The Second Week Data Dump

I can barely call this a post.  It’s a rambling aimless overload of this year’s snowdrop season, and it’s a basic confession of how far out of control things here have become.  For years this blogger has tried to play coy about an above-normal interest in snowdrops, and casually deflected comments suggesting a developing case of galanthomania, but there’s no escaping it now.  I have fallen deep, deep into a pit of snowdrop obsession.  Sorry.  On the plus side two days of temperatures in the mid 70’s (23C) and a day and night of rain, has pushed many of the midseason drops over and we’re now looking at the tail end of the show.  A few photos from earlier in the week, and a quick review of the garden today tells me you’ll be free of this soon enough.

crocus vernus

Overnight the crocus have arrived.  They finish so quickly but I love them anyway, even when the rabbits finish them off even faster than they fade.

galanthus wendy's gold

Wendy’s Gold is in surprisingly good shape considering she’s one of the earliest to come up and started blooming under the snow this year.

galanthus viridipice

‘Viridipice’ is probably one of the cheapest and best named snowdrops you can plant.  

galanthus bertram anderson

This spring I came to the conclusion I have more than enough regular white and green snowdrops.  Going back at least four years I bet I’ve said the same thing every year, but then still can’t turn down a few more.  Galanthus ‘Bertram Anderson’ is a big and stout drop, very plain and very excellent, and I’m thrilled to have her!

galanthus chris sanders natalie garton

Of course even regular white and green can surprise, and in the case of Galanthus ‘Natalie Garton’ (aka ‘Chris Sanders’) the surprise is underneath with a doubled inner and usually some extra “tusks” poking out as well.  Even in a terrible spot this is a vigorous one.

galanthus ding dong

More regular green and white.  ‘Ding Dong’ has an elegant, long form with a nicely marked inner.  

galanthus merlin

…and ‘Merlin’ also has a nicely marked inner, nearly completely green…

galanthus abington green

…and ‘Abington Green’ also has a nicely marked inner which is almost completely green.  Why do I need them all?  That’s not important, it’s because I just do!

galanthus kermode bear

A drop with a difference is one of Calvor Palmateer’s poculiform selections from the far West of Canada.  ‘Kermode Bear’ with his double set of outers replacing the green marked inners (known as a poculiform) is flowering for the first time here, and I love the form.

galanthus L.P. Short

Just like there are too many plain white drops here, there are also now too many doubles.  Doubles rarely thrill me like the yellows or poculiforms, but I guess they’ve got their admirers.  Galanthus ‘L.P. Short’ is a sturdy thing with a nice look to it….

galanthus rodmarton

…but Galanthus ‘Rodmarton’ has such a dark and neat inner that even I think it’s somewhat amazing this year.   

galanthus cordelia

The Greatorex doubles such as ‘Cordelia’ were bred in the middle of the last century and are possibly a confused bunch, but this one mostly matches the description.  They do ok here, but often suffer bud blast when warmer weather or a lack of enthusiasm leave a flower bud or two which don’t bother opening.  

galanthus lady elphinstone

The legendary ‘Lady Elphinstone’ is the only commonly available double yellow, and for many gardeners she’s actually a double lime, or a double green.  People say there’s a more yellow form, and plenty of less yellow ones out there, but I don’t know.  Fortunately mine come up a sweet cool yellow each spring, and if I flop down into the mud and roll over onto my side to peek up into the blooms it’s a beautiful show.   

galanthus richard ayres

‘Richard Ayres’ is not yellow nor neat but he does do well here and I have way more of Richard than a garden needs.  Still he’s been excellent this year and I’m thrilled even if he’s a little on the floppy side.  

galanthus lady beatrix stanley

Speaking of floppy, the good ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ likes to hang all over her neighbors and get by on just her good looks alone.  Fun story about her days in this garden… She’s doing really well now but  sulked in this same spot for about three years prior.  I didn’t give in though, and one year a bloom came, the next a couple, and now she’s come around. 

galanthus magnet with crocus

‘Magnet’ came up all dainty and neat but now two weeks later is a floppy, drunken mess.  I should probably divide him and weed out all those purple flowers that have invaded this bed, but studies show there’s only about a 9% chance this will happen any time soon.

galanthus sophie north

The flip side to floppy is short and stout.  Not many of my snowdrops are successful in defeating gravity but ‘Sophie North’ does.  Even now with yellowing, almost past flowers, she’s still as dignified and poised as the day she sprouted.  

galanthus curly

Galanthus ‘Curly’ is another one who stands up well.  He’s just come up and can hopefully hold up to the warmth, rain, and wind well enough so that I can still enjoy perfect flowers for a few more days.

galanthus blonde inge

Let’s visit with some yellows next.  ‘Blonde Inge’ is looking a little tired this year but still showing off her yellow inners.  Usually she’s more upright and fresher looking but I think the sun, wind  and warmth were more than she wanted.  

galanthus primrose warburg

‘Primrose Warburg’ is always excellent here.  Compared to other drops her flowers might seem to be on the small side, but she clumps up so well and blooms so heavily for me I will never complain.  

galanthus primrose warburg seedling

This spring there’s even a seedling in flower.  She’s nearly a carbon copy of her mom but much more special of course.  I have to make sure this one goes off into a seedling bed somewhere so that the gardener doesn’t someday forget she’s not identical to the ‘Primrose Warburg’ parent bunch in the background.

galanthus norfolk blonde

Of course not everyone’s as happy here.  ‘Norfolk Blonde’ has a record as follows:  Didn’t die.  Didn’t die.  Didn’t sprout.  Didn’t flower, but came up again.  I always doubted people who claimed a bulb didn’t sprout but then came up a year or two later, but doubt no more.  Last spring I went as far as to dig the bulb and verify it was still there (and still completely dormant) but found no reason why it took a year off.  I suspect an overly wet fall, but who knows.  Regardless it’s still trying and hopefully I can add another ‘Didn’t die’ to the list next year.

galanthus nivalis

Fickle blondes are another reason why entirely plain, green and white, Galanthus nivalis are still exceptional.  This clump has been ignored for years as being “too average” yet even overcrowded and overshadowed by an also ignored juniper seedling, it’s still holding strong.  I refer to this one as “abandoned house” and may actually divide and transplant this spring. 

galanthus nivalis

This plain old nivalis is one of my most anticipated flowerings of the 2021 season.  I call it “Kathy Purdy” and it’s out of a basketful of snowdrops she brought down to last year’s gala to give away.  These drops lined the path to her secret garden at her last house, and now line the woodland walk as a “river of snowdrops” at the new house.  One trowel, bulb by bulb, clump by clump, these are the snowdrops which reassure me that someday sooner or later perseverance pays off and anyone can have their own river (or maybe sheets? of snowdrops.

american snowdrop garden

My own fledgling “sheets” of snowdrops and winter aconite in the front border along the street.  Each year a few more are added or divided, and finally this is the first year it is actually looking like something intentional 🙂

galanthus elwesii

To me the nivalis are nicest for sheets because they’re so consistent.  Galanthus elwesii on the other hand are a varied group, and something like this planting just about drives me nuts.  Tall, short, rounded, longer, fat ovary, thin, heavily marked, faintly marked… I planted them too close and they’re just a mess.  Seedlings are coming up now as well and there’s a good chance I’ll waste a whole afternoon trying to tease them out into clumps of single clones.  Good grief you must have anything better to do, but…  

galanthus elwesii

In a moment of brilliance I decided the best place to separate out a different elwesii planting was to spread the bulbs out in my nice new (empty) sand paths.  Who needs all that room for walking anyway?  and I’m sure this is just a temporary thing anyway…   

american snowdrop garden

While we’re on the subject of beds completely given over to snowdrops, this one still has to be shown if only to showcase the nicely power washed birch clump.  I might go around every autumn and power wash the birches, it’s very satisfying.  Now if I could only manage an equally attractive background…

galanthus modern art

I think I’m about done, and I suspect you are as well so here are a few last pictures to round things out.  Galanthus ‘Modern Art’ was named with the implication that not everyone “gets” modern art, and you either love it or hate it.  In case you’re wondering I’m starting to develop an appreciation. 

hellebore niger

As the snowdrops fade the hellebores begin.  I’m thrilled that the first year bloom on this hellebore niger seedling has blushed to such a nice shade of pink.  Thanks again Timothy!

hellebore spanish flare

Hellebore ‘Spanish Flare’ is the first xhybridus hellebore to open here.  Since you’ve been so good with the snowdrops, I’ll try to not overdo the hellebores this year… or the corydalis… or the daffodils or tulips or… 

galanthus greenish

Finally.  Last one to flower here and last snowdrop photo today, Galanthus ‘Greenish’.  Purchased on a visit to Hitch Lyman’s open garden in upstate NY, it’s a souvenir from one of our last Temple Garden visits. 

Congratulations on making it this far, even if it involved a good amount of skimming 🙂  I’ll try to return to normal photo limits with the next post, but with all the usual spring excitement bubbling up it’s going to be tough.  Fortunately once I get working outside the blog takes a back seat but in this lingering, odd Covid world I still have far more home time than I’m used to so we will see what that leads to.

Hope spring is finding its way to you as well, and all the best for a gardening weekend!

Import 241 Images? Of Course!

A few pictures were taken last weekend and I suspect this weekend will be worse.  Ample warnings have been given, so now it’s up to you to proceed at your own risk.  I shall try to be as brief as possible but even with that, photo per post limits will be broken.  If you’re the type who feels obligated to read and leave comments I suggest a scroll to the bottom and give a quick “Oh they look nice Frank.  Good for you!” and that’s it.

Snowdrop season is here after all and my filter is down.

galanthus bess

A completely averagely perfect snowdrop to start.  ‘Bess’ couldn’t flower more, but last year lost everything in a late freeze.  It all comes around and I love her this year 🙂

galanthus magnet

‘Magnet’ was one of the first here.  One bulb which has split up into a puddle of white, and I suspect this year he can split again to start that drift.

galanthus green brush

They’re not all plain white.  ‘Green Brush’ is hopefully settling in now after I lost him twice.  Sometimes a good friend comes to the rescue with a replacement!

galanthus trymlet

‘Trymlet’ is one of the pagoda shaped drops referred to as an ‘ipoc’.  The outer segments take on the appearance of the inner and all of a sudden it’s a new look, one which I like well enough, but…

galanthus elizabeth harrison

And then there’s yellow.  ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ is one of the most beautiful, and still hard to find.  I was thrilled when a friend offered one up as a trade, because it’s every bit as elegant as I hoped it would be.

american galanthus garden

One of my favorite late winter views is here under the cherry.  White snowdrops, magenta hardy cyclamen coum, yellow winter aconite (Eranthis).  One of my first bulb books had a grander view with the same plants and I never thought I’d get even this close.

eranthis tubergenii sachsengold

One of the winter aconite is Eranthis xtubergenii ‘Sachsengold’.  It’s a E. hyemalis, E cilicica cross with the more divided foliage of its one parent.  That of course doesn’t matter, but to me it does 🙂

galanthus blewbury tart

This bed also contains the unique ‘Blewbury Tart’, the first of many Alan Street snowdrop discoveries and possibly the one which ignited his future in horticulture.  Found almost fifty years ago, he must have been a toddler at the time.

galanthus walrus

I am the ‘Walrus’.  A little bit was given to me two years ago and he’s finally come of age.  I hope he sticks around, because I love him of course!  Who would have thought a snowdrop would morph into this.

galanthus friendship

This little nivalis has a smudge of green on the tips.  We call it ‘Friendship’ and although it’s barely anything special it gets passed around and it’s one of my favorite treasures.

crocus gargaricus ssp. herbertii

Speaking of tiny things that aren’t anything special yet are everything special, here’s crocus gargaricus ssp. herbertii.  The name is bigger than the plant, but I was ecstatic to see the golden flowers this spring even if I was the only one to notice them.  It’s been awol for two years and I thought for sure it had gone to that big compost heap in the sky.  Thankfully not.

galanthus bill bishop

In case you were wondering, winter became serious, the foxglove smothering ‘Bill Bishop’ suffered its usual demise, and Bill rose up through the withered remains.  I of course ended up doing nothing, just like I prefer.

galanthus art nouveau

After six years galanthus ‘Art Nouveau’ has become a clump.  For some reason that’s good enough and I don’t need drifts of this one.  It’s kinda too special for a drift and what I should really do is divide and fertilize.  A well fed bulb shows even longer inners and the extra space would let them really show off.

galanthus bloomer

‘Bloomer’ is another favorite.  The almost-yellow of the pale ovaries looks awesome here amongst the blue fescue.

galanthus mrs thompson

Just a few inches down the bed, ‘Mrs. Thompson’ is for once showing off her fickle three, four, double, or twin, flowers.  She just does whatever she wants.  For me it’s the first time she’s done that here.

crocus heuffelianus tatra shades

If you’re still holding up ok here’s a break from snowdrops.  Crocus heuffelianus ‘tatra shades’ was amazing for all of the 48 hours it took the rabbits to find it.  I guess the rabbits need their spring tonic just as much as I do.

galanthus gerard parker

*Schadenfreude* – the German word for pleasure one gets out of another’s misfortune.  ‘Gerard Parker’ was one of my most prolific drops.  He went from one to a clump of forty bulbs in just a few seasons so I moved him to a “better” spot for more showing off.  It was going to be amazing I thought… until it wasn’t.  Two years of late freezes nearly wiped him out and now he’s moved back to where he started.  Finally he looks healthy again.

galanthus diggory seedling

I love this view.  ‘Diggory’ is in front with ‘Wendy’s Gold behind’.  This is just plain showing off, but if you look at the bottom right there are two Diggory seedlings.  They look nearly identical but don’t have that curl that dad (well actually mom) does, and I absolutely need to move them out to another spot before they mix in hopelessly.

galanthus the wizard seedling

Elsewhere in the garden are more seedlings.  In front of ‘The Wizard’ are two siblings, one who shares dad’s green outer mark, and another without.  Of course these also need new homes, but fortunately they’re a little easier to single out as seedlings.

galanthus greenfinch

Not a seedling but a newer one with a different kind of green marking.  ‘Greenfinch’ has elegant lines on nice rounded outers, and guess what?  I love it!

galanthus angelina

This one is brand new this year from an ‘in the green’ planting last spring.  Some people complain vehemently about the risks of moving actively growing ‘in the green’ snowdrops, but I rarely have trouble when they arrive well cared for.  I really love this one, it’s named ‘Angelina’ and it’s a newer drop which I paid an embarassingly high amount for but I don’t care.

galanthus elwesii

This one was not a lot of money.  It’s a plain old Galanthus elwesii from a bulk bulb order.  It was probably 60 cents and although it looks amazing and yellow and therefore rare and valuable… it’s probably not.  Sometimes cold and a foot or two of snow on top will have your drops coming up yellow and although it’s fun it’s not that uncommon.  You can see the one behind is pulling a similar prank.

galanthus viridipice

Another cruel prank was that half this ‘Viridipice’ clump has vanished.  I’ll dig this weekend for clues, but it won’t be the first time a batch of newly planted dry bulbs does fine the first year and then disappears the next.  usually it’s the G. nivalis types that pull this trick for me.

galanthus garden

You’ve almost made it.  Here’s some relief from endless closeups.  Even if a few of the photos look nice, there’s still much to be desired here in terms of garden design, so it will still be a few years before the tour busses show up.

galanthus erway

One of the goodies in this back bed is ‘Erway’.  He’s kind of a weirdo with his conehead top, but you may have noticed that weird carries a lot of weight in the world of snowdrops.

galanthus moortown

Weird works, but so does big.  ‘Moortown’ has strong, heavy flowers with a nice inner mark which bleeds up with a smear of green.  Of course it’s another favorite, and unlike the photo implies it’s a pure white snowdrop.

galanthus baylham

Wow, even I’m getting tired now.  Just a few more.  ‘Baylham’ is one of the few doubles I like.  Small, well formed, nicely upright and normally a strong green color.

galanthus jade

Speaking of strong green color, ‘Jade’ is looking exceptionally green this spring.  Actually you could just leave that as looking exceptional, because he is.

galanthus percy picton

…and Sunday’s evening light leaves you off with a waterfall of ‘Percy Picton’.   Normally I complain about his sprawling ways but this year, without a couple inches of snow flattening out the blooming clump, he looks great.

You made it.  I forgive you for skimming.  There’s no doubt I’m deep into this and hopefully for your sake my camera breaks this weekend.

But then there’s always the phone camera.  Enjoy the weekend and I hope it’s sunny and safe wherever you’re at!

Snowdropping 2021

I’ve heard them say it’s the bad trips, not the good, that you remember best, and over the years they become some of your best memories… so maybe someday this trip will rank more highly, but for now its chilly wetness ranks it closer to the bottom.  At one point my snowdropping buddy stated the day reminded her of the windy, frigid visits to upstate NY and the Temple Gardens open day, and she could be right.  In my defense our local forecast was decent, but I foolishly assumed it would be even milder and just as dry 100 miles South.  Silly me.

naturalized snowdrops

I would guess snowdrop adventures in the UK and EU are far less gritty than our adventures.  Tea and cake from what I’ve heard.  To satisfy that question, we didn’t find either.

As I was driving down my better sense knew this trip was too short-notice and not up to or normal standards, so I dropped the hint that I would be fine doing our traditional park visit alone, and Paula must have looked at the thermometer and thought ‘hallelujah!’

“Yes” she said, “That’s fine, maybe I’ll go next week”.

naturalized snowdflakes

The yellow of the winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis) was fading, but the snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) were just coming up.

The park we visit hasn’t changed in years, but this year I noticed some cleanup.  Brush removed, new paths, general cleaning up.  I’m glad to see some love going in, but also have to admit a little sadness.  Paths of bare earth cut through swathes of snowdrops and winter aconite means many bulbs were destroyed.  Decades of neglect built the show, I just hope a cleaner and neater future leaves a place for them and remembers the history of this plot.

eranthis

Bulbs are tenacious though.  A tree disaster happens, a scar opens, and still the yellow of winter aconite manages to sprout and bloom amongst the debris.

Ok so I really wasn’t all that sad and I did spend a good hour or so examining hundreds of flowers looking for something special so it was still an excellent visit, but the real star of my trip was Paula’s garden.  I swear there were twice as many blooms as I remembered.  I love when I pull up somewhere and get that stupid grin and start talking to myself about how cool it looks.  Sometimes I even do that with passengers onboard, and probably get concerned looks, but with each passing year I notice less and less, and care?  Not even 🙂

american snowdrop garden

The glow of ‘Jelena’ (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’) lights up and perfumes the highs while snowdrops and heucheras fill the lows.

It was so refreshing to see all the color filling a garden.  On the ride over I was desperately scanning the neighborhoods looking for anything but it was never much more than desolately neat lawns and mulch, or way more evergreens than even a cemetery would want.  Occasionally there were some snowdrops or a hellebore, so I guess there’s hope, but inspiring?  No…

american snowdrop garden

Paula has reached the point where nearly all the beds have snowdrops wedged in between the dormant perennials and mix of shrubbery.  She complained about too many seedlings.  I pretended to understand.

As usual we stood out in the cold examining every drop, commenting on how well it grew and where it was from.  There were also witch hazels, winter aconite, and snowflakes to discuss.  It’s great seeing a garden which comes alive while the rest of the neighborhood sits brown and dead.

american snowdrop garden

One of many hellebores.  The color stood out better in real life, I’m sure I yet again had some camera setting mis-adjusted.

By the time we slowly shuffled around the far end of the garden the icy drizzle had switched over to a rainy drizzle, and when I suggested it might be more polite to skip the other garden we had scheduled, Paula seemed fine with that.  We were both ready to warm up and dry out.  I even passed on an offer to dig one or two trades… tell me that’s not a sign!

american snowdrop garden

The last couple years of plantings line the side garden, each special variety socially distanced with only the occasional seedling breaking quarantine.

I guess I’m not as feverishly desperate as I used to be.  It’s still a thrill to go visiting but it’s more and more about the people, and then coming home is less and less of a let-down.  There are still a few (actually plenty) of snowdrop treasures I covet, but give me a sunny winter day with bunches of average white ones surrounding me really makes me feel as if I’ve arrived…. at least in MY mind 🙂

Have a great weekend, and let this be your **last warning** that pictures from my own garden are up next!

Seven Years and Counting

Prepare yourselves for the 2021 snowdrop season.  They’re starting to come up in earnest and if it’s as warm and rainy this week as they say it will be, all the drops should be open or at least up by this weekend.  Of course I’ll photograph nearly every one.  Multiple times.  I will understand if I don’t hear from a few people while this goes on.  Seriously.  Please don’t even feel obligated since there are already enough people ignoring the guy who wanders around in the cold mumbling and kneeling and photographing dirt that a few more won’t matter.  I’ll be oblivious anyway.

In general snowdrops are nothing much to look at unless you have a couple decades worth of adding and dividing and transplanting under your belt.  But small progress can be made.  Here’s an un-named Galanthus elwesii which a friend shared with me years ago.  It faced death many times before I knew what I was doing, but in 2013 I found a good spot, and in 2014 it finally escaped the muck and cold and narcissus fly attacks which were holding it back, and bloomed beautifully.  It even earned a spot on this blog.

galanthus elwesii

A perfectly average no-name Galanthus elwesii.  It’s one of my favorite garden treasures.

All my purchased snowdrops start as one bulb.  One bulb is nothing much to look at.  You tell someone you have ten different varieties and they ask “where?”  and then you head back inside to warm up.  But eventually one becomes five becomes fifteen and you are on your way, and one year you go outside and say ‘wow, I could almost call that a clump’… and then you look around quickly to see if anyone saw you talking to yourself again…

galanthus elwesii

Seven years and a couple days later.  Obviously I’ve done nothing to it in the meantime, just waited.

So I think I have clumps.  They didn’t all take seven years, and some are not even close, but it’s fun, and today my mother in law accidentally made eye contact as she drove by and stopped to tell me it wasn’t summer.  I said it’s warm enough, and then without any prompting she said ‘oh you do have flowers already.  Will they be ok if it gets cold?’  I went on too long.  She regretted it.

Have a great week, and to the non-snowdroppers I’ll see you in a couple weeks 😉

A Gala Approaches

There’s an American snowdrop event coming up, and I just assumed everyone knew about it simply because I knew about it.  Funny how narrowly a person’s brain can work, and I’m sure it means something related to a spectrum or some other analyze-able thing, but of course I’m getting distracted again.  What I want to say is David Culp’s snowdrop Gala is happening this weekend and I want you to know, and this year it’s not a matter of me throwing it in the faces of those too far away, it’s me letting you know that this year it will be available to anyone with access to Zoom (via internet or phone I suppose), and who has purchased their admission ticket (for information and $29 tickets click here).  It’s not ideal of course.  I’d rather be there in person, browsing and meeting, and hemming and hawing about just one more plant purchase, but at least it’s happening.  Also it’s happening in a way that people across the world can join up with and participate in, and I think that’s something excellent in itself.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in the midst of a plethora of snowdrop lovers.

The event runs Friday to Saturday with a string of speakers, mixed with Q&A segments, vendors, and a live auction.  It should fill everyone’s snowdrop tank for the season 🙂

Of course my snowdrop tank doesn’t need filling.  All the galanthus-love this weekend will surely just make it overflow with galanthus joy, and that’s fine with me!  Yesterday the warm weather had me slogging through mud puddles and poking through snow piles looking for spring, and although I didn’t find it I did find some hopeful signs.  Really hopeful, and between that and the strong sunshine and the turning of the calendar to March I’m inches away from quitting my job and becoming a full time poker around the garden.

early snowdrops galanthus

Every hour meant more snow melt and a few more inches of open ground.  Spring is just aching to grow!  *please disregard the yet to be tidied mess*

Full time garden poker does not come with benefits, so I did indeed go to work this morning, but even with the thermometer at an icy 16F(-9C) as I pulled out of the driveway, the thought still sat in the back of my mind.

early snowdrops galanthus

Here in the foundation beds along the front of the house, the snow had melted one day prior and the snowdrops had already been able to stretch out a bit.   

My latest check of the weather shows beautiful sunshine and no temperatures too disgusting to worry about.  I’m sure by the weekend I’ll be cleaning out beds and poking away to my heart’s content and I think it’s about time.  There will still be melting snow to ignore but once snowdrop season starts I can ignore a lot.

Except for tornadoes and hail.  That’s a snowdrop season I don’t ever have to repeat.  Enjoy!

Unbucketing Day

Wow.  What a difference two days can make.  We’ve gone from winter to spring in just a few hours, and even though I won’t officially call spring until the last snow has melted,  I’m practically spinning with spring fever over the thought I might see some more snowdrops unlocked from the ice this weekend.

galanthus three ships

If you’re not sick of seeing ‘Three Ships’ yet, well you might have some of the same issues I’m dealing with.  He looks pristine even after weeks and weeks under a 5 gallon bucket. 

In case you’re wondering, ‘Unbucketing Day’ is a relatively new holiday which I only just declared this afternoon.  I’m sure there’s a more formal process to establishing new holidays, but I did have some cake this afternoon, and I’m pretty sure eating cake is at least steps one through four of the holiday creation process.

galanthus potters prelude

‘Potter’s Prelude’ has gone by a bit under his bucket.  Even weeks of below freezing temperatures and a few feet of snow can’t stop the passage of time, since he has been in bloom for over three months now.

Fancier folk might call for an uncloching day to celebrate the day when temperatures seem civil enough to uncover these protected goodies, but I resort to buckets.  Ugly buckets.  I can understand the attraction of antique glass cloches sparkling throughout the garden but they don’t come cheap and I’m not sure anyone here would appreciate such an elevated level of refinement when autumn’s decaying gourds still sit on the front lawn and an old washing machine still highlights the far end of the front porch.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

Even ‘Mrs Macnamara’ has tolerated her time under the bucket.  This is the best she’s ever looked, but even with protection a few blooms were lost to cold, so I don’t think she’s an ideal match for my garden…

So join me in the celebration.  A little warm weather and the snow can’t melt fast enough.  There are a few thin spots where ground is showing but most of the garden is still under nearly a foot of icy, packed snow.   It’s still enough to get into nearly every inappropriate pair of shoes I wear, since of course I slog through the snow right after work and don’t bother changing into better footwear first.  I really just need to be more patient.

winter witch hazel pallida

The witch hazel is late this year.  ‘Pallida’ is only just today warm enough to uncurl the first bits of yellow thread.  Hopefully by this weekend….

Who am I kidding?  This is no time to be patient.  I guarantee by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be shoveling snow off things, poking through mulch, and being far more nosy about my plant’s personal lives than I should be.  I’ll probably even plant a few seeds!

Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

Gotta Terra Cotta

Terra cotta couldn’t be more earthy, it’s literally ‘baked earth’ according to the internet… not that I know anything about Italian or Latin… and in my most wholesome of imaginations there’s some country artisan scooping up the perfect mud and crafting a pot which eventually finds its way to my garden.  In my imagination of course.  In reality I can’t afford those fancy things so all mine are off the box-store shelf, but I hope my intentions count for something.  The idea was no more plastic in the garden, and I’ve been good for the most part.  I traded plastic and resin planters for metal and (the much heavier) terra cotta and ceramic.

The heavy is a problem.  Terra cotta is porous and when it freezes the water inside expands and could crack the pot.  Filled, heavy pots are a lot of work to move, so I guess if there’s any point to this post it’s to say that some lazy gardeners get away with just pushing them up against the house after frosts kill off the plantings and they end up drying out enough that they don’t crack.

terra cotta freeze winter

A broken pot on the back porch is the reason winter-cracked terra cotta is on my mind today.  It was already cracked in October, probably from a stray golfball or bat, but at the time I took it as an omen to bring in one less succulent pot. 

So I’m sure all your terra cotta and ceramic pots have been safely tucked away for months but remember my new blogging mantra is quantity over quality so I figured a picture of a broken pot must surely be worth a post.  To be honest as I go through old posts re-sizing photos I have no idea how I ever managed to post so much, so I’m actually a little worried that in order to keep up a steady stream of “content” through February I don’t get so desperate as to resort to babbling about tomato stakes or some other dull topic.

pale eranthis hiemalis

Above freezing daytime highs have brought on the first winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis).  This unnamed pale yellow form is always first, and usually beats the straight species by a good two or three weeks. 

Honestly I’d probably gain readers talking about tomato stakes if it meant less posts about snowdrops 🙂

galanthus three ships

It’s cold and a little breezy with flurries but ‘Three Ships’ is still looking awesome.  

Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a helpful terra cotta post, but I couldn’t resist another picture of this winter blooming snowdrop, galanthus ‘Three Ships’.  This should be a family friendly blog but seriously I look at this and think “holy s%* I have a f)&%!! snowdrop that flowers here in the middle of January in Pennsylvania zone 6!!!  Three years now for ‘Three Ships’ and deep down inside I’m still expecting it to die, but fortunately it hasn’t.  Let’s hope for four.

And this is why I have a blog.  Trust me that none of my friends or neighbors would make it past even two minutes of January snowdrop talk.  Family can barely make it past three and I’m pretty sure they’re not even fully listening.  Thanks for listening!

Winter Rages?

The next three weeks are typically when winter throws its worst at us.  The average low dips down to around 18F (-7C) at night, and then climbs to 34F (1C) in the day, depending on all kinds of things of course, and the long nights and short days don’t set the garden up for much of anything.  That’s a normal year.  Besides all the other more obvious ups and downs, the weather last year was not normal, and in fact was one of our hottest years on record.  12 days in and 2021 isn’t looking to be the culture and climate shift everyone was hoping for.  Actually it looks a lot more like December 37, 2020.

galanthus elwesii montrose

This gardener prefers to use stylish and unobtrusive 5 gallon buckets to protect the earliest snowdrops from the coldest winds and heaviest snows of winter.  Here’s ‘Potter’s Prelude’ uncovered to enjoy the next few days of mild weather.

For a minute I’ll ignore the past and just enjoy this mild weather which draws these snowdrops up out of the ground.  Most of what’s flowering now would be fall bloomers in a milder climate but here they usually dawdle enough that flowering happens in winter, which should be fun, but for many the weather is just too much and the flowers (and foliage) end up destroyed.  Viva la global warming!  These days I have snowdrops blooming all winter… until we get a plunge in February of course, and then even with buckets galore, things still look like someone named Winter trampled through the beds with some heavy cleated snow boots on.

galanthus elwesii potters prelude

I moved a fall blooming Galanthus elwesii ssp monostictus hiemelis group ex Montrose (catch breath*) to a warmer spot to hopefully bring on earlier blooming, but it didn’t.  Still it seems much happier here and has been in bloom over a month!

I’ve been trying to find a perfect spot to make life easier on these little treasures.  It’s worked in a few cases but some still aren’t happy regardless of where I have them growing.  When the cold comes the flowers burn and the foliage dies back.  Some struggle afterwards, some go to the light, but I do have one who just shrugs it off.  ‘Three Ships’ (Galanthus plicatus ‘Three Ships’) has never shown a bit of damage in spite of ice and snow and cold.  He’s never made it into bloom for Christmas, which is the trick he’s best known for, but he is a snowdrop who choses to grow and flower just as the weather is at it’s worst and for that holds place as one of my favorites.

galanthus three ships

Today’s sunshine and just barely above freezing air temperatures have brought out ‘Three Ships’.

For the first few years I assumed the cold would do this little nut in.  What sane snowdrop would grow more as the temperatures dropped further?  Tender shoots and sub zero weather should not mix, but one shoot became two, two became four, and rather than die, ‘Three Ships’ is becoming a clump.

galanthus three ships

Not just a hardy snowdrop, but also a beautiful snowdrop.  Heavy textured, rounded blooms with soft green inner markings.  I love the ridges and the way the flowers puff out in the sun.

So right now the snowdrops are loving it.  It’s like winter in the North Carolina mountains, and although some more cold and snow would make for better skiing, I don’t mind mediocre skiing on Monday followed by snowdrops on Tuesday.

Be safe and have a great week!

Winter Arrives?

With the calendar turning over for the official start of a new year, I had the opportunity to see my blogging stats as a year end summary.  I usually expect a disappointing show but how exciting to see that for the first time since 2016 my visitors and views have actually increased!  I’ll still point out that there was far more interest in this blog five years ago than there is today, but I guess any move to the plus side is worth celebrating, and I think my first move will be to show off these numbers to my bank account.  It’s been slacking in the numbers department as well, and this might be just the inspiration it’s been waiting for.

mulched vegetable beds

A former vegetable bed has filled with hydrangeas and other things more colorful than vegetables.  Now a messy mulch of leaves looks suspiciously like the cover for a future snowdrop bed.  Hmmmm.

My concerns over declining views are matched only by my race to improve them.  In the last four years I’ve done nothing.  That could be part of it, but at least the weather was beautiful last Saturday and I was able to do something outside and actually weeded a few spots and spread a little mulch.  Not bad for January, and I think I’m as set as I will be for the earliest spring bloomers, some of which have mistaken sunny days in the 50’s for the end of an extremely short winter.

Mrs Macnamara

Mrs Macnamara is an early riser, but unfortunately this weather tricks her into being too early.  In the five years she’s been here her early blooms have been destroyed five times, and I have yet to see her flowers open and look their best.  

History does not bode well for an extremely short winter in this garden.  A review of last year shows various things up and nearly in flower the first week of January… and then also shows the wilted, frozen mush of snowdrops and hellebores by the end of February.  I doubt there’s a gardener out there who doesn’t know this same story.

winter hellebore foliage

I would have removed the hellebore foliage but prefer to mow it all up, and honestly the lawnmower deserves at least a few days off for winter so I’ll wait.

I guess there’s no easy way out.  A more mature and sensible gardener would just not grow the plants ill suited to their garden.  That’s a good idea, and you of course should do that even if I won’t.

winter hellebore

On the advice of a better gardener I’ve started trimming the old foliage off my hellebores at anytime from late December on.  Tender, easily damaged shoots seem to show up whether the leaves are removed or not.

I apologize for speaking of warm sun while showing gloomy snow and sleet but one of the blog stats which stood out for me was that this blogger used to post twice as much.  Because Saturday was a beautiful, busy day and no photos were taken, I was forced to go out Sunday into the sleet for something to blog about.  Quantity over quality is my new mantra and we will see if more frequent posts will be the secret to overwhelming my site counter and bringing on that lucrative movie deal I’m still hoping for.

Or spring.  I won’t mind if more frequent posts bring on spring 🙂

Off To A Good Start

As far as I’m concerned the 2021 gardening season is now up and running.  The few winter growers which I dare grow outside are starting to show signs of life, nudged along by a fall that gave us plenty of warm enough days and above freezing nights, and it’s nice to see things sprouting up all fresh and full of promise.  Back in the day a lot of these things waited until February or March to do anything, but lately they’ve come on earlier and earlier, and I won’t complain.  Actually who am I kidding?  Of course I’ll complain.  A brutal polar vortex in February, a foot of snow in March, hail in April… I can’t think of a single gardener who just smiles and shrugs these things off.

fall galanthus elwesii

Galanthus elwesii ‘Potter’s Prelude’ is finally open, oddly late since many of the other fall and winter bloomers were earlier this season.

These earliest of snowdrops were always an issue of discontent for me.  For years I would buy bulk bags of elwesii and then grumble as more southern gardeners would gloat over the random fall bloomers which would show up in their mix.  They didn’t actually gloat, but when year after year I got nothing it started to seem like it.  Then one year we had a long fall and a lackluster start to winter, and suddenly there were snowdrops up in December rather than March.  It’s always the same few, and they unfortunately don’t hold up well when the cold does settle in, but it’s fun to see them and I do feel a little better about my luck again.

fall galanthus elwesii

An early snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii), one of just a few which try to beat winter rather than patiently wait it out.  

As you probably already know, our lackluster winter is finally making an effort.  It’s about time I guess, so what better way to celebrate than to finally plant the daffodils, tuck in the last few perennials, and then set up the winter garden for some indoors enjoyment.  Fingers crossed the daffodils survive their hasty planting, but it’s not the first time they’ve suffered this kind of abuse so they should be used to it by now.

winter garden

Dry and cool is how I keep all the succulents.  Without watering they don’t grow much, and if they’re not growing much they don’t get all stretched out and spindly, even under less than perfect lighting.

The winter garden in the old workshop in the back of the garage only has about half the shop lights going so far.  As more plants magically appear and seedlings start and bulbs sprout I may add to that, but at the moment there’s no real plan, and it’s just a nice place to putter around in with a few things growing while snow falls outside.

winter garden

This year there are more Cyclamen coum and fewer other cyclamen species and snowdrops.    

My current favorites are the cyclamen coum.  Even though they do just fine outside in the open garden, indoors they’ll flower for a month or two during the bleakest months of January and February, and make for an excellent show that can be thoroughly enjoyed after dark during the week or with a nice morning coffee on the weekend.  I do enjoy announcing that I’ll be in the winter garden with drinks, and that I need to sweep up the camellia petals or water the tree fern.  It all sound pretty fancy if you ask me… even if others in this household seem less than impressed.

winter garden

The reality of the winter garden is a bit more gritty than an actual sun filled conservatory, but until a glasshouse moves up and becomes a budget priority it will have to do.

Re-opening the winter garden came just in time.  It’s been snowing since later this afternoon and by tomorrow morning we could have anywhere from a foot to a foot and a half.

winter snow

It’s going to be a white Christmas 🙂 with snow this week and cold next, this won’t be going anywhere soon.  

Hope all is well and you’re staying safe.  I’ve got the shovels ready, gas for the snow blower, and the snowdrops are covered with buckets, so I think we’re ok.  Tomorrow will hopefully be a nice snowday with a late breakfast, and just maybe I’ll be able to sneak the coffee out to the winter garden and admire cyclamen before the kids and dog want to “help” with the snow.