2017 Summer Bucket List: The Fountains of Longwood Gardens

The buzz had been building for 2 years as the fountains of Longwood Gardens underwent a massive, 90 million renovation behind the curtain of construction walls and ‘do not enter’ signs.  You kind of got used to it.  For years the fountain area had been my least liked section of Longwood and as far as I was concerned it was only an area to walk around and avoid while you explored other more exciting sections.  Sometimes a fountain went off.  Ok nice.  I almost felt a little sorry for Pierre du Pont if this was all his obsessive passion for fountains could put together.  Plus I hated all the rows of pathetic Norway Maples which lined the area.  Like I said, it wasn’t a favorite.

Holy crap has that changed.  The restored fountains were reopened this past May and if you happen to have the chance to see them I think you’ll agree they’re friggin’ awesome!  The grounds have been rebuilt into something which could compete with an European palatial spread, but the fountains are something all to themselves and have to be experienced in person.

longwood gardens

Looking in to the heart of the five acre main fountain gardens.  The sounds of water surround you.

Before I get too in to it I just want to mention my kids came along, and a 9 and 11 year old who are more interested in gymnastics and tag were not the best visiting companions, but I decided to take one for the team and hope a little of the experience sinks in.  They love the Christmas show… but strolling and looking at plants… not so much.

longwood gardens

The Orangery in its summer finery.  Throughout the greenhouses things are always perfect regardless of the season, and I question the soul of anyone who isn’t a little amazed the first time they enter.    

We stopped for ice-cream first.  It’s a two hour drive for us so that’s the least I could do for my surprisingly well behaved travel companions, and as they finished that off and played in the children’s section (which I’m glad to see they haven’t yet outgrown) and then toured the indoor gardens, it was at least an hour before I got the first “I’m bored”.

longwood gardens

An awesome canna inside the Orangery.  I loved it and I wanted it, but unfortunately couldn’t find the name.  Perhaps it’s one of the many cannas which have been raised and hybridized in one of Longwood’s many research and breeding programs. 

We tried to move quick.  Maybe getting there at 3 O’clock was indeed a little early considering all the kids wanted was a light show… but the plants, the plants 😉

longwood gardens

There’s water all over.  This was just one of the many fountains of the children’s garden.

The water garden was an interesting diversion.  This is always my favorite spot and I was glad the kids seemed somewhat interested in the water lilies and massive Victoria Lilies which fill the pools.

longwood gardens

The giant pads were approaching five and six feet in diameter, and have a reputation of being able to support babies and small children with their buoyant structure.

I of course always have to touch the nasty spines even though I’m well aware of how sharp they are.  The undersides of the pads and outer coverings of the flower buds are all well defended with this barrier.

longwood gardens

It’s thought the raised lips of the pads prevents them from growing on top of one another, and the two notches on the rim allow rainwater to escape.

While I was trying to explain just how awesome these plants were, the kids were absolutely distracted by the small mosquito fish which filled each pond section.  For the next 20 minutes all they wanted to do was catch one…. or two… or a bigger one… or one more… or just one more…

longwood gardens

Got one.

Fortunately the Longwood employees were very pleasant about the kids harassing their mosquito fish.  They explained how the fish control the mosquito larva and added a few things about nearby plants as well, but overall just let the kids enjoy a little wet fun.  I’m sure this will be the memory they keep from this area even though I tried my darnedest to explain the Longwood history of hybridizing these Victoria lilies and their fragrant, night blooming, beetle pollinated, flowers and… well this is where they caught fish.

longwood gardens

The giant victorias are nice enough, but these day and night blooming tropical waterlilies aren’t too shabby either, and their bright colors and fancy foliage could keep you here hours just exploring the variety.

I made another attempt to visit every single highlight of the gardens but was quickly derailed by another “I’m bored”.  The gardening bug definitely either skips a generation or is a recessive gene since my two are nearly completely empty of any chlorophyll.  We sat for a while playing with cameras and looking at pictures and then headed over for dinner instead.

longwood gardens

Round about 6pm the gardens started to fill up.  It was a ‘pop up’ Luminaries weekend, and thousands of candles were laid out across the lawns and lined up along pathways, and one by one the individual candles were being lit. 

As dusk began to fall the luminaries were being lit throughout the gardens.  Our visit just happened to coincide with a surprise luminary weekend where thousands of luminaries ‘pop up’ throughout the gardens.  While the boy focused on trying to blow out a candle without being caught, we did manage to see at least a few of the best garden areas.  A favorite is the long border which shades from white to yellow to gold…

longwood gardens

One of my favorite rudbeckias, ‘prairie sun’.

…to red to pinks…

longwood gardens

Pink zinnias, canna, and crape myrtle.

…to purples to blues…

longwood gardens

Cleome, ageratum, dahlias, and I think vitex.  The dark purple bushes in the back are a very cool non-hardy euphorbia which I always look for but never find on sale. 

and the crowds continued to drift in…

longwood gardens

Blankets and chairs setting up for the show, even though it was still at least an hour to go.

Once the sun set and the lights came on things really started to get amazing.

longwood gardens

Food stands, wine and beer stands, fancy dining… Longwood at night has become quite the date night location.  

We headed out one more time to see the lanterns at full effect.

longwood gardens

One of the main lawns covered with a spiral of luminaries.  Getting lost amongst the lanterns is the perfect excuse to hold hands 😉

I hope my random point and shoot photography gives you some idea of how cool Longwood is at night.  People whisper.  It’s really captivating.

longwood gardens

Candlelight from the luminaries, soft lighting for the plants, and in many spots the sweet fragrance of night scented flowers such as these angel trumpets (Brugmansia).

There really were a lot of candles.  I think the gardens would be nice enough on any night, but I’m glad we had the chance to see the luminaries as well.  Rumor has it quite a few other people also got the chance to see the show.  I noticed on their website that most nights ended up being sold out…. so even on a regular weekend make sure you have your tickets purchased before you head down.

longwood gardens

I think of Luminaries as a Southern Christmastime tradition, but here in the North I’ve got to say summer nights work out much better.

Once we got through the luminaries it was finally time for the 9:15 fountain show.  The show was epic with music, lights, sounds, and fountains spouting everywhere.  From what I hear the highest can shoot up to 175 feet (53m) into the air and when you’re watching or wandering through the show, it absolutely surrounds you.

My daughter’s favorite…. pink. She insisted on many photos to catch the pinkness.

We settled into the upper area where the largest fountains are located and it was amazing to be surrounded by all the noise and water.  Even with the highlights right there in front of you, you still had to keep looking around to catch the parts of the show up closer to the main viewing area.  There were spouting columns of flames after all!

longwood gardens

Lights, fountains, and FLAMES!  

The fountains were impressive enough during the day, but the show at night was truly epic.  Who would have thought that water shot into the air could be so entertaining… well, who other than Pierre du Pont I guess 🙂

longwood gardens

It was really cool.

Seven hours later we were finally on the road back home.  I barely got to see half the things I wanted to but it was still a great visit and the kids are already talking about a Christmas return.  I can do that, and hopefully we can make it there the day after Thanksgiving again since it worked out great crowd-wise and traffic-wise last year.  The fountain shows go on until September 30th and then I think it’s all about chrysanthemums then for the fall season.  The chrysanthemum show is supposed to be exceptional as well, full of horticultural wonders and floral amazement, and it’s also still on my bucket list to visit that as well… but I think I’ll do that one on my own 😉

Visiting Jean

My friend Jean has an amazing garden which she’s been working on for years and she’s made it into a treasure trove of color and textures which flourish in spite of the thin mountainside soil she first started with.  I love a garden which you can walk through and experience and this garden fits that bill perfectly.

jeans pond

Yoga frog leads the class of froglets who follow along from the safety of the pond.

It’s a sheltered garden filled with the sounds of running water.  You enter the backyard though a shaded arbor at the end of a long drive which leads you through the large wooded lot.  What first grabs your attention when you step through the gate is the large pond carved into the mountainside.  It looks as if it’s always been there, a relaxing little nook left over from when the glaciers last scrubbed this part of Pennsylvania.

jeans pond

Looking out across from the house and main patio to the pond.  A natural stone path leads to a cozy seating area and fire pit, a clematis covered arch marks the path out into the garden beyond.

You have two choices here, explore the pond and gardens to your left or ignore the deck and patios (and inviting patio seating) surrounding the house and let the color of the slope to the right draw you in.  We usually choose the flowery slope 🙂

jeans garden

Jean’s garden is always magazine ready.  It’s got color, paths, destinations, focal points, vignettes… Here container plantings line the stone steps which take you to the upper garden.

I guess the upside to gardening on a thinly covered, rocky mountainside is that stone paths and walls are just an arm’s length away… assuming you’ve got a prybar and shovel at the end of that arm!  Over the years Jean has built up terraces and pickaxed out level planting areas to make room for her plant addiction and they really keep the garden interesting with their changes in elevation and solid structure.

jeans garden

Color galore with annual plantings and summer perennials.  Of course if there’s a nice bright phlox I have to include the picture 😉

The top of the slope has been kept open for sun and leveled to make room for all the summer color that fills this end of the garden.  On my last visit the dahlias were just starting to take off and I hope I wasn’t too pushy with my hints of how much I liked the colors and how well they’d look in my own garden!

Zinnias, calibrachoa, and of course dahlias.  This picture just doesn’t do the scale justice, the pot of purple fountain grass is probably about six feet up on a tower of container plantings.

Jean is just a little obsessed.  It’s hard for me to believe a gardener could be that way but she’s got plants all over, she’s got plant inventories, she’s involved in plant groups, she travels for plants, and she’s got about a million plans which are on the drawing board.  It’s always fun talking to her as her compulsively organized type A personality deconstructs gardening.

jeans dahlias

Even the plant supports are well thought out and complement the yellows, oranges, reds and purples of this section.

Beyond the sunny and bright center of the garden, pathways take you out into the more shaded woodland edges.  Hydrangeas abound and although I didn’t get any decent pictures of them individually, if you start looking you’ll see they show up nearly everywhere… and not just planted ones… believe it or not there are hundreds of hydrangea seedlings in any open spot of soil or gravel which gets a little sun.  What a thought to have to weed out handfuls of hydrangea!

jeans garden

Stone lined paths run throughout the garden and special shrubs and trees fill every available space.  Here the left side of the path is dominated by an eight foot tall planting of purple angelica (Angelica gigas ‘purpurea’).

If there’s one thing which Jean struggles with it’s the local vole population.  Deer are around as well but at least you can fence them out.  Voles are a curse.

jeans garden

The shadier planting still look great but at one time they were also filled with hostas.  Lots of them.

Soil additives, traps, caged plantings, containers, all are in use to wage war against the rodent hordes but as Jean likes to say, her stone walls and rock ledges are practically vole condos so it’s a continuous battle.

jeans garden

Round about the back a pathway has been planted up as a scented walkway.  On a previous visit the fragrance of oriental lilies filled the air, on my my last visit it’s been replaced by the scent of passionflowers and fragrant hostas.

Fortunately she’s holding her own and shows no signs of throwing in the trowel.  Score one more for Jean.

jeans garden

Shaded steps leading around to the fire pit.  I love how things fill in here, and you could plant a whole other garden with the dwarf goats beard, ferns, and other goodies which sprout up in the cracks.

I’ll leave you with one last pond photo as we return to the house.

jeans pond

Just the right amount of water lilies for interest and open water for light reflection.  I’m sure the Japanese maple is awesome in the fall but my favorite right now is the airy variegated moor grass Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’).

As you exit the garden off the main patio you can’t help but notice how well Jean grows climbing nasturtium.  Although I love the leaves and flower colors, this is one plant I always struggle with.

jeans nasturtium

Nasturtium climbing the arch.  It looks so healthy!

And that takes us back to where we started.  I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did and it’s inspired me to make more paths and get more shrubs in the ground.  Structure.  That’s what I need… just like snowdrops are what Jean needs 😉

Thanks Jean!

Tuesday View: The Front Border 8.1.17

It’s been a busy week so far with a return from traveling and now a busy afternoon prepping for something new… an open garden!  I’ve been toiling away all afternoon and just had to join up with Cathy at Words and Herbs for her Tuesday view even though the garden itself hasn’t changed much.  The neatness is what I had to show off, it doesn’t happen much that the garden is surrounded with such a green, trim lawn with crisp, freshly cut edges.

front border

Plants are deadheaded, the lawn is mown, edges are clean, and walks are swept!

As far as open gardens go I think I’m making it sound like much more than it really is.  It’s a mid-week visit by the local garden group, the Back Mountain Bloomers, and I don’t expect much more than a dozen or so people.  Numbers like that probably make other open day veterans chuckle but for me it’s some serious pressure.  It’s rare that my garden is visited by anyone with more than just a passing interest in plants, so hopefully they don’t judge my “in progress” areas with too critical an eye 🙂

front border

Holy neatness… and the ‘Limelight’ hydrangea isn’t looking too bad either.

There’s a good chance I brought this on myself.  After a less than subtle post titled “Come Visit”, and several other comments such as “stop by if you’re in the area” and “so when are you coming?”, I think people felt obligated.  I’m fine with that and hopefully can corner at least one or two people to talk way too long to about plants with.  Now I just have to hatch a plan to trick someone from Philly or upstate NY to drop by, since I’m sure I can bore them for hours since they won’t have as easy an escape as the locals do!

front border

Along the street I’m a little surprised by how all the fennel seedlings have exploded into bloom.  It’s one big airy thicket of licorice scented bee feeders and I should probably trim it back a bit before the mailwoman starts clutching an Epipen each time she needs to deliver a letter.

In the meantime let me introduce you to a few of the newest arrivals on the scene.  The first is an uber cool Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ which is blooming from seeds started last year.  I love it.  Thank you to Chanticleer Gardens since it’s entirely possible a seed head from one of their plants found its way into a pocket on my last visit.

rudbeckia triloba prairie glow

Unlike the more common yellow/black centered Rudbeckia triloba, ‘Prairie Glow’ has varying degrees of a rusty orange with just the faintest hints of yellow at the tips of the petals.  These are a little over five feet tall so it’s more than capable of holding it’s own in the depths of the border.

The second is ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ hydrangea.  White panicles of bloom and a pink tint which will hopefully deepen as the flowers age are what make this one special.  I have it on good advice that this will only get more impressive over the years, so it’s another plant I’m pleased with this week.

midsummer border

Everything was glowing in the evening light.  The ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas in the background have faded green, ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ is still a bright white with a touch of pink, and canna ‘Cannova rose’ and Verbena bonariensis really add a lot of color.

I think in the front yard there will be a few things worth seeing this week, so hopefully it’s enough to keep a gaggle of gardeners interested for at least a little while.  The tropical garden is looking decent as well but beyond that things get a little iffy.  Wish me luck that by the time people are walking past the pot ghetto they’ll be focused more on lunch plans than the unplanted chrysanthemum cuttings.

Come Visit

You may have heard that I mulched the garden.  It was brutal mid-summer work and would have been much better suited for more civilized spring or fall temperatures, but it’s done.  The schedule said now or never so I reluctantly chose now, and with the job done I’m way more pleased with myself than I should be.  With that in mind I’m taking a cue from bloggers such as Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening and Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and doing a walk-through post to finally give an accurate view of the garden.  I hope it doesn’t take away any of the mystery which sticking to closeups has provided, since in my opinion the “big picture” can tend to sum things up more than it should, so lets hope your reaction isn’t “oh, I thought it was bigger”…

front of house

Welcome.  Look at that mulch… ok, enough of that… the other first thing you’re likely to notice is the thicket of a garden out front.  It’s colorful but I don’t know if it does much for the house’s curb appeal.

Before getting too into the tour, I feel like there’s always something distracting going on at our house.  Tools, buckets, hoses, construction debris, and unfinished projects may appear at any point so consider this your fair warning.

garage cleanup

The garage cleanup is wrapping up this weekend.  Much of it just moved around but the new paint and big boy steps towards neatness are gradually making this into a space which doesn’t scare visitors or embarrass homeowners.

Surprisingly enough there were no run-ins with the law these past few days.  With the garage cleanup underway I was nearly positive there would be a visit from the EPA concerning the destruction on such a massive scale of vast areas of spider habitat.  There were also no emergency room visits.  I thought for sure when I broke that 6 foot bathroom mirror there would be some bad luck involved but so far just the usual.  Let’s get going though.  Here’s the foundation border as you proceed around the house.

foundation bed

During last year’s dry spell I officially gave up on this bed, but recovery has been swift.  Although it’s still a little “wooly” for a foundation planting I do think it’s coming along, even if sunflowers and 9 foot tall mullein don’t exactly go with the spiral-cut arborvitae.

The front street border shows up enough on Tuesdays so here’s just the very end looking over at the neighbors.  I snuck a few white ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea into her mulch beds but the blue ones are all her.  Amazing what ample rain can do for a hydrangea.

front border

At the end of the front yard looking toward the neighbor.  The golden juniper is about where my property ends.

I don’t know when I last showed the south side of the house.  It used to be covered by overgrown yew but two years ago I cut them back to the base and since then they’ve come back fine, but in the meantime I’ve filled up the dry, rooty space in front of them with all the odds and ends of my seed starting experiments.  In case it’s not obvious I call this my rock garden despite the fact there are no rocks and it’s mulched with shredded bark.

side yard

The rock garden along the south side of the house.  I should probably add rocks, that would seem appropriate… then of course I’d need to make it bigger as well 🙂

As we enter the back yard we pass last year’s Tuesday View, the tropical garden.

tropical garden

Warm weather is finally bringing on the tropics.  Unfortunately I’ve again allowed random things to take over, but sunflowers and squash seedling are always fun and they make a nice distraction from the poor drainage and rotted dahlias which should have filled the space…

Rounding the corner the backyard comes into view.  Look at that green grass!

backyard view

Potager (aka vegetable garden) around to the left, meadow behind the swings, deck and house to the right.

A quick glance to the right at the new lawn which replaced my most hated failure of a flower bed.  I’m so much happier with this area now, even though the world really doesn’t need more lawn to mow.

new lawn

The plan called for finishing off the deck in May, but the planner got distracted by the garden and ended up ripping everything out of here and planting grass instead.  This area has no name but please don’t let all the rocks confuse you into referring to this bed as the rock garden.

Here’s a closer look at the ‘potager’.

boxwood hedge

Whoops.  Wrong year.  I was wondering why several phlox ended up not returning this spring until I remembered how the garden looked last summer.

Here’s the view almost exactly a year later.

potager

Don’t judge my love for little hedges, it’s the only thing keeping this area neat, and I actually sort of enjoy trimming them.

The potager is officially the part of the garden which requires the most work and unfortunately I don’t provide it.  Chaos develops… well I guess chaos never “develops” it just degenerates… but something happens, and the flowers generally do their own thing and if we’re lucky a vegetable finds its way out every now and then.

potager

I have no problem supporting my local farmer after seeing how much work it takes to bring a broccoli from seed to soup.  Two things of note though are the marigolds (I needed lots of marigolds this year) and yellowing potato tops near the front mean something edible finally cometh.

I promise to limit my comments on the precious phlox.  They’re a favorite even though several clumps went to phlox heaven last summer.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Who says phlox seedlings are bad?  I got lucky and there are several nice ones here to replace the casualties.  ‘Cabot Pink’ is front and center and a sprig of ‘Salmon Beauty’ is off to the right, but the rest are volunteers which (should) be moved to new locations this fall.

A few more phlox as we move on over to the meadow garden.

phlox paniculata seedlings

Some more phlox and seedlings.  Athough the colors are more average I can tell the pink in the center is a ‘Blushing Shortwood’ seedling since it shares the same rounded flowers and slightly reflexed petals.

The meadow garden is beginning to look a little unkempt as the grasses continue to grow rather than politely drying up in the summer heat.  For now I’m hoping the golden rudbeckia flowers are enough of a distraction for minds which crave neatness all over.

meadow garden

I’m in the process of editing out the aspen suckers which are coming up throughout the meadow.  An aspen grove is the last thing my garden needs, but once I get distracted with these new ideas…

Moving past the swings and looking back, the neat hedge really does a lot to tame the messiness.  In complete disregard for plant health and proper timing I finished off the new swingset bed with a section of hedge transplanted from the back of the potager.  Just to be clear, sweltering 90F days in July are not recommended for transplanting boxwood, but I guess we’ll score one more for stupid ignorance.

potager

This is so neat and trim it’s almost sickening.

Although it’s nice to have a spare boxwood hedge growing around, this one only covered about half the section.  As luck would have it though, there was also a tray of rooted cuttings to fall back on.  To be clear on this as well, it’s generally not a good idea to root cuttings you don’t need and then throw them under the deck for at least five years while you wait for something to happen… and that ‘something’ also happens on a 90F sweltering July day… but as usual we just carry on and ignore what should have been.

boxwood cuttings

Fortunately boxwood is pretty hardy stuff and survived all this abuse with only minimal damage, and you can at least say the cuttings are very well rooted… which wasn’t much of a plus as I ripped apart the nursery tray trying to get them out.

Lets wrap things up though.  I feel this year there’s been a near heroic effort to keep weeds at bay at this end of the yard, especially since I just can’t figure out what to plant here. The soil gets too soggy in the rain to grow iris well, delicate flowers are destroyed during kickball games, and overly lush plants are often bushwhacked when looking for lost tennis balls.

hydrangea Annabelle

From a distance, with a neat edge on the bed, at just the right angle… many of this bed’s flaws become easier to ignore.

Lets also ignore the beds around the back porch.  They still need some ‘vision’ but for now as long as the most rampant weeds are kept at bay and the Virginia creeper is regularly beat back off the porch it’s a generally non-offensive area.

virginia creeper porch

Still a work in progress going around to the north side of the house.

We end our tour by coming around the garage and passing the ‘pot ghetto’ where all the least fortunate plants-in-waiting bide their time until the gardener makes up his mind on a location.  The gardener is not sure what the holdup is since all the other perfectly placed plantings really haven’t stood the test of time, but he likes to think someday inspiration will strike.  Studies show that inspiration usually strikes the day before a two week road trip, but until that happens the plants wait.

pot ghetto

Shameful.  

So that brings us back around to the front of the garage again.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that nothing has changed in terms of garage cleanup since we started, but it being a day of rest I think that can be overlooked into tomorrow.  For now I want to thank you for coming along and feel free to stop by if you’re in the area.  Just be ready.  If you think this post went on for way too long imagine what the real on-site experience is like!

Have a great week.

Snowdropping 2017

Rather than face 9 inches of snow and a 12F (-11C) low lets take a trip back to just four days ago when the springtime warmth brought on an emergency trip to enjoy this year’s first snowdrop trip.  It’s early of course, but we were on a mission this time and with the thermometer peaking at 60F (15C) it was now or never.  The mission was to visit Dr. John Lonsdale at Edgewood Gardens, and take a tour of his overflowing snowdrop and cyclamen greenhouses before the warm weather set all the flowers to seed.  We were not disappointed.

galanthus and cyclamen

Snowdrops and hardy cyclamen filling the greenhouse benches.

John lives and gardens in Exton, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia and from the looks of things you’d never guess he has yet to quit his day job.  These thousands of drops and bulbs (plus about a billion other plants spread out across his yard) are just a passionate hobby and sideline which is Edgewood Gardens.  You may already know this since he is a regular feature at garden events and lectures up and down the East coast, but to see his garden and hear him talk you would think for sure he lives the life of a full time nurseryman.

galanthus homersfield

Galanthus ‘Homersfield’ in the Lonsdale greenhouse.

I have plenty of pictures here and will likely ramble on too long so to keep things focused I’ll just add that John will be putting out his first snowdrop sales list this summer, and if you’re even just slightly interested in seeing what drops might be available send him an email via his Edgewood Gardens website.

forced snowdrops

I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I thought.  Most of my visit was spent poking through the benches admiring all the characteristics and nuances that a plain little green and white winter flowering bulb can give.

John may be growing a few extra bulbs for sale, but it doesn’t take more than a walk up his driveway to recognize he’s plant obsessed with a weakness towards collecting.

potted snowdrops

Hundreds of carefully inventoried and labeled pots fill every square inch.

The full range of snowdrops is represented in the greenhouse, selections from seed grown species right alongside some of the most coveted European varieties, many of which are nearly impossible to find on either side of the Atlantic.  This is even more impressive when you consider the cost and complications which are involved in bringing these plants into the States legally (something you’ll quickly notice when browsing overseas sources).

galanthus green tear

An all green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Green Tear’, is one of those drops which broke records a few years ago when first offered on eBay.  Someone thought $500 for a single bulb was just right for feeding their obsession.

When they’re all together like this it’s hard to pick out favorites…. or even distinguish one white drop from another, but a few stand out even to a beginner like myself.

galanthus diggory

The puffy pantaloons look of Galanthus ‘Diggory’ (pantaloons as in pants, not the twenty one pilots song)

Travel is supposed to broaden the mind but I’m afraid all this trip did was make my snowdrop obsession worse.  I picked up several new names to add to the want-list…

galanthus duckie

Galanthus ‘Duckie’ on the left and top.  I loved the wide flat petals.

galanthus moortown

I also like how the green mark inside Galanthus ‘Moortown’ bleeds up a bit and stains the inside.  Plus it’s a nice big sturdy drop 🙂

galanthus green mile

Galanthus ‘Green Mile’, another sought after, deeply saturated green snowdrop.

Ok, so that might be plenty of snowdrops, but before we leave the greenhouse the hardy Cyclamen coum deserve some attention as well.  Not to pat myself on the back too strongly, but these are the same plants which John offers for sale through his website, and somehow through a remarkable feat of self control I managed to limit myself to just four carefully selected plants.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum at their peak in the greenhouse.  It will be another few weeks before the ones I have here in my own garden begin to flower, and weather permitting they will be just as nice.

There were also plenty of seedlings coming along for future sales.

hardy cyclamen seedlings

Various hardy and not so hardy cyclamen seedlings coming along in the “other” greenhouse.   If you look closely you can even see some of the cool purple centered C hederifolium coming along in the center of the photo.  Even the little babies color up!

… and that’s just in the greenhouses.  Because of the exceptional temperatures things were pushing ahead outside as well.

colchicum kesselringii

The absolutely perfect Colchicum kesselringii, a late winter flowering relative of the more common fall blooming colcicum.

adonis amurensis

The first of the Adonis amurensis were coming up to take advantage of the sun.

And cactus.  I barely mentioned the cactus beds, but there they were looking as if they were growing a few hundred miles West and South of this Philly garden.

purple opuntia

An opuntia (prickly pear) which wrinkles up and takes on an unusual purple color once temperatures fall.  I wonder if it blooms as nicely as the regular version, the spines sure do look just as fierce!

Oh and I’m sure you’re done with snowdrops, but there were more outside as well, both in bloom and just beginning to sprout.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

I believe this is Galanthus ‘Mrs Macnamara’, a perfect beauty and surprisingly hardy and early.  Word is this bunch has been going strong for a couple weeks already, and still looks this good.

Hellebores were also just beginning.

helleborus niger

A few of many Helleborus niger (Christmas rose) which were coming up around the garden.  Here on the slope they looked absolutely perfect.

Even a few of the trees and shrubs were showing signs of life.  The witch hazels (Hamamelis) were in bloom all over the gardens, but the delicate flowers of the Japanese plum (Prunus mume) really look too delicate for a Pennsylvania February.

prunus mume

Prunus mume.  Dr. Lonsdale told me the cultivar but at that point I’m pretty sure my brain was way too full to retain any lengthy Japanese names.

I could easily spend all day or another day at Edgewood Gardens, but if you’re at all familiar with our Philly snowdrop jaunts you’ll know we always fit in way too much for the still short days.  Before our greenhouse visit we happily dropped an hour and a half at a local park to again admire the sheets of naturalized winter aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis) which grow there.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

The forest floor was buzzing with hundreds of honeybees taking advantage of these first flowers of 2017.

We even managed to find a few snowdrops just coming up.  What a perfect combination, and quite a contrast to the deer chewed pachysandra, weeds and brambles.

naturalized eranthis bulbs

Naturalized eranthis and snowdrop bulbs.  Given a few acres and about 150 years and you might also have a similar show.

We were so lucky with the weather this year.  Snowdropping in February is one thing, doing it in short sleeves is unheard of even in the warmest of years.  Hopefully when March rolls around and it’s time to head north to visit Hitch Lyman and Temple Gardens we will be just as lucky.  History says otherwise though.

playing in the snow

Temperatures dropped to normal within 24 hours of our visit and we finally got a good coating of snow to cover up any signs of spring.  It now looks more normal for February, but that doesn’t explain why the kids can’t just go sledding in their snow pants like everyone else.

As usual a special thanks goes out to Paula for her annual enthusiasm for these trips, and also a big thanks goes out to Dr. Lonsdale for being so generous with his time, his knowledge and also his garden.  Truth be told I may have just kind of invited myself over that day, but you would never have guessed it by how warmly I was received by both John and by his other (more scheduled) visitors.  It was great getting to see everyone and I hope we do this again!

Setting the Table

The holiday season has been off to an early start this year.  Under pressure from the children the decorations went up the afternoon of Thanksgiving and within 48 hours the house went from reasonably autumnal to yuletide overload.  I love it of course and even if it means we’ve finally all fallen victim to the day after Thanksgiving holiday commercialism, at least we’ll go down with a smile.  With that in mind, might as well fire the holiday candle full flame and head down to Longwood Gardens for an early peek at the holiday display.

This wouldn’t be our first visit to the gardens during the holidays, we’ve been down before and to be honest I was a little nervous about the crowds on this trip.  The last two visits managed to hit on some of their busiest days and with admission tickets sold out for Friday’s opening day I was holding my breath to see how Sunday would work out.  I should have relaxed, it worked out great.  We arrived around 3pm and were able to just fit into the main parking lot, showed our tickets at the gate, and then walked right in with plenty of smiles and not a single delay.

Longwood Christmas

The exhibition hall with this year’s focal point, a huge ivy and poinsettia tree highlighted with dozens and dozens of white moth (Phalaenopsis) orchids.

I usually have a plan of what’s to be done and seen, but now that the kids are older they’re far more determined to do and see what they want.  There was a much faster pace as we rushed through the displays and barely noticed much more exciting things such as orchid displays, bonsai trees and carnivorous plants.  There was also this odd fascination with organ recitals and Christmas carols, of which we were required to sit (and sing) through two full showings.  This enthusiasm must not have gone unnoticed since by the end of the second session our organist, Rudy Lucente, invited the girl up to give her a close-up of the organ mechanics.  What a thrill that was for our budding musician.

Longwood Christmas

Rudy Lucente at the organ.

So the visit took on a different tone.  I did get to explore the gardens for a bit before the sun set but the visit was more about enjoying the season than it was about examining every new plant.

Longwood Christmas

I sometimes forget there are ‘other’ parts of the conservatory which are devoted to music and grand entertaining. 

Once we had a bite to eat and the sun went down it was time to re-explore with all the lights on.

Longwood Christmas

A Longwood Christmas inside the conservatory.  I was particularly impressed with the huge hanging chrysanthemum balls.  Someday I hope to get down here for that show as well, I’d love to see the greenhouses decked out in fancy autumn mums.

For all the visits we’ve had this might be the first where we’ve sat through the fountain display.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that since the water, lights, and music were more impressive than I thought they could be…. did I mention I’m more of a plants person?

Longwood Christmas

I guess the DuPonts were onto something when they spent millions on building fountains and then inviting friends to view them. 

The decorated grounds are the highlight of the night though.  I’d show more pictures but we really just spent our time wandering, sipping a warm drink, and enjoying the fact this was our first above the freezing mark visit.

Longwood Christmas

A Longwood Christmas on the grounds.  Music, snacks, beverages, bonfires, and a beautiful night.

What seemed like pushing the season turned out to be perfect.  The two weeks since have flown by and I know this trip wouldn’t have fit in between other visits and snowy weather.  Better to get it in while you can.

Give >their website< a visit even if you can’t make it yourself.  I’ve left out so much and their photography is exceptional.  You can also easily see if things are crowded and if tickets are selling out.

All the best as we begin to wrap up the year!

The Temple Nursery 2016

I’m not exactly sure how many years it takes before something becomes a tradition but I’m going with two, and since this year marks my fourth springtime visit to the Temple Nursery’s open garden day I guess it is now a tradition, and tradition shouldn’t be tampered with.  I say that because up until the morning of the visit I wasn’t entirely sure I would actually make the drive up to Ithaca NY and beyond since this season’s early warmth had me pretty sure there wouldn’t be much left to look at as far as the garden’s snowdrop (Galanthus) collection goes.  To a certain extent that turned out to be true, but at the end I realized a day visiting a garden in the (almost) spring is never a bad idea, and even if the weather’s not perfect it’s always fun to get out once winter starts retreating.

hitch lyman garden

Side view of Hitch Lyman’s upstate NY garden.  The nursery’s namesake ‘temple’ is visible in the back.

If this visit has become tradition, imperfect weather has also become a tradition, and after weeks of above freezing, almost balmy weather, the bottom dropped out of the weather system two nights before.  Light snow for Saturday and then a low of 17F (-8C) the next morning did in many of the remaining snowdrops and wilted many of the emerging perennials.  We’re used to freezing our kazzoies off on these visits though, so by the time the temperature rose into the 40’s it felt downright balmy.  No wind either and not a single snow squall during the visit… unheard of!

galanthus ex. highdown

The Lyman garden is known for its snowdrop collection, and only a few remained in bloom after all the ups and downs of the weather.  Here is a Galanthus labeled ‘ex. highdown’ which has held up remarkably well to the cold.

The majority of the snowdrops were past, which is somewhat surprising considering The Garden Conservancy had already moved the open date forward two weeks and the date was nearly a full month earlier than last year, but what can you do at such an unsettled time of the year?  I just felt a little bad for others who had traveled much further to see what is normally an exciting collection of hundreds of different snowdrop varieties growing happily in the garden’s small woodland area.

eranthis hyemalis noel ayres

Just a few late blooming winter aconite remained.  This might be Eranthis hyemalis ‘Noel Ayres’ or something similar.  Compared to the bright yellow blooms of the species, this might be an Eranthis only a collector could love. 

I also felt bad for the plants.  The majority of the snowdrops were flat on the ground from the previous night’s cold, and overall the garden did not show well for someone expecting swaths of snowdrops and early flowers.  They’ll recover I’m sure, but frozen plants are never fun.

freeze damage primula

Early primroses wilting as the warm sun hits them.  This would have been a much cheerier sight just a few days ago.

Still I found plenty to keep me entertained, and I enjoyed the company of the garden’s owner, Conservancy volunteers, and several other entertaining guests.  Hanging out… is that too common a term for a Conservancy event?… outdoors with other like minded gardeners on a not-too-cold March afternoon is something I don’t get to enjoy too often in my neck of the woods, so I was quite pleased for making the drive up.

galanthus dr dress

It looked like some kind of sea creature to me, but it’s a Galanthus labeled ‘Dr Dress’ which I believe is the source of this unusually curly leaved snowdrop.

Of course there were blooming snowdrops as well.  I was pleased with some of the later blooming varieties such as the daintily named ‘Dumpy Green’

galanthus dumpy green

Galanthus ‘Dumpy Green’

and the very attractive late 19th century snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

galanthus virescens

The classic green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

Luckily for me one of my favorites was still in bloom.  It’s been divided since my last visit and is still doing well, Galanthus ‘RD Nutt’ is one that always catches my eye, even though it’s no more white or green or fancy than any other of Mr. Lyman’s many other snowdrops.

galanthus rd nutt

I’ve asked and then forgotten if ‘RD Nutt’ is the name or source of this snowdrop.  It always seems such a neat and heavy bloomer, and appears to be holding up well to the weather.

So I’m glad my schedule cleared up enough to make the trip again this year, and it was a treat to finally see the gardens with a few traces of blue in the background sky.  We will see what next year brings but I’m sure as usual we will make the best of it!

hitch lyman garden

Hitch Lyman’s home, moved to the spot in the 90’s and restored back to it’s original grandeur.

One final note though.  I was a little insulted by how well the hardy cyclamen were doing considering the sad state of my own plantings.  My own Cyclamen coum were killed back to the roots and failed to put on much of a show this spring.  I’m going to blame a lack of mulch and see if I can’t do something about that next year.  We just didn’t have the protection of a snow cover last year, and it looks like these did.

cyclamen coum upstate ny

Some Cyclamen coum looking quite happy in their upstate New York home.  A nice woodland mulch and most likely a protective blanket of snow have them blooming happily with nearly perfect foliage.

Thanks again to the Conservancy and Mr. Lyman for another enjoyable visit, and in case you are interested the Temple Nursery sells snowdrops as well as growing them.   To get on his mailing list (there is no online available) send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you should receive a listing in January.  Act fast, they sell out in just a few weeks 🙂

Have a great Easter!