Snowdropping 2019

Better late than never… and although Paula and I did meet up for a February greenhouse tour of snowdrops, that visit was a far cry from our traditional all-day snowdrop adventure.  Fortunately we were able to get one in.  This trip was a check off the bucket list, and it involved a four hour drive in a completely different direction,  with us getting out of the car just short of the Eastern tip of Long Island, NY.  Understandably my wife told us several times we were crazy (although she did use slightly different terms).

galanthus david baker

Treasures tucked in under the shade of a southern magnolia.  Galanthus ‘David Baker’ sits next to what I think is a golden variegated sweet flag (Acoris gramineus ‘Ogon’).

We had been hoping to visit this garden for a few years now, and the more sane version started with me heading East for a visit with my parents, Paula driving out the night before, a one hour ride to the garden in the morning, and then wherever the weekend leads after that.  Of course other obligations interfered and once again the plan didn’t work out, but our host was exceptionally accommodating and so was the weather, so tally-ho!

snowdrop garden

Snowdrops were peppered everywhere in this mostly sunny garden.  Our host kind of confessed he’s pushing several hundred cultivars, so ‘everywhere’ does end up being a necessity!

This was the garden of a true galanthomaniac but still remarkably balanced.  Roses, perennials, evergreen plantings, interest for all seasons but still space for tons of galanthus!

galanthus green tip richard ayres

Not the best photo, but I do like galanthus ‘Green Tip Richard Ayres’.  I like it a lot.

This is a garden where the majority of snowdrops were planted in pond pots, a plastic mesh pot used for aquatic plants, but also embraced by serious snowdrop growers as a way to cram tons of cultivars into a small plot yet still be able to lift and divide and find bulbs easily.  Even when the dormant bulbs show nothing above ground.  It makes a lot of sense and the results do speak for themselves.

galanthus godfrey owen lady beatrix stanley little ben

The shade of conifers is usually not good at all for spring bulbs, but on the edge of a sunny lawn with just a few sheltering boughs above, galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’, ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, ‘Little Ben’ and others, are all quite happy.

Although I won’t use the word obsessive, this is absolutely a collector’s garden with a careful inventory and organized labeling and placing.  You kind of need that when the numbers start adding up.  The plantings may appear to spread casually throughout the garden but you will notice (even faster when your host points it out) that there’s another brilliant quirk of order.  From one area to the next, all the plantings are organized alphabetically.  ‘Dodo Norton’ follows ‘Danube Star’ while ‘Dracott Greentip’ sits just to the right.  It would make an OCD heart sing 🙂

galanthus natalie garton chris sanders

Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’ (aka ‘Chris Sanders’) soaking up the March sun at the edge of the rose garden.  Note the brown label off to the right, that’s our host’s sign that this clump is marked for digging, dividing, and sale(!) this summer.

I’m going to guess that years ago this gardener realized that when collecting, you can only really hold on to so many of any given cultivar.  You can also only trade and give away so many, so for several years our host has taken to offering a few (actually quite a few) each year for sale.  I’m going to foolishly direct you to >my snowdrop page< for contact information (scroll down about halfway to ‘snowdrop sources’ and you’ll see him listed by name)… although the selfish side of me is hoping you don’t beat me out to my favorites, and leave me with the leftovers since it sells out fast.  While you’re requesting a list you may also wish to ask him about getting email updates from his annual UK trip each spring.  It’s a fun narrative of an A list of snowdrop events and personalities from overseas, and will help you steel through the last few weeks until our own season takes off.

snowdrop garden

Round the house another garden filled with snowdrops 😉

I’m sparing you from most of the endless stream of individual photos, but there was one more snowdrop which really stood out for me.  Under the pergola a monster clump of elwesii caught my eye even from across the garden.  Well over a foot high, with wonderfully large flowers that still held a classic grace, this was one more snowdrop for my growing list of favorites.  I don’t know what the plans are for this one, but I made sure to drop plenty of hints that I’d like to be on the waiting list!

Galanthus elwesii under the pergola. Sorry about the lighting, but as you know I’m more enthusiastic than skilled.

I hope I pre-warned our host sufficiently that we would surely overstay our welcome, but even after two hours plus of garden wandering he still graciously extended us an invitation for tea.

snowdrop garden

Our host wisely excused himself midway to get some inventorying done while we photographed, but we found him anyway and the warm shelter of the juniper hedge made for a perfect spot to enjoy snowdrops and sun while talking galanthus.

I love a late winter garden visit where the sun is strong and the lawn is dry, and it’s ok to just sit there and take it all in.  Of course the close up quarters to so many snowdrops added a few more favorites to the list, but what I really enjoy is hearing the stories and getting the advice and coming up with new plans.  We were really spoiled on this trip 🙂

galanthus bernard rohlich

Ok.  One more, Galanthus ‘Bernard Rohlich’.  Note the brown label, hopefully my budget can handle this one!

So finally it was inside for tea, which we probably overstayed as well, and then out the door.  Our host was still kind enough to offer us more garden-wandering time but a long drive home was hanging over our heads.  We headed out to the car but not before one last pause to admire all the galanthus ‘viridapice’ clumping throughout the garden.  If I remember correctly these were the drops which started most of the obsession in this garden.  A pack of bulbs simply marked ‘snowdrops’, and thirty years later (and a lot of luck to get such a nice form of viradapice in that pack!) and the garden has drops all over.

galanthus viridapice

Just one of many, many healthy clumps of galanthus ‘viridapice’ growing throughout the hedges and woodland plantings of the garden.

After we said our goodbyes we began the journey back west.  Of course there was a side-trip.  With 40 minutes to go till closing we popped into the Bayard Cutting Arboretum for a quick run through the snowdrop highlights of this former estate, present day NY State park.  It’s an old manor house property which dates back to the late 1880’s and recalls Long Island’s history as an escape for the rich and famous of NYC.

bayard cutting arboretum

“Westbrook” overlooking the Connetquot river and estuary as it leads out to the Great South Bay on Long Island’s South Shore.

This arboretum was one of my favorite off season destinations while growing up.  The coastal air and sun would usually keep the walkways clear of snow and ice, and the pinetum plantings and many paths and trails were always a nice outing.  Since I’ve already mentioned I was a little weird as a child, I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I knew where many a snowdrop patch was located.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus

Naturalized snowdrops (galanthus nivalis) filling in amongst the vinca minor.

We were quite satisfied with this stop.  Not to date myself but over the decades many a change has come through here.  Hurricane Gloria in ’85 was probably the worst when it wiped out an awesome hundred year old conifer collection and closed the park for months, but saltwater flooding from Sandy in 2012 seems to have done in my favorite patch of giant snowdrops (g.elwesii).  Still it’s a wonderful spot which I’m happy to see protected and accessible.

bayard cutting arboretum

A maintenance moneypit I’m sure, but the Tudor style with awesome shingling and crazy chimneys puts the approaching worm supermoon to shame.

But even our epic adventures have to heed reality, so back on the road to drop Paula off at her car and then part our ways.  I still got a couple hours in with my parents (and of course a garden tour!) before hitting the road but it was still a satisfyingly long day even with the late night drive home.  I will recommend it to all crazy galanthoholics 😉

Thanks again to our host for a very enjoyable visit, thanks Paula, and here’s to hoping our latest drop of snow (the real thing, not flowery kind) melts quickly and I can get out again and enjoy the snowdrops here.  Have a great weekend!

Snowdrops, Quickly.

Of course my life gets stupidly busy just when the local snowdrop season starts, but how can I complain when each day brings new blooms?  Thursday and Friday were warm and that’s just what these snowdrops were waiting for.

galanthus blonde inge

Galanthus ‘Blonde Inge’ on her first day out in the sun.  She’s still a little pale but her yellow inners just glow in the afternoon light.

For those who yawn at the sight of more mostly white, always tiny flowers I apologize.  I’m in a rush, but I’ll still take the time to be that guy at the party who goes on way too much about something he’s already told you a million times before.  I can’t help myself and even the half hearted ‘uh-huhs’ and sideways glances won’t be enough.  Such is the curse of the galanthaholic.

galanthus rosemary burnham

Galanthus ‘Rosemary Burnham’ starts out tiny, but gets a little bigger as each warmish day passes.  For some reason I don’t think she’s as green as usual this spring but still a beauty.

For the next few days the weather looks perfect for bringing on the main season of snowdrops.  Here in my part of America, snowdrop season is often a real up and down thing, with none of the gentle transitions which mark more moderate climes.  Some types take it all in stride, such as this Galanthus gracilis which a friend brought back for me after a spring visit to Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens.  It comes up early and for the most part shrugs off even the worst ice and cold.

galanthus gracilis

Galanthus gracilis with its trademark twisted foliage.  It’s growing like a weed here in this dry, sunny spot alongside the front walk, but the exposed spot does seem to yellow the flowers a bit.

Not everyone takes the weather in stride.  Just a week ago temperatures dropped down into the single digits,  snow and ice were all over again, and some of the more exposed drops took a hit.  I’ll spare you those pictures but here’s one that’s not too bad, of ‘Gerard Parker’ growing in the front border.

galanthus gerard parker

‘Gerard Parker’ with a few singed blooms and burnt tips.  Still nice enough, but notice ‘Primrose Warburg’ coming up in back with perfect flowers.  Primrose is just a little later and missed the worst of the weather, and Gerald might have to go back to a more sheltered position.

As I work out which drops get to fill in the front street border the yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are working hard to fill in on their own.  It may take more time than I have, but someday I hope to have sheets of yellow and white filling this part of the yard.

snowdrops and winter aconite

Year by year the snowdrops (G. nivalis) and winter aconite fill in.  Hopefully I didn’t put too much mulch down for this year’s crop of seedlings to come up through.

‘Nothing Special’ might be a good choice for the front border.  It’s a strong growing beauty which seeds out a bit as well and I’m sure as a taller snowdrop it might compete better with the winter aconite than the little Galanthus nivalis which are there now.

galanthus nothing special

Galanthus ‘Nothing Special’

So much for quickly, eh?  Speaking of snowdrops and how some are not good competitors here’s ‘Norfolk Blonde’, a tiny pale thing which might be my favorite thing this minute.  I’m just so pleased that it came back a second year and didn’t fade away into the growing heap of snowdrops I regret losing.

galanthus norfolk blonde

The petite ‘Norfolk Blonde’.  I had to prune a few leaves off the cyclamen to keep it from overwhelming my little darling.  You’d judge me if I said how much I paid for this one, especially considering she’s easily doubled in size from last year!

I’ll leave off on an amazingly vigorous drop which a friend gave me two years ago.  It’s considered a cross between two species (elwesii x nivalis) and in its second year it’s already forming little clumps.  I love the foliage and it’s a heavy bloomer as well.

galanthus elwesii x nivalis

Another contender for drift status, this Galanthus elwesii x nivalis hybrid will hopefully continue to multiply and flower strongly over the next few years.

As you know I could go on and on, but it’s bed time and I’ve got a snowdrop adventure planned for tomorrow morning.  Fair warning that there will be more pictures and way more snowdrop talk, so feel free to tune me out until April if need be.

Like the Little Train That Could

I have faith in March this year.  I think he’s a changed month and there will be none of the shenanigans he usually throws our way in terms of weather extremes and spring crushing snow loads.  I think.

snowdrops and winter aconite

Up by the shelter of the front porch, this clump of snowdrops and winter aconite are always first in bloom… even if for only a few hours between snow melts…

It’s only just the first week of course, and this optimism is based entirely on the few hours between Saturday’s snowfall melting off, the sun coming out, above freezing temperatures for just three or so hours, and then the next snowstorm rolling in Sunday afternoon.  I was quick to run out though and take a few pictures while the flowers were also feeling optimistic.

hamamelis diane

I went ahead (perhaps foolishly) and planted out the new witch hazels in whatever decent, unfrozen, spots I could find.  This is ‘Diane’ crammed into a spot close to the street.

Most of the garden is still fully winter, but if I crop out the patches of snow and focus on the few patches of early snowdrops, winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), and witch hazels, well I guess you can have a little hope for spring.

hamamelis barmstedt gold

Hamamelis ‘Barmstedt Gold’ a little further down the border with the earliest snowdrops to appear in the open garden.  ‘Gerard Parker’ is the name of the snowdrop in case you’re wondering, and yes, I still need to do a little cleanup here…

This is the time of year which consists of me shuffling back and forth between the same few spots and poking and prodding every last shoot in an attempt to get them to sprout faster.  I doubt it helps, but on a “warmer” day I’m out there way more than the weather deserves and I’m sure it rolls some eyes.  My neighbor refers to it as ‘you’re out taking pictures of dirt again, aren’t you’ season, and that always reminds me that I should really find a more private spot in the backyard to raise these plants.

galanthus diggory wendys gold

Also in front amongst the shelter of the foundation plantings, galanthus ‘Diggory’ is just coming in to  bloom with ‘Wendy’s Gold’ behind.

The thrill was short-lived.  We ended up with about six inches and although it’s pretty and not all that cold I won’t be sharing any of those pictures.  Im huddling indoors and for my plant-fix it’s back to the snow-free, yet underwhelming winter garden in the rear of the garage.

growing under lights

The last of the woodshop nonsense is finally out of this area and I’m making it 100% plants.  Nothing too exciting going on, but new seeds and cuttings are exciting enough for me, and I’ll show more of that in time. 

So just a couple more days and I’m sure March will be showing his more personable side.  I don’t think I’m asking for too much, just no hailstorms or blizzards this year please.

On a side note, this upcoming weekend (Saturday, March 9th) marks the third annual Galanthus Gala, hosted by David Culp of Downingtown Pennsylvania.  This event is sure to thrill snowdrop lovers and plant lovers in general, and is normally one of the highlights of my late winter snowdrop-a-thon.  Alas this year I cannot attend, and the thoughts of missing out on seeing friends and browsing sales tables and talking gardens would have me depressed if I happened to dwell on it too long, so I won’t.  I will just recommend that you should go if you can, stop by, rub elbows with the garden obsessed from the US and beyond, sit in for a few talks, and maybe leave with a few new goodies.  I hear that besides a healthy supply of snowdrops and such, there will be even more hellebores and also a nice haul of witch hazels this year.  Perhaps my wallet will appreciate missing out on more witch hazels but I’m going to be a little crabby about that for a while.

In any case, all the best for March and have a great week!

A Return to Edgewood

In hindsight the weather could have been better for the two hour plus drive down there, but when you’re matching up three busy calendars you sometimes just get what you get.  Fortunately for the most mountainous part of the drive the bulk of the snow hadn’t yet arrived, and for the flatter portions the thermometer was beginning to rise.  At least it was pretty to look at…. I guess…

witch hazel diane

A slow, careful walk up the icy drive gave plenty of time to admire the witch hazels.  I believe this is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’.

We really had to squeeze this visit in because John Lonsdale, Edgewood Garden’s proprietor, was busy loading up trays and packing the truck for the Pine Knot Hellebore festival in Virginia which kicks off this weekend and then runs for the next three.  Lucky you if you’re close enough to visit, but for now the seven and a half hour drive is more than I’m willing to consider… you never know though.  It’s on the bucket list.  >click here< for exact dates and locations of this and other Edgewood sales events.

hardy cyclamen foliage

Cyclamen ready to hit the road.  Such awesome foliage you almost forget they also cover themselves with bloom, C. maritimum on the left wouldn’t be hardy for me, but I could easily pick out at least four or five of the C. hederifolium to the right and they’d do just fine here in the mountains 🙂

My friend Paula met up with us and we had a great morning looking at and talking about just about any and all snowdrop nuances you could think of.  Then we talked about cyclamen.  As usual I overstayed my welcome.

John lonsdale Paula Squitiere

John and Paula working their way through the G. plicatus section of snowdrops.

I honestly intended to take pictures of some of the latest and greatest hybrids and named sorts and share the photos here, but I really do get a little overwhelmed when hit with the variety of species John grows.  If you’d like a more focused report I’d recommend clicking >here< to read the recent Washington Post article on Edgewood Gardens and some of John’s work with several of the rarest snowdrop sorts.

galanthus gracilis

Just one of the many pots which made me say “oh look at this one, I like that too”.  I believe these were all G. gracilis seedlings.

Of course I like galanthus for the flowers as much as anyone else, but for some reason the varied foliage of the snowdrops had me distracted on this visit.

galanthus gracilis

Curly thin foliage, flat wide foliage with a grey tint, wide apple green…  This photo shows some of the range in Galanthus foliage.  G. gracilis mostly but also a few other species such as G. plicatus and G. ikariae subsp. snogerupii…. a name which I can never resist saying 🙂

I think it’s a bad sign that I now know the names of more than three or four snowdrop species…

galanthus ikarie

Various pots of Galanthus ikarie seedlings.  Such nice foliage, some big flowers here and there, and even one with a nice flush of green on the petal tips.

There weren’t just a few species.  I asked which ones in particular he had growing in the greenhouses and his response was just “all of them”.  It was very cool to see, but even that was overshadowed by the thousands of snowdrop seedlings coming up on nearly every spare shelf or extra rack.

galanthus seedlings

Future snowdrop flowers.

The incredible diversity of species coming along is staggering but before I was even able to get myself grounded again it was off to the next greenhouse to check in on some hardy cyclamen.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum filling the bench with an exceptional range of forms and colors.

I took this visit as an opportunity to correct the severe lack of cyclamen coum which my indoor garden is dealing with this winter.  For those who need to know, my budget only allowed me to pick four new ones, so you needn’t worry that I made a huge dent in his offerings.

cyclamen coum porcelain

Cyclamen coum ‘Porcelain’, a nicely striped special strain he had coming along, as well as a particularly dark form below it.

Speaking of budgets, since last year was such a success in restraint and control, I’ve decided to leave off on a good note and never mention tracking my gardening costs again.  It seems almost pointless to worry about a few dollars here and there when I’m faced each month with writing the checks to put a ten year old girl through gymnastics.  All my gardening budget is now officially part of my health care budget, and that would be mental health specifically.  Spending money on the garden will hopefully distract me from the endless drain of money going towards filling birthday cards and financing icecream shoppes and filling the belly of a twelve year old boy who always seems inches from famine.

eranthis orange glow

Another Edgewood offering this year, ‘Orange Glow’ winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis).  I could have easily added a few of these to my order, but have to keep faith that my little seedling from a previous year is still just waiting to show itself.

As long as we’re talking about the budget I wasn’t going to talk about, I might as well admit this visit wasn’t all just the usual me inviting myself over to look at plants.  John has put out a spring listing of plants and I may have needed to pick up a few snowdrops as well as my new cyclamen.  It can be found >here< and although I did save on shipping by picking up directly, you may choose to avoid a five hour roundtrip through snow and icy roads, and just have them mailed to your doorstep.

galanthus plicatus

A large flowered Galanthus plicatus seedling.  The rule of thumb here is about one inch for that particularly fat digit, and that puts this well endowed snowdrop at over two inches!

As always it was a great time, and even though the walk out went even more slowly with precious cargo in hand, we still took a few more minutes to again admire the optimistic witch hazels lining the drive.

hamamelis witch hazel

Icy witch hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Barmstedt Gold’) in full bloom despite the sub-freezing temperatures.  Everyone should have a few of these.

Thanks all around, and since this post is starting to sound like a shameless plug for Edgewood gardens (which it is) I guess I should say I received no compensation for it, and as a matter of fact it was actually a little costly even if you don’t count the stop at IKEA on the way home.  Well on second thought that’s not completely true.  On a previous visit John gave me an ‘unsellable’ cyclamen which had a few yellow leaves.  It’s now growing and blooming beautifully in its new home, so maybe that cyclamen was all just part of some elaborate master plan 😉

Have a great week, and judging by the strength of the sun this morning you can probably guess what my next post will feature heavily!

Moving at the Speed of Stopped

Spring would be nice but it’s snowing again, and it’s hard to look normal trimming back dead perennials and grasses in a white-out so even I will be staying indoors this morning.  I suppose spring will make it eventually, it usually does, but in the meantime looking at snowy snowdrops while my toes are freezing has lost its magic.  Whatever.

galanthus nothing special

Most of the snowdrops have recovered from being buried in snow for two weeks.  This is ‘Nothing Special’ for those who need to know.

As the snow continues to accumulate now might be the perfect time to confess a few more gardening purchases.  Let me start by first congratulating myself on not ordering any hardy camellias from Camellia Forest Nursery.  They are extremely reasonable in price and I was already excited about them through speaking with Charles Cresson and having several of my own seedlings survive last winter’s cold.  Right now I’m not buying any, but you never know what will happen if this cold lasts.

I’ve spent some money on far more reasonable purchases.  $4.88 for some water soluble plant food and $22 for a new pair of long handled loppers to help in the spring cleanup.  The fertilizer is for some of the potted bulbs in the winter garden and the loppers are to replace a pair which disappeared last summer.  Really I should really charge the loppers to the ‘child care’ fund but there’s also a possibility I’ve thrown them onto the compost pile again, so for now it’s a garden charge.

A not-so-reasonable purchase was $14 for rabbit repellant.  The snow crocus were true to their name and emerged right as the last snow melted so as usual the rabbits are excited and hungry for something other than blueberry buds and dwarf conifer shoots.  I don’t mind losing a few flowers but based on the math of over a thousand bulbs planted I would think leaving a half dozen or so might be a reasonable expectation… unless you’re a rabbit.  One day of blooms were enjoyed and then another snowstorm appeared to have neutralized the repellant.  My meadow is once again bare.

crocus in lawn

A few crocus out back in the meadow.  There are still a bunch of late ones coming along, but once the rabbits find them they don’t stop.

So I don’t think that’s too bad.  $41 to add to the tally and for the most part it’s all gardening essentials.  The local garden center opens again next week so I’m already accepting the fact some pansies and a hellebore will follow me home, but for right now responsibility is the name of the game.  Good for me 🙂

$5 fertilizer
$22 new loppers
$14 two days worth of rabbit repellant
(oops)$95 worth of obscure Japanese Solomon’s Seals from Michael Vaughn via Facebook
(oops)$79 worth of unnecessary, uncommon and therefore expensive things from Odyssey Bulbs

$547 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

 

A Little Cabin Fever

For a couple days it was warm and I quickly started a little cleanup and poked around feverishly to find every single sprouting snowdrop, but that was short-lived, and now it’s back to winter again and I’m just chomping at the bit.  The indoor winter garden has helped somewhat, and it’s probably a good idea to start off there with a few more hopeful signs of life such as my precious little primrose (Primula obconica), who is still going strong after nearly three months in flower.  Rather than this primrose becoming a one hit wonder, it’s produced two more flower stalks and the first one is still opening up new blooms.  It’s a beauty, but I may have forgotten to mention one of its common names…. poison primrose.  The name stems from the rash which sensitive skins may develop after contact with its foliage.  I find the scent of the foliage a bit yucky, but as far as rashes go it seems I’ve escaped any sensitivity issues.  That wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination though, since a quick poll around here would probably place me on the ‘insensitive’ end of the scale anyway.

primula obconica

Primula obconica from American Primrose Society seed, indoors under the workshop growlights.

I won’t bore you with every flower in bloom under the shoplights, but the geraniums must be sensing the slightly warmer temperatures and as a result are putting on more growth and sending up more flowers.  I’ll bore you with one photo, the lovely Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a healthy variegated geranium which doesn’t exactly look too salmony in the photo.

pelargonium crystal palace salmon

Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a flower which would make any geranium loving grandmother proud.

Obviously I’m getting into trouble with all this forced indoor time.  I’ve started several flats of seeds, started more and more succulent cuttings, and maybe feel that start-even-more-seeds compulsion creeping into the back of my head.  For budgeting purposes I’ll admit I ordered 40 packets of unnecessary seeds from the NARGS surplus seed round.  That set me back $14 so I’m quite all right confessing to that charge.

NARGS seed exchange

More seeds from the NARGS seed exchange.  Observant readers will add this to the 25 I had already ordered.

I’m trying all kinds of seeds again from generic annuals to obscure cacti to full sized forest trees.  There’s no question I don’t have a place in mind for nearly all of them but when has that ever been a concern?  I’m planting lotus seeds and am quite aware I have no pond to grow them in, but we’ll see what happens.  They have a long way to go before I need to worry about any space issues.

lotus seed

I wasn’t sure if I had sanded through the seed coat of these lotus seeds, so decided to crack one open for a look.  Who would have thought there would be a whole tiny lotus plant folded up inside! -and who would have thought the friggin seed coat (dark outer layer) would be so thick…

Nearly all the seed pots get a thin layer of chicken grit over the top and then go outside on the sidewalk to experience a little winter chill.  When things get warm enough they’ll sprout right up… and then need to deal with finding homes for everything.

poppy seedlings

The latest spell of warm weather has encouraged a few of the hardiest seeds to sprout.  Here are a few six packs of Opium poppies coming along.  they should be just fine as long as things don’t freeze up too solid.  The sheet of Reemay fabric protects them from the worst of the weather.

Back in February I thought we’d have plenty of time to post cheerful photos of spring beauty as it gently sprung into action and each flower followed the next, but then it snowed… and snowed… again…. and again….

snowdrops and winter aconite

Flashback to February with snowdrops and winter aconite opening up for the first of the warmer weather.

It’s still snowing.  Next week looks promising, but things have all got to thaw out again, and the earliest risers have to work out all their crushed stems and snow flattened flowers.  Hopefully by the time that happens there’s still enough energy left in them to put on a show.

snowdrops and winter aconite

More snowdrops, the green tipped ‘Viridapice’ and short ‘Sophie North’.

In the meantime I’ll stay inside and try to avoid driving everyone nuts with the amount of time I spend staring out windows and brushing aside snow looking for survivors.

sprouting lotus

I just assumed I had killed the cracked open lotus seed, but four days later it’s actually starting to grow!

At least the bird feeder is entertaining.  I was ready to call it a year and send the birds on their way, but then snow returned, covered everything up, and I got that guilty feeling.  Once I topped the feeders off the regular crew was quite happy, but they had to make a little room for the returning grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds.  They’re a noisy bunch but fortunately filming through the glass spares you from most of their metallic squawks.

Hopefully the farmers out there aren’t too upset with me encouraging these blackbird pests, but I’ve always considered them just as much a sign of spring as robins and the first crocus.  Well actually the return of turkey vultures is also something I consider ‘springy’, but most people are far less entertained by the return of huge carrion-feeding birds which follow the thawing roadkill north…

May your week be enjoyable and carrion-free, and hopefully warmer and less-snowy than here 🙂

$14 for 40 packets of surplus NARGS seed exchange seed

$332 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

Galanthus Gala 2018

I’m officially a terrible historian.  This past Saturday’s Galanthus Gala in Downingtown PA was all about people and plants and I barely got photographs of either.  I shopped, I talked, I wandered, but the camera stayed off and remained tucked away in my bag.  My apologies of course, but if you were there I think you’d understand.  There were so many distractions. (give Facebook a search with ‘Downington Galanthus Gala’ and you’ll find plenty of photos!)

david culp snowdrops

David Culp welcomes the crowd shortly after opening.  I can guess the time because there are still plants left on most of the tables… well that and there’s a clock on the wall.

It felt like a much bigger event this year with lectures, food sales, and more vendors, but it was still easy to pick up on that gathering of friends vibe that last year had.  In between pondering new plant purchases I spend nearly all the rest of the day catching up with old and new gardening friends.  Seemed appropriate since the venue for the Gala is the >Downingtown Friends Meeting<, a location with an over 200 year tradition of gatherings.  Many of you will better recognize the Friends under a name more commonly used, the Quakers.

Downingtown Friends Meeting

Downingtown Friends Meeting.  As I understand it ‘A meeting’ is a local group within the Friends, similar to a church, mosque or synagogue, but for Quakers.

Although most people might consider the Quakers to be a footnote in American history, they are alive and well here as they enter their third century in Downingtown, and continue to welcome all faiths each Sunday into their vision of spirituality.

We express our faith through our beliefs in simplicity, integrity, equality, stewardship, and peace. We invite people of all faiths, backgrounds, and lifestyles to worship with us in seeking a spiritual path

John lonsdale edgewood gardens

Dr John Lonsdale of Edgewood Gardens leads a talk on one of his favorite subjects, hardy cyclamen.  It was a great Day for presentations, with additional talks by Matthew Bricker and Rick Goodenough on snowdrop propagation and the variety of snowdrops.

I did nerd out a little being in the company of so many distinguished plant experts.  There were plantsmen(plantspeople?), authors, designers, experts, and a mix of all of the above, but other than the people I’ve already pushed myself upon I really only cornered one new person.  Charles Cresson was someone I spotted at last year’s gala yet didn’t have the nerve to approach, but this year with premeditated intent, I cornered him for a signature on something I’ve held on to for the last thirty years.  Charles is a horticulturalist who’s reputation spans decades in the Philadelphia area and who’s garden Hedgleigh Spring is internationally known for it’s design and contents.  I couldn’t exactly say why I wanted him to sign the Dec 1988 Horticulture magazine issue which showcased his garden, but I asked him anyway and he was very gracious to do so.  He even humored me as I went on too long about how impressed this teenager had been back then, and how today I’m proud to grow plants which grew from seed he had donated to the Hardy Plant Society over the years.

I told you I was a nerd.

charles cresson

Dug up out of the basement and brought down to Downingtown for a signature.  Thanks Mr. Cresson.

Of course the Gala ended too soon.  Tables cleared out and had a picked over look within the first few hours, and by the end of the event there was barely a hellebore to be seen.  They had to turn off the music and turn up the lights to get me out of there but eventually I got the hint and loaded up the car for the ride home.  It was still light out though.  How could I leave horticultural ground zero before every last bit of light was gone?  I decided to swing by a local park where I knew there were naturalized bulbs.

naturalized leucojum vernum

Naturalized Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake) slightly beaten down by the recent snows but ready to rise again.

The trip over to the park had me questioning my decision.  Heavy snow and winds the day before had left a series of power outages and fallen trees along the route, and even though the sun was shining there were still enough road closures and downed powerlines to make me wonder if a turn to the interstate might not have been a better choice.  I was committed though.  My commitment was official after I reached a large pine that had fallen over the road yet was caught up in the electrical wires on the other side of the street.  A person can’t hit the gas and zip under a hanging tree just to turn around on the other side, so from that point on I new I was unstoppable.  So close yet so far, imagine the words which came out of my mouth when I found the road leading to the park blocked by a fallen tree and strung with caution tape…. argh.  Fortunately a slight detour and approach from the other side got me close enough to get in.

galanthus gala 2018

The haul.  Snowdrops of course, but also species peonies, cactus cuttings, cyclamen, and two pots of Hippeastrum ‘Timothy Calkins’.

I guess it’s now that I should admit I didn’t buy nearly as many snowdrops as you might expect.  Two is all I purchased, but the trades and gifts were exceptional!  What did surprise me was that I came home with two species peonies at a time when all I’m thinking about is spring bulbs.  Who knew?  Even worse is they’re dormant so in all appearances what I came home with is two pots of expensive gravel.  I’ll pass on trying to explain that one to the spouse since I made the amateur mistake of leaving the tags in.

snowy bird feeder

My end of Pennsylvania is no longer snowdrop-ready.  Better get more birdfood, I didn’t bother filling it last week when things were all sun-shiny and spring…

The Gala was my ‘cheat day’, so not a single dollar spent counts towards the budget but I still have to consider what to do with the witch hazel that I may have committed to buying… or the variegated Japanese solomon seals which I’m still considering.

In any case, please join me in all this considering.  Two vendors seemed to still have a few snowdrops left over and if you’re interested in a few starter varieties (or worse) you can easily send either or both an email.  Just out of curiosity of course.  Matthew Bricker (matt_bricker at hotmail dot com) or my friend Paula (pooter926 at gmail dot com) both might have a few leftovers they’d rather sell than replant, and what’s the harm in asking?

Have a great week.  We’re still under about six inches of snow with at least as much predicted for Wednesday, so spring seems far off again, but I hope your weather results will vary.  At least the sun is wonderfully strong all around 🙂

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.

hellebore

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!

And it Begins…

February seems to be on its way to becoming the new March with the way these warm spells sneak in.  Today the afternoon high hit 75F (24C) and it was actually a bit unsettling to break a sweat in the garden knowing that the thermometer will drop down to freezing within the next few hours.  That could have been a serious concern, but obviously my thoughts on global warming vanished the minute I saw how much the snowdrops had come along.  I spent the entire afternoon trimming things, poking around for shoots, and admiring the early birds which had already come into bloom.

galanthus elwesii

Galanthus elwesii, the giant snowdrop.  One of the earliest to rear its head in my garden.

There are a lot of snowdrop favorites in this garden and one near the top is Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’.  He’s a handsome snowdrop, and of course he’s looking exceptional this spring.

galanthus godfrey owen

Galanthus ‘Godfrey Owen’, rising up fresh and clean amongst the winter wreckage of last season.

Godfrey is special for his doubled outer petals which make a brilliant star when fully open and looked at from above… this is how most sane people admire these tiny little late winter flowers.

galanthus godfrey owen

‘Godfrey Owen’ from above.

Another snowdrop which also shows some variation from the standard three outer petals, three inners, is ‘Natalie Garton’.  She’s a new one to the garden this spring but I wanted to show the interesting inner ‘extras’ which hang down from the middle of some of the flowers.  New is always special, so we’ll have to wait for time to tell if this strange inner remains just interesting or slowly becomes a classic.  (fyi for the snowdrop nerds, word is that this snowdrop is the same as a similar one named ‘Chris Sanders’.  Natalie G is now the accepted name).

galanthus natalie garton

Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’ with her extra inner petals.  

Green snowdrops are also a thing.  ‘Rosemary Burnham’ is one of the classics and today she was looking fantastic.  She’s a Canadian originally and as such is one of a limited number of named North American snowdrops, but her true specialness lies in the solid green wash to her outer petals.  The flowers don’t jump out in the garden and are a little on the small size but I think they’re amazing.

galanthus rosemary burnham

Galanthus ‘Rosemary Burnham’ looking great on her first day open.

The majority of the other snowdrops are yet to come, but here’s one last plain old white one.

galanthus bill bishop

Galanthus ‘Bill Bishop’ has extra grande flowers on a short plant.  Of course it’s one of the favorites.

Keep your fingers crossed for a gentle ride into real spring.  The last few years have been on the harsh side as far as late winter flowers go, so I promise that even if 2018 is the most exceptional snowdrop season I’ll try to control myself.  I kind of recognize that not everyone is as obsessed with these short little plants and hopefully you won’t have to resort to praying for another tornado to save you from my snowdrop overkill!

Indoors, For Now…

After a late start, it looked like winter was actually going to make an effort this year.  We had some cold spells, some snow, lots of ice, and the usual January thaw, but now it’s just losing steam.  A February thaw is in the works, and the freeze out there this morning is the one exception in a ten day forecast that doesn’t even dip much below freezing.  To be honest I’d be thrilled to see this in March or April… not so much February.

hardy cyclamen

I was expecting to spend most of February in the garage, hiding from the cold, and admiring the winter garden which has now officially replaced the workshop.

This weather will quickly bring on the snowdrops and winter aconite, and once that happens I’ll waste every minute of daylight wandering and poking around the garden imagining just how nice everything is going to be this year.  In the meantime though, I’ve come to a decision on a real winter greenhouse, one which involves glass and benches and expensive heating.  Before you get excited for me (doesn’t everyone get excited for people who get new greenhouses?) I want to make it clear it’s not going to happen.  Our local climate is relatively extreme and although that in itself is an excellent reason to get a greenhouse, I just can’t commit myself to worrying about extreme low temperatures, brutal hailstorms and blizzards, heating system failures… and most importantly the extra heating bill.

hardy cyclamen

The hardy cyclamen (C. coum) are at their peak under the winter garden grow lights.  For the second year in a row I’m wondering why I don’t have more in here.

But wait!  Don’t get the wrong impression here.  I’m not having some budget-wise revelation that includes spending less and denying myself things in order to save for our retirement or the children’s education.  I just came to the conclusion that with only a few more grow lights I can change the whole workshop over into a very satisfying pseudo-conservatory.  So I did a little searching and found three more light fixtures on clearance.  $39 a piece, about $120 total… so much better than their $52 normal price.

sowing fern spores

A first time for me.  Fern spores.  You’ll have to trust me on this but there’s a tiny bit of black dust on that silver foil, and hopefully with it and an old baby food tub I can recreate what ferns have been doing for millions of years.

$120 is an amazing bargain compared to buying an actual greenhouse, so in reflecting on how much money I just saved I don’t think I’d be way off in subtracting it from the budget rather than adding, but on second thought a visit to the accountant taught me a new word which might come in handy here.  Depreciation.  From what I gathered (and often what I gather is more what I want to hear rather than real facts) I can take this long-range purchase and pretend it’s really money which has been spent over a couple years.  So for the 2018 budget I’m going to pretend I only spent $30 and we’ll see if I remember the remaining $30s in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

winter sow stratification

Seed starting is well under way.  These will go outside today and spend the rest of the winter on the side of the house under a layer of garden fleece (aka Reemay, or spun row cover) until warmer weather encourages them to sprout. 

The lights are more of a next winter plan, but you never know.  In a fit of boredom a week or so ago (apparently you can’t spend forever sipping beer and staring at cyclamen) someone got it in their head to pot up the coleus cuttings and start a few succulent cuttings.  They’re in the very back of the workshop, in a room with the furnace, and hopefully will stay warm enough there to get shoots growing and roots forming.   We will see.

succulent cuttings

Rootless succulent cuttings newly potted up and coleus cuttings slowly recovering from the last few months on a windowsill in water.

I don’t need more succulents in February, let alone May.  It’s another one of those #becauseIcan moments, but I’m just itching with a compulsion to start more.  Another 25 or 50 more isn’t out of the question and I’m sure something can be done with them in the spring.

In the meantime have a great weekend!

$30 for new growlights

$318 total so far for the 2018 gardening year