It’s a shameful fact that for as much as I talk up the year’s snowdropping adventure, I also drag my feet in getting the post up. It’s been a week. A week and a little, and I need to stop going through the pictures again and again, reliving the day, and just get them out there with as little babbling as possible. Fortunately the morning is cold so maybe for a few minutes I can be productive while the flowers here soak in the sun before standing back up… and again completely distract me.
Naturalized snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis) and spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernus) in a Pennsylvania park.
I started the morning on my own, wandering through a Philly area park admiring the century old blanket of snowdrops and other spring bulbs which carpet the now neglected former estate. There used to be a dream that I’d stumble upon some priceless new variation in white here, but over the years I’ve become satisfied with just seeing them greet the spring each year and carry on unbothered. Between my crawling through the underbrush and bending over backwards to admire trees it’s a miracle I haven’t yet left the park on crutches after tumbling down a rocky embankment, but so far so good.
When planting trees always remember proper spacing and mature height.
I survived, and so off to meet Paula at her garden. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a full-sun, comfortably warm visit there, and this year we made it a priority.
The patches of snowdrops are becoming sheets!
I always get stupidly excited to see all the bulbs in bloom, but this year to see it all in full sun with the blooms wide open I may have let out a naughty word as I got out of the car. That’s a lot of &*^@g snowdrops was my eloquent first impression.
I always love the mossy bed surrounding this ugly old ‘Kwanzan’ cherry tree. There’s so much character in the tree and even though it’s a pain fighting the roots and keeping it in shape I hope it stays for a number of years.
It’s hard taking it all in yet finding the time to focus on all the different forms. She has quite a few and there’s a story behind nearly every last one. Fortunately Paula knows me well enough to not get offended when we’re talking about one clump and suddenly I turn to take a picture of something else or jump over to a new plant!
A big clump of a big drop, ‘Rodmarton Regulus’.
My wish list always grows during these garden visits.
One of the greenest of the greens, galanthus ‘Green Mile’.
A growing clump of ‘Amy Doncaster’
The witch hazel Hamamelis x ‘Princeton Gold’
There was something other than snowdrops which really caught my eye (besides the hellebores and witch hazels), and that was the pink viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’) in full bloom. It actually caught my nose, and I followed the scent over to where the shrub was tucked into the shrubby edge of the garden. Of course I’ve already looked for a source 😉
The fragrant pink blooms of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’
With all the distractions, this visit was running into our typical behind-schedule run-mode, but because we sometimes know our limits we made sure to pencil only one more garden into the day.
White snowdrops, blue reticulated iris, and a bunch of other things spread around the driveway slope of Paula’s garden.
It’s almost time for the Galanthus Gala, and Paula’s got a bunch of stuff dug and potted for the day, but that doesn’t mean there’s not more planning and preparation needed. I knew she was headed over to David Culp’s Brandywine Cottage to meet with David that afternoon and discuss, so of course I invited myself along.
The fenced in vegetable garden feels like the heart of the gardens at Brandywine Cottage, and even in the middle of February there’s a jewelbox bed of floral treasures outside the gate.
The gardens were at a snowdrop peak and I don’t even know why I’m bothering to post since books have been written and photos taken which are far superior, but it was an exciting visit and David was nice enough to say ‘post what you want, I enjoy reading your blog’…. um, did you catch that? David Culp said he knows I have a blog and says he might have read it? Honestly I’ll probably try and work that into nearly every conversation I have from this snowdrop season beyond, and I hope it’s not too embarrassing when he finds out.
Yellow on yellow with winter aconite and a nice yellow hellebore with just a faint blush of speckling.
Oh and also these pictures. David’s last two books, ‘The Layered Garden’ and ‘A Year at Brandywine Cottage’ were photographed by Rob Cardillo, so I hope I don’t embarrass myself on that level as well since all my photos rely on luck rather than skill.
Plantings along the driveway. There was actually an apology that we missed the lavender sheet of crocus which had mostly ended.
Not the fanciest view of the cottage, but this view shows how every bed of the garden is layered with snowdrops, snowflakes, winter aconite and other goodies which shine before the perennials and shrubs take center stage.
David and Micheal know how to live, and ‘A Year at Brandywine Cottage’ sounds real fancy with decorating suggestions, planting ideas, and delicious recipes and all the things you like to see in a book, but the crazy thing is that’s just Tuesday to them. You pull up on a Wednesday and there’s a bowl filled with floating hellebore blooms, celeriac soup with a crème fraîche, a toasty living room with fire burning, cutflowers, winter arrangements inside and out, friends pulling into the driveway… It’s pretty cool.
Paths through the garden, snowdrops are settling in everywhere.
There was a bunch of snowdrop talk. There was also snowdrop work which was in progress, but you’ll have to wait until the gala to hear more of that since the heart of it was going on in the growing beds. Clumps were being selected for dividing and potting up in order to fill the sales table, and for the sake of honesty I had to steer clear of any place where shovels and fancy snowdrops were close to one another. We headed round to the meadow and up through the hillside instead.
Paths meander throughout the sloped areas of the garden. If you’re familiar with ‘The Layered Garden’ you’ll know this all began with a noxious, weed-filled slope and a run-down shell of a cottage.
Treasures are tucked throughout the hillside.
Of course we stayed too long. The light was already dimming as we meandered back off the hillside.
Hellebores and a million other things cover every inch of the slope, and there’s much more slope than you can see here. In another week or two the scene will completely change as all the narcissus come in and the hellebores really get blooming.
The hillside is filled with hellebores, and for many people ‘Brandywine’ is more a strain of hybrid hellebores rather than a cottage. There’s a reason for that. Early on in the development of modern hellebores David asked friends overseas for the best and brought back a bunch of these to the US to start ‘dabbling’ with his own hybrid strain. He wanted a few “nice ones” for the slope and needed more than just divisions could supply, so over the years the ‘Brandywine Hybrids’ came into being. They were my first experience with a more upscale hellebore and the strain made plants with clearer colors and more outward facing blooms available to even the more average gardener.
A red section of the slope just getting started. Notice they’ve all been trimmed back of their old foliage. Thousands of plants all trimmed neatly and the debris removed…
A perfect combination of structured shrubs, background evergreens, and spring enthusiasm.
So hellebores are awesome, but for a little while longer all my focus is on snowdrops and snowdrop galas. David Culp’s snowdrop gala is set for this upcoming weekend (March 3rd and 4th) and will again make Downingtown Pa the epicenter of American galanthophiles, either in person or in spirit. There will be online events, in-person and virtual talks, auctions, and Q&As, plus my favorite part the specialty vendors. I’ve been good and only contacted one seller for a super-special plant, but that doesn’t mean my budget ends with that. There’s a reason I’ve been holding back with online sales 😉
So maybe I’ll see you there, maybe I’ll see you online, maybe I’m glad this weekend worked out well and didn’t disrupt my plans on attending, but however it works out I hope you’re having a great end of February!