Whatever made me think that your area is colder than ours? lol You have things in flower there that are at least two weeks off for me (weather permitting.) Where do you find the unusual Eranthis for sale? I have been looking for the white one (E. pinnatifida) for at least five years with no success. Not saying I’d sell my soul for one, but… well, wait a second, let me rethink that… lol

    • bittster says:

      Stop it. It is much colder here in spite of your cool breezes sweeping in off the ocean or creeping in off the Sound. Most of what’s in bloom is snugged up in the lee of the house or sheltered amongst evergreens. In the ‘open’ garden the hyacinths are still a week or so away from blooming… but the forecast looks warm so who the heck knows!
      The Eranthis are either from Odyssey Bulbs or Edgewood Gardens. If you get super desperate email Edgewood and he might have something available since I know he has seedlings of the white one coming along. The price? I think even overseas it’s rare and costly so…

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