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!

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!

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.

Out With The Old

Let me start with getting one thing off my chest.  The daffodils are still unplanted.  There, that was easy.

The weather was beautiful last weekend so we decorated for Christmas, we hung a ridiculous number of lights, and we (and I’m leaning more towards the less plural I on this one) cleaned up most of the basement of all the nonsense and clutter that kids can accumulate.  Then in the midst of a pandemic we drove to Longwood to enjoy the Christmas display.  Of course there will be judgements on safety but for now we’re all still healthy and it’s the weather which has taken a turn towards the worse.   On a miserable afternoon I’d rather rush out and capture a few last joys of the 2020 garden season rather than actually do something productive.  Maybe tomorrow will be different…

hardy fall camellia ashtons supreme

‘Ashton’s Supreme’ is growing in a pot and has already moved into the garage for the next few nights.  It may be hardy, and someday I may put it to the test, but for now I’d rather he avoid the frosts and snow.

I’m excited to see my only fall blooming camellia opening up a few flowers before it gets too cold.  It’s one thing enjoying them for a few hours in another garden, but to have one of your own to really drown in for as long as you want… and then to make excuses to go out and see every few hours… well that’s a whole different story.  Currently the plan has ‘Ashton’s Supreme’ spending the coldest months in the winter garden, staying potted, and then some day moving to the open garden when either (1)he gets too big or (2)global warming shifts me just one more zone South.  Obviously there’s also a good chance that (3)the gardener kills Ashton,  but for just $30 from Camellia Forest Nursery I’m already thrilled with how far I’ve come.

container bog garden

The question of the bog garden.  Shelter in place or quarantine elsewhere?

I’m also somewhat thrilled over how the bog garden’s pitcher plants have recovered from some questionable overwinering techniques from last year.  Someone just picked up an old saucepan from the sandbox, lifted the pitchers from the bog and put them in the pan, and then placed the whole embarrassment next to the compost pile under a few sheltering branches.   They lived, but this year I’m not sure if I shouldn’t try something different.  Or just do nothing.  Nothing is pretty easy, and it’s been working for the daffodils so far.

jack and the beanstalk bean

The sword beans (Canavalia gladiata) have been picked and brought into the garage to hopefully ripen the seeds.  Maybe I’ll get lucky, but maybe I won’t since they’re still mighty green.

Last year seemed much more full of November projects and plenty which bridged over into December, but this year I’m quite fine with calling a time, nailing a lid on 2020, and announcing the start of the 2021 gardening season.  Hello snowdrops is what I’m going to say next, and of course I’m excited!

elwesii monostictus hiemalis motrose

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus ‘Hiemalis Group’ ex. Montrose.  An appropriately big name for what is commonly referred to as the giant snowdrop (in this case a fall blooming version).

Mani over at the Miserable Gardener has observed that the guy he lives with takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in rattling off the name of this first snowdrop of my new year.  I’ve begun to enjoy it now as well, and although I may still need to tweek quotes and capitalizations to be completely proper I’m not going to let ignorance stand in my way.  Ignorance seems to be very ‘in’ these days so I might as well call it what I want, right? -who am I kidding… I can’t stand ignorance, so please correct me if you can.

galanthus three ships

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ is leaving port earlier than ever and holding the possibility of an open bloom by Christmas.  That would be a first, and of course I would be thrilled.

Let me close by saying this last photo has me most excited.  I keep thinking this snowdrop phase will pass but as of yet not luck.  Once in the summer of 2019 there was a point when I almost said I wasn’t thinking about snowdrops, and then just a few months ago I turned down the offer of a bulb or two because “I had too many other plants needing attention”, but now I’m back to obsessed.  ‘Three Ships’ looks healthier than ever and honestly for a flower which blooms here in January, anything better than dead is quite an achievement in my opinion.

Let the season begin!

A New Season

Last weekend was David Culp’s Galanthus Gala.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the flood of friends and early season plants and rare goodies that filled the Downingtown Friends Meetinghouse were a treat as the new garden season begins to rev up.  What a difference a few days makes.  I’m sure you see the news so I won’t rehash, but I just want to wish all my friends the best and hope they stay healthy and safe.

cyclamen coum

Cyclamen coum doing better than ever thanks to the relatively mild winter.  Over the last year about half the plantings here disappeared as a result of wet and rot, but this cyclamen is spectacular.

In just a few days spring has arrived and fortunately it’s a white fever which has infected this gardener.  Eleven years of planting and tending is finally starting to pay off, and the tiny handfuls of begged bulbs and lonely singletons are becoming puddles and pools.  I finally have hope that there will one day be a sheet of snowdrop white in this garden, maybe not a California King sheet, but possibly a twin, and that’s excellent enough for me.

nivalis x elwesii

My first handful of snowdrops is up for some more division this year.  I believe it’s a nivalis x elwesii cross.

The non-winter has been a new experience, with some things up early and others holding back.  Restraint payed off for those who held back, since there were a couple harsh nights in February, but for the most part the garden has escaped the usual damage associated with gambling on a winter garden in zone 6.

freeze damage snowdrop

Some drops had their tender stems turn to mush when temperatures dropped into the single digits, but over the years I’m learning who these tender drops are, and am moving them to more sheltered spots.

With the right attitude the good always outweighs the bad, and I like to think there’s a lot of good.  New snowdrops are good, and I can’t believe I have ‘E.A. Bowles’ in the garden this year.  I love it.  When I first saw this drop five years ago on a visit to Hitch Lyman’s Temple Garden,  I thought for sure it would be many years before I would have a chance at it, but here it is.

galanthus ea bowles

‘E.A. Bowles’, a pure white snowdrop which has replaced the three short inners with another set of pure white outers.

So now I shall continue with way more snowdrop pictures than good company should have to endure.  You are more than welcome to scroll down to the end and I won’t take a bit of offense  🙂

galanthus moortown

Another newer to me drop, galanthus ‘moortown’.  Thumbs up for me on these big blooms with a strong mark that bleeds up.

Only a few drops here can claim to be new and exciting.  They might seem that way to me but fancier people will turn their noses up at the plain white and green things I’m obsessing about.  No problem I say.  Social distancing is so much easier around here when your day revolves around tiny green markings on a tiny white flower.

galanthus alans long ovary

I’m not sure who Alan is, but here’s galanthus ‘Alan’s Long Ovary’ looking nice with a growing clump of ‘Winifrede Mathias’ in the background.

Before anyone gets the wrong impression, let me again clearly state that my garden is not as impressive as closeups and heavily cropped photos might imply.  Snowdrops are tiny, and one drop does not a garden make, so I think I still have plenty of time to consider charter bus parking and garden visitor handouts.

american snowdrop garden

A blank lawn is slowly giving way to planting beds and a garden design.  This is the bulk of my snowdrop garden, and notice that the glare of white is still far from overwhelming.

Even without visitors it’s a fun obsession.  It makes the next few weeks less painful as we shelter in place and face the waiting game.

galanthus kew green

A late galanthus ‘Kew Green’ backed up by an early hellebore.  I like when the drops open alongside other spring color.

Hopefully the garden is enough to wear me out and keep me safe from online plant shopping.  February has already seen magnolia and “hardy” camellia purchases and there’s no plans to where any of it will go, so if we stop there it’s probably a good thing.

galanthus greenish

A souvenir snowdrop from another Temple Gardens visit, galanthus ‘Greenish’.  It was beautiful in the gardens and I was thrilled to see it for sale at the exit.

There’s plenty to do without adding anything new, so let me remind myself of that.

rabbit crocus

Rocks thrown down for a new (and yet unfinished) bed edging have kept the rabbits away from the crocus they normally destroy.  I wonder if I can expand on this idea…

Moving plants comes first.  In the earliest days of spring I can pop stuff up and plop it elsewhere without water or worry and that’s perfect for the laziest of gardeners.  Today I shall finish the snowdrops and begin shrubs… according to the plan I never follow…

galanthus sutton courtney

One of my favorites, galanthus ‘Sutton Courtney’ with a few tommy crocus behind.  Fyi the snowdrops still looked nice a few hours later after the bunnies ate all the crocus.

Hope these days treat you well and you’re able to find your own retreat in the garden.

Fake News!

Spring arrived last week.  There it was right in front of me, the thermometer was roaring to the top and everyone was thrilled by the high numbers.  Records keep breaking and coats were thrown aside as ridiculously overcautious and we embraced the sun.  Surely that weak, orange sun was the reason things were so warm.

galanthus potters pride

Galanthus ‘Potters Pride’, typically in bloom for the end of November Thanksgiving table, has only now been coaxed out of the ground.  

The neighborhood was bustling.  Nearly everybody had a job as garages were swept and litter was cleared and the last of the holiday decorations were secured.  It sure looked good.  My brother in Law even pulled out the leaf blower and cleared all the riff-raff which had blown in while our backs were turned.  Back into the woods it went, and a quick round with the lawnmower has everything returned to that bland, uniform, suburban look which all my neighbors seem to love.

lawn mow in january

Nothing like a freshly cut lawn in January.  Mid January.  In Northern Pennsylvania.  For those who have let the 63F (17C) high get to our heads, our normal lows for this time of year should be closer to 17F (-8C).

The last three months have been filled with erratic ups and downs, but the ups are all we care about.  I have snowdrops sprouting and in full bloom outside and it’s the middle of January and that must be good.

galanthus three ships

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ up and blooming last week.  Although ‘Three Ships’ hails from milder climates and is known for its Yuletide arrival, here in the colder zones it struggle to reach port by the end of January in a “normal” winter.

But in spite of the early sprouts and premature color something still feels wrong.  The sun keeps claiming it’s perfect, and he deserves all the credit for this unusual warmth but most everyone else can see it’s near the lowest point of its year.  I wish my plants would check this out, but no they just keep fixating on these temperature numbers.  Who cares about tomorrow.

hamamelis pallida

The first of the witch hazels to open here is Hamamelis ‘pallida’.  Full bloom and it’s about a month early. 

Oh well.  When it gets cold I’ll just shelter in place and ride it out.  As usual the weather will take out the most vulnerable and either kill them outright or set them back for a few years, but it happens and in spite of warnings the plants never learn.

I’ll protect my favorites though.  Some plants just agree with everything I do and even if I’m the most incompetent gardener they always make me either feel good or look like I’m winning.  Right now with colder weather and snow briefly returning it’s the winter garden that’s got all the good stuff.

cyclamen coum

The Cyclamen coum growing under lights are starting their show.  Hardy enough to survive outdoors I just like keeping a few inside to enjoy.  

My winter garden in the garage is a nice escape from the real world.  Under the fluorescent shop lights I have a few plants pretending they’re not part of this Pennsylvania garden and also a few that are just too tender to make it on their own.  This year’s wunderkind is the pot of galanthus seedlings I have coming up.  A friend gave me the seed last winter and although a few sprouted then, the bulk have waited until now to start coming up.  Realistically they would be better off in the garden, but here I can admire them endlessly and imagine the hundreds of blooms which are sure to follow… in three or four years… assuming I don’t kill them… just like I’ve killed all the others…

snowdrop seedlings

Snowdrop seedlings.  They still have a long way to go but just think of the possibilities!

I’ve been off my seed-starting kick for a few years now but stuff like this is still irresistible.  There’s so much variability in these seed grown bulbs that I’m excited just thinking about what could be.  I guess that’s what optimism looks like when the nights are still so long, since there’s still bound to be a three year wait at least.  In the meantime three years can pass quickly, and three years ago I started some narcissus seed, and three years later I have a bloom!

narcissus romieuxii

Some type of hoop petticoat daffodil.  The seed were labeled as narcissus romieuxii something-something but they’re not the pale yellow I was expecting, so I’m not committing to a full name yet.

Non-hardy daffodils growing under lights is practically a gateway drug to greenhouse thoughts, so fortunately I don’t have much access to more seed but in these unsettled times you never know.  An offer for more seeds would be much better news than what usually shows up.

In the meantime this winter could end up anywhere.  History shows that these fake warmups always end up badly but maybe I should just hide out in the winter garden and hope for the best.  Maybe this time we’ll only get the tornado rather than the tornado, hail and lightning storm.

The New Kid on the Block

I don’t even try and hide the snowdrop obsession anymore.  Today it feels like all the plants and yardwork of the summer months are just a weak effort to cover up my addiction and to bide my time until cooler months return and snowdrop season kicks back in.  As proof I will confess to driving two hours last weekend to meet up with a few equally crazed friends in the greenhouses of John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens, for the sole purpose of seeing the autumn blooming snowdrops in full flower.  Looking back it was an excellent choice.

galanthus bursanus

Introducing Galanthus bursanus, a fall blooming surprise with big flowers, multiple bloom stalks, winter foliage, and typically two marks on the inner petals.

Spring and even winter blooming snowdrops can go a long way in easing the pain of a brutal winter, but fall blooming snowdrops make an excellent opener to a slow to arrive season.  Shorter days and colder nights may sap your enthusiasm, but to see a few optimistic sprouts and pristine flowers, the gardener is reminded that the natural world is already getting started on next year.

galanthus bursanus

Most of the Galanthus bursanus were big plants with large flowers, but the range and variety was outstanding with both big and tiny represented.

The highlight of this trip was to see in person a fall blooming snowdrop species which has only just been officially named and described by science.  But gardeners rarely wait for things to be official and for years Galanthus bursanus has been making the rounds as a maybe species or maybe subspecies.  Finally it’s official.  This rare little gem from a small population outside the city of Bursa, Turkey is no longer an odd fall-blooming G. plicatus or unusual G. reginae-olgae, it’s a whole new species… one which to the joy of snowdrop lovers is easy to grow and stands out amongst all the others.

galanthus bursanus

Of course as with all snowdrops, a few selections have already been made including this unusual bloomer… which I loved but others were lukewarm towards.

Of course hundreds of seedlings are already in the works, and since John Lonsdale has a way with these things many of the seedlings have reached blooming size and are now being grown on to see just how special the most special are .  Hopefully in another year or two as all these seedlings hit the pipeline I can crack the wallet open for a couple offsets and give this one a try in my own garden!

galanthus bursanus

Another beautiful form of Galanthus bursanus in front with a G. reginae olgae (one mark, typically flowers without foliage present) behind.

In the meantime, out of thousands of of little pots, there were plenty of other things to admire and to talk about.  Other autumn snowdrops were either at their peak or just starting to open, and the variety represented in all those seed grown plants is just amazing.

galanthus elwesii monostictus green tip

Fall blooming seedlings of Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus, all selected for showing a good bit of green to their outer petals.

And then there were cyclamen.  Maybe even more cyclamen than snowdrops.  The cyclamen were either just coming off their peak bloom or just starting to put out their winter foliage.  I again resisted bringing home more of the borderline hardy species, but the winter garden needed some new Cyclamen hederifolium and faced with such a wide range to choose from, my wallet left this visit with a noticeably thinner waistline.

hardy cyclamen

A few of the cyclamen mother plants, all coming into growth for the winter.

I spent this morning repotting my new treasures.  They didn’t need it, but I like to check out the roots and get them into the same soil that the rest of my cyclamen are in, if only so that all my pots dry out around the same time and all the plants are in the same boat… and can all sink or sail together.

hardy cyclamen

A less hardy species, Cyclamen maritimum has both exceptional leaves as well as masses of flowers (after several weeks in flower these are the last few lingering blooms)

Snowdrops in bloom, a visit with friends, and delicious new plants.  I can’t complain, and I’m kind of excited for the upcoming winter garden season.  The new cyclamen already have me down there on a daily basis, and I’m quite motivated and cleaning things up, organizing and re-arranging, and just plain old admiring the goodies.

It still doesn’t mean I’m hoping for a long winter though…

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.