…and Tulips

The daffodil season was here and gone so quickly, I barely noticed.  Hot winds wilted the mid season bloomers and singed any flowers just opening.  It was all a little rude, but you’ll have that when you garden on a hilltop and the weather decides to finally heat up.

tulip garden

A few daffodils escaped the wind.  Having too many helps in this regard.

Fortunately I have way too many bulbs coming along, so even if a few are less than perfect there’s still plenty more where that came from.

narcissus conestoga

Narcissus ‘Conestoga’.  You may notice the birch branches cut as holiday decorations last winter have found a new home as part of the parterre archway.

The daffodils were missed, but to be honest I wasn’t all that in to them this spring.  They’re overcrowded and in need of digging and replanting and as I thought about it this week I decided many will find their way to the compost pile this summer.  As long as we’re being honest here I may have even filled a wheelbarrow with a few hundred ‘less favorite’ bulbs yesterday in an effort to speed up the process.

tulip garden

As the daffodils fade the tulips take over.

I was pretty sure last year that the tulips around here were on their way out.  Tulip Fire has hit the garden, and it’s not uncommon to find the spotted leaves and twisted stalks of bulbs affected by this fungus blight.  Late freezes, hail damage, and a wet spring for two years running have helped spread the disease around the whole garden but this year’s turn to drier weather seems to have slowed the fire.  I had my doubts last spring, but now I’m happy to say there are many more tulips surviving than I thought there would be 🙂

tulip garden

Although the heat brought the tulips on too fast and also fried many of the blooms, the color is still great.  Don’t look too closely though, there are plenty of signs of Tulip Fire here as well.

I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned here.  Maybe I shouldn’t just plant any bulb I can find… maybe I should be more faithful to the ones I have… maybe I’m not a good person to look to for tulip advice, since all you’ll learn here is that playing around with too many tulip bulbs might just leave you with a disease.

tulip garden

I promised abstinence last summer, but by the time autumn rolled around there were again more tulips.  Exotic parrots proved irresistible although these came up with a few fringed tulips mixed in.

Fortunately I have enough space to let these things run their course.  Tulip Fire (Botrytis tulipae)  is specific to tulips and shouldn’t bother anything else, and between thinning crowded clumps and removing overly infected leaves, maybe I can control it somewhat without resorting to chemicals.

tulip garden

Other parts of the garden still have plenty of the stray tulips which always seem to hitchhike in with the compost.  The colors might be a mess but it makes me smile!

Enough about my problems.  Out along the front border I didn’t expect much of a tulip show (given all of last summers rain) but to give in to a little bragging, I think they’re glorious.  Not public garden glorious, but for me and my crappy soil, with all my weeds and mediocre budget, and lack of chemical support, I’m going to claim glorious 🙂

tulip garden

Even an ugly duckling which sprouted up out of a patch of shorter tulips can steal the show.  It was supposed to be a ‘Pricess Irene’ mix…

I bought smaller packs of bulbs last fall from a new supplier and results have been mixed, but the year before that it was the ‘Incendiary mix’ from Van Engelen that earned a click on the proceed to checkout button.  They were amazing last spring, but I think they’re even better this spring… who cares if the flowers are a little smaller…

tulip garden

Tulips in the front border.  It’s perfect right now, the spring bulbs are up yet the weeds are still too small to notice.

Ok one more issue.  I noticed a few of the solid orange tulips have ‘broken’.  Broken color means the tulip has been infected with a tulip breaking virus which causes the color to streak.  It’s the virus which brought on several of the most beautiful historical tulips ever, but it’s still a disease.  I shouldn’t let them stay.  For as pretty as it looks I don’t like the way it’s spread this year, and even if I don’t have a tulip growing livelihood to protect I think it’s time to do the right thing.

tulip garden

Orange tulips streaked with flames of yellow.  It wasn’t there last year and is likely a tulip breaking virus.

All these problems are forgotten the minute I look at the next best thing.  There are still late tulips on their way and I think they’ll be just as amazing… even if much fewer in number.

tulip garden

The twisted fat buds of the last of the tulips, the parrots.

We just had a “lively” thunderstorm barrel through and I wonder how the flowers made out with all the wind and rain.  I’m hoping for the best but even if that’s not the case I noticed a few bearded iris nearly open.  There’s always a next best thing at this time of year, but it still goes too fast.

Have a great weekend!

The Springpocolypse

The weather has suddenly caught up to the calendar and we’ve been suddenly and brutally been thrown into our first hot (90F, 32C) days of the year.  I was battling cold and the chance of flurries Sunday and by Tuesday we’re turning the air conditioning on.  Go figure.  Better get some pictures and a post up before the tomatoes start ripening.

corydalis solida

The last of the corydalis.  These are in a shaded spot and later than the rest, and of course I’m already looking for new ones since I love the darker tips on short little ‘Domino’ 🙂

I was enjoying the long, cool, spring, but with two days of hot winds and beating sun everything has jumped ahead again.  I always fall behind on posting at this time of year, but this post has really got to go up quick since by tomorrow morning I suspect most of these flowers will have been done in by the weather….

corydalis solida

Plain old Corydalis solida.  I was a little ‘meh’ for the first few years, but now that they’ve settled in I must say I like them.

The hellebores will hopefully still have another week or so in them.  Without any late freezes it’s been a great year, and I’m suddenly itching to grow a few more!

hellebore seedling

Seedlings out in the street border.  The heavily speckled ones are some of my favorites, but then so are the dark ones, and double ones, and yellow, and….

I grow a few from seed every year, and would have started many more but lately it seems I’ve been running out of room.  The words ‘thinning the herd’ have come up, and now I’m looking at a few plants with a critical eye and an eager shovel.  I need room for more seedlings, my favorites deserve a chance to spread their seed ;).

hellebore golden lotus

These are purchased doubles from the O’Byrnes out in Oregon.  It’s ‘Golden Lotus’ in front and possibly ‘Peppermint Ice’ behind.  These would qualify as ‘favorites’.

I’m probably being delusional.  It would be a struggle for me to get rid of any of the hellebores, even the ones which might deserve the ‘less pretty’ title, and in case it’s not already obvious,  I really lack the focus and conviction to ever draw a line with plants.  Who knows though, one afternoon anger management might fail me and out they will come.

hellebore seedling

The queen bumble bees are out, and hopefully they’re getting plenty of the nectar and pollen they need to start this season’s family… and doing a little pollination on the side of course.

This spring even the messiest, most unevenly colored hellebore ends up being a favorite.  Green flowers in particular win me over immediately.

hellebore seedling

The first year flowers on a new hellebore seedling are always the most exciting.

Green flowers and other ‘curious’ blooms are always welcome here and this year I’m seeing a little success in that always curious plant group, the fritillarias.  Fritillaria uva vulpis, aka fox’s grapes, is back for a second year and even though it took the convincing of a friend to sway me towards keeping them, I’m glad now that I did.  They at least look a little ‘interesting’ rather than the straight ‘blah’ I saw last year, and perhaps they’ll continue to improve next year as well.

fritillaria uva vulpis

Fritillaria uva vulpis.  It might not hold up to a bank of golden daffodils but surely it still makes the garden a better place.

The snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) are showing off as well.  I love them, and and it makes me happy to see seedlings and clumps forming as they settle in to the soggiest parts of the garden.

fritillaria meleagris

This clump really lives up to the name snake’s head fritillaria.  I can even see eyes!

The white ones add a little contrast, but the checkered patterns and colors of the darker ones really wow me as they unfurl each spring.  Fyi I’ll need to spread the seeds of these around as well!

fritillaria meleagris

Fritillarias have some of the coolest flower patterns.

By the end of last week the front border was at a peak with all the leftover hyacinths, corydalis, and the start of the midseason daffodils.  From the right angle the bed looks packed with color and I was thrilled, and a few days later it still looks nice but half of what was in flower has been melted by the heat.  Now the first tulips are coming on, and hopefully in a few day you’ll tolerate a few photos of that as well!

daffodil garden

The front street border.  Spring is here 🙂

Here are a few highlights along the curb.

daffodil garden

Maybe ‘Red Rascal’ and and definitely ‘Pistachio’.  The pale yellow ‘Pistachio’ has been a favorite for years.

lunaria annua rosemary verey

The first flowers on one of the moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’).  This is the first year I’m seeing the purple stained foliage and stems for which this strain is know.

magnolia stellata

A magnolia cutting swiped from a layered branch on the neighbor’s tree.  It’s nothing special I’m sure, but having grown it from a cutting makes it absolutely special.  Of course I need more.

Behind the house the back garden is showing off as well.  In three days all the green has turned to flowers!

daffodil garden

Vegetable beds are much more successful when not filled with daffodils.  My bad.

Flowers aren’t the only color out there.  This spring I’m finally seeing the awesome foliage which inspired me to hunt down my very own plant of Iris x robusta ‘Gerald Darby’.  Thanks to Nan Ondra and her blog at Hayefield, I’ve been coveting this plant for years.  Now I’m seeing that the wait was worth it.

‘Gerald Darby’ also has pale blue flowers which follow the purple foliage.  As the shoots expand, the color will fade to green.

I’ll spare you most of the other foliage photos, and the overabundance of daffodil photos to just leave you with a few more scenes from around the garden.  The primroses enjoyed last summer’s rain and look promising for once in their (short) lives… such a refreshing change from their usual near-death appearance.

Some of the first plants to come in to bloom. This peachy sunset flower doesn’t show up well in the garden, but close up it’s delicious 😉

Under the weeping cherry the three day cherry bloom is over, and the spent petals are now decorating the ground.  It’s a perfect complement to the last of the hardy cyclamen, which (not to rub it in) have been blooming since March, through storm and ice and heat, -unlike the short lived cherry.

The last flowers on the Cyclamen coum.

While the earliest bloomers are still up and growing and building energy for next year, it’s a great time to do a little moving around and dividing.  I created what I hope will soon become my very own trailer park snowdrop bed.  It’s filled with the most messy and common double flowers, the ones all the classier growers look down on such as ‘Flore pleno’ and her variously marked variations such as ‘Pussey Greentips’ and ‘Lady Elphinstone’.  I’m sure someday they will grow to wow even the most rarefied galanthophile.

Snowdrops are classy but only if you avoid decorating the surroundings with plastic children’s toys, plastic buckets, and stray leaf bags. I’d also be more impressed with this new planting if the big rock at the front was already moved out of the new pathway.  Obviously it would be easier to put the path elsewhere.

Two days ago the tulips were mostly closed and the bleeding hearts still a deep, rich carmine. Today they all opened and the hearts are faded. Still nice though!

While I’m moving snowdrops and boulders hopefully I’ll still have the time to enjoy a few daffodils and tulips.  They’re opening as we speak and hopefully the winds and downpour which are barreling through this afternoon will spare a few.  I managed to take one last photo out the back door before the storm hit and as you can see it was full on spring today.

the spring garden

The potager on the verge of tulip season.  For the record there are onions and lettuce in there as well.   

My fingers are crossed for the weekend.  If things work out as planned there will be plenty of time and energy for all the things which need doing… if history repeats itself there will be plenty of sitting around and little work.  We’ll see who wins.

For the record I’ve spent $15 on pansies and then $14 on lettuce and more pansies.  The rabbits have already eaten about $8 worth of the lettuce.  It happens.  Have a great weekend!

$15 for an exceptionally restrained first visit to my favorite garden center
$14 lettuce, onions, and more pansies, also essential

$576 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

I Knew I Could, I Knew I Could

Like the little train who could, spring has done it.  She made an arrival last week and opened a ton of flowers but then got nervous, and ducked backstage again.  It’s a start though and I’ll take it!

‘Purple Bird’ corydalis, pink ‘Beth Evans’, and the slightly darker ‘George Baker, plus a few other things. The snowdrops are over for another year…

Last Tuesday wasn’t exactly the day it all happened, but it was a start, and once we got over the freezing mornings of midweek, winter cracked and the thermometer rose to nearly 80F (26C) for Friday and Saturday.  This is what everything was waiting for, and all of a sudden spring raced ahead another week or two.

narcissus tweety bird

Just a week ago there was nothing to see, but two days of warmth brought up the bright yellow ‘Tweety Bird’ daffodils and the pink of more corydalis towards the middle of the front street border.

The ‘Tweety Bird’ narcissus are one of the first daffodils to open here, right alongside the smaller ‘Tete a Tete’.  They’re almost too bright, but of course it’s the color you want after all that grey.  I think it goes along great with the pinks and purples of the Corydalis solida.  They open at the same time (at the earliest end of the daffodil season) and as I spread the little tubers of Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ around the garden, a temporary pink carpet is starting to take shape.

corydalis beth evans

Corydalis ‘Beth Evans’ in need of dividing.  This one actually might multiply a little too fast since the clumps don’t flower as well due to the crowding.  (notice the single red seedling at the lower right, always a nice thing to see!)

For a couple of years the corydalis have been selfseeding, and in an effort to diversify I’ve added a few fancier colors to the gene pool.  I probably shouldn’t have bothered though, since the seedlings seem to diversify well enough on their own and all kinds of new shades are showing up.  Plus to my eye even the most exceptional named forms don’t seem stand-out better than what I’ve already got.  Still, a dark red or garnet, and a white were what was missing from the garden so I’m glad to see that deficit has been repaired.

named corydalis

A few named corydalis.  Front center is ‘Gunite’, maybe ‘Firebird’ just to the right, and white ‘Snowstorm’ just behind them.  The blue is Scilla siberica which is happily spreading throughout the garden… for better or worse. 

Corydalis cover a pretty good part of the earliest spring spectrum but a few other things are also making the garden look alive again.  Hyacinths are doing their part, and although the big floppy hybrids are nice enough, my absolute favorite is one of the multiflowering types, ‘Anastasia’.

multiflowering hyacinth anastasia

Hyacinth ‘Anastasia’.  Multiple flower stems and a clumping up habit are nice but the dark stems and violet flowers are what hyacinth-love looks like.

The pink and white versions of this hyacinth (‘Pink Festival’, ‘White Festival’) just don’t do as much for me, as well as the plain green stemmed blue version (‘Blue Festival’), but then I have to admit I’m not as in to baby shower colors in the garden, so if that’s your taste…. so be it.  In the meantime I’m holding my breath for hellebore season.

picotee hellebores

The first hellebores opening up along the street.  These were grown from ‘yellow picotee’ seed years ago, and I should probably add a few more.

I can’t remember the last time the hellebores came up so nicely, it’s become habit to expect a frigid arctic blast to come along and melt the flower stems and blacken the new foliage.  I forgot how nice they can be, and how occasionally they even rival the catalog photos.

dark hellebore

The dark hellebores are also very cool.  These are much darker in person and almost disappear into the mulch from a few feet.

The majority of my plants are from seed and this spring reminds me that I should absolutely start a few new batches and maybe make another attempt to clear out the ones which don’t thrill me as much as they could.  To be honest I find it more exciting to experience the surprise of the first flowers opening on a new batch of seedlings than to have a reliable, amazing, purchased plant that comes back faithfully each year.  I don’t know if that speaks well of me, but I do like seeing the new!

hellebore goldfinch

Variation in plants, all of these are seedlings from the yellow hellebore ‘Goldfinch’ but maybe only one in ten resembles the parent.

Hopefully in the next week or two I’ll be able to experience the best of both worlds with both new seedlings and also reliable returns…  that is assuming the weather continues to warm.  As I write it’s snowing again and spring is apparently having a little bit of stage fright.  I’ll try to keep things optimistic though, so I’ll leave you with one last favorite.

pulsatilla vulgaris

A pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris).  Each year I try to get a few more seedlings out of the seed exchange offerings but my success so far has been pretty bleak.  This pot did well enough though, and if pushed I may admit to liking the fuzzy stems even more than the actual flowers.  

Have a great week.  Hopefully the sun shines and even if it doesn’t at least there’s finally some hope for the 2018 season.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The ten day forecast says spring will arrive on Tuesday, so if you’ve been dilly dallying because of the snow I suggest you get ready to hit the ground running!  It is April after all, and although our weekly and sometimes daily snowstorms might hint otherwise, I do see a 70F day approaching and then no below freezing temperatures for the next week…. as long as we wait until Tuesday of course.

hellebore in the snow

Monday morning and the kids began the first week of April with a snow day.

Most everyone has been complaining about the weather but I always like to remind these buttercups that we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the whole ‘April showers’ thing was probably dreamed up by some idle poet wasting away another gloomy English morning on a sofa by the window, waiting for the sun to make an appearance.  Come to think of it this cold and gloomy, precipitate-rich spring weather is what I imagine spring in the UK and Pacific Northwest to be like.  It’s excellent weather for growing things like moss and liverworts but less entertaining for the gardener.  Even if it does keep the winter flowers like snowdrops in bloom for what seems like forever.

galanthus nivalis

Some late, almost completely white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) still looking good in spite of the on again off again snow cover.

Now would probably be a good time to pat myself on the back for not going as far overboard on the snowdrops as I usually do.  You’re welcome.  Even though it’s been one of the longest seasons ever, with not too-much heavy snow and zero single digit arctic blasts, it’s been cold and dreary and I just don’t enjoy taking pictures when it’s so miserable out.  That and I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook through the ‘Snowdrops in American Gardens’ FB group.  That probably helped as well, and probably saved many a reader from straining an eye muscle from too frequent eye-rolls.  I don’t know about elsewhere but optic strain seems to be a problem in this house when I mention snowdrops.

leucojum vernum

A snowdrop cousin, the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) coming up in a damp corner of the yard.

I will round out the season with one last mention of snowdrops.  Two years ago I found an amazing clearance deal on bulk snowdrops and planted about 300 Woronow’s snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii) late in the season.  As fate would have it, great joy is often tempered with tragedy so of course they were nearly all destroyed by a brutal freeze just as they were coming up that first year.  This year it’s been better though, and a few of the survivors are actually strong enough to put up a flower.  Green tipped snowdrops are always a pleasant find and there are only a few green-tipped woronowii, so finding this one was a real treat.

green tip worowonii

Woronow’s snowdrop, aka the green snowdrop, aka Galanthus woronowii, with strong green tips and some extra green on the inner petals.  Woronowii are often a little boring, so of course I love it 🙂

In between snowstorms I’ve been ‘that guy’ trimming back perennials, cleaning out beds and hauling mulch on the day before six more inches are predicted.  To be honest I started in February when we had our first warm spell, but it was only last week that the far end of the front border finally lost enough of its snow cover that I could finish up.  For those who don’t already know, my mode of attack for spring cleanup is trim it all back to the ground with the hedge trimmer, rake most of it onto the lawn, run it all over with the lawnmower and bag it up for mulch.  As a finishing touch I cut the lawn real short and bag that as well so that everything looks obsessively neat and green and ready for spring.

chopped leaves mulch

The least professional part of my cleanup is when I lug the chopped leaves over from the neighborhood dump at the end of the street, and spread them out across the bed.  Another man’s trash…. plus it covers all the twigs and debris that I didn’t care enough to rake off.

Not to rub my garden cleanup obsession in too much but I actually finished the last of the spring cleanup yesterday.  It doesn’t all look pretty, but at least there will be no dead stalks and dried weeds to bother me in May.

narcissus rijnvelds early sensation

A mulch of the chopped debris from out front will keep the weeds down in back.  It’s just fine for the first daffodil, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, flowering for the first time that I can remember.  Usually it’s usually too early and the buds get frozen off in February.

All the cleanup has distracted me from seed starting, of which I’ve gone overboard with this year.  The cold left me inside way too long and I’ve been up to just about everything else except the starting of tomato seedlings which should have sown two weeks ago.  I’m sure I can find one at the nursery if things get desperate.  Much better now to focus on the unnecessary native southeastern NA fern spore dust which has miraculously done something over the last few weeks.  I spend way too much time admiring the green fuzz inside a baby food container, but to be honest I still can’t believe the dust I sprinkled on top had done anything.

growing ferns from spores

I think I have ferns!  Not to gloss over millions of years of primitive reproduction but the spores grow a green fuzz and the green fuzz does the sex stuff which results in new fern plants.  I suggest searching for more on the topic in case I’ve become too technical 😉   

I’ll leave you with even more evidence of snow day idleness.  Coleus plants ready for new cuttings to be taken, and way too many succulents.  I started even more a few weeks ago and still have absolutely no plans for what to do with them, so we’ll see where this ends up.  Maybe they can go outside Tuesday even though that does nothing to answer the question of what to do with them.

succulent cuttings

Succulent cutting in the winter garden.  They’re another thing I spend way too much time looking at.

In the meantime enjoy whatever weather comes your way and I hope spring has either found you or is well on its way.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn too nice though, I still need to start a few tomatoes…. and plant some pansies, since I may have bought some pansies 🙂

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!