Snowdrops and snow

First days of spring come and go but for me a major turning point is the first garden tour.  Saturday was the day, and a friend and I headed up to Trumansburg NY to visit Hitch Lyman’s garden and his collection of snowdrops and other early bloomers.  I won’t bore you with the details of the “should be a 2hr drive” but the clock put it at closer to 4 hours and I’m sure that was due in a large part to not having a map, not really paying attention to directions, and having a co-pilot with a lot of new stories to share.  So we got there a bit later than planned, got to see a little more of the country side, and got to see a few more cities than we should have.  At least we didn’t end up in Canada is all I’ll add.

A snowdrop visit to upstate New York in below freezing weather and amidst snow qualls isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time.  Most of the garden is still asleep and when you pull up it’s more the house you notice, and less so the gardens.

The house at Temple gardens

The house at Temple Gardens

This open day was organized by the Garden Conservancy and according to their description the 1848 farmhouse was moved to the site in 1990.  What a job that must have been, and I’m going to guess it needed a bit of restoration when it got here.  On our side trip to reach Trumansburg, we came down rte 414 from Geneva Falls and experienced first-hand some other “in need of renovating” historical houses.  Some fascinating buildings, almost kind of ghost-towny in spots, and I’m going to make another guess that the local economy can’t support the upkeep on these grand old houses.  So they sit and slowly decay.

Back to the garden.  As you can see from the house photo most of the front acreage is naturalized fields with a few specimen plantings here and there.  The drive up to the house is also a mix of naturalized shrubs and trees, but along both sides are banks of earth spotted with all kinds of treasures.

hardy cyclamen and snowdrops

A sloped bank of hardy cyclamen and various snowdrops

The snow and cold had many of them lying down but there was still plenty to see.  We checked in for our visit and headed around the house.  Plantings close to the building were pretty subdued and actually the direct opposite of what most gardeners do.  I put all the little stuff right up around the house, but here the only plantings were a raised terrace with a planted fieldstone sitting area.

winter aconite terrace

The terrace out back

I’ve seen springtime pictures from this vantage point, and the white wisteria and crabapples make for a much more lush view than the current frozen winter aconite among the paving.

temple gardens

Around back is the namesake temple for Mr. Lyman’s Temple Nursery…. snowdrops are the specialty in case you missed that.

Behind the temple you can make out the dark green of the yew and boxwood that surround the formal garden.  I didn’t get any pictures inside the garden, but it’s a formal layout of geometric planting beds filled with lilac, peonies, colchicums, hellebores, and of course snowdrops and other spring bulbs.

yew formal garden

The formal garden entrance

Deer seemed to be a problem outside the hedge and protective fence, with plenty of nibbled and buck rubbed shrubs, but once inside there were many signs of spring… in spite of my freezing fingers and cold toes.

helleborus niger

Some early Lenten roses (Helleborus niger) in the formal garden beds

galanthus jade

Galanthus ‘Jade’

Of course there were snowdrops(here’s “Jade”), but the bulk of the snowdrops were in the next (and last) section of the garden.  The woodland garden was furthest from the house and consisted of a narrow path that wound its way through the secondary growth of trees and shrubs that lined the back field.

Here’s how the path looked.

woodland path

The carefully marked woodland path, lined with snowdrops.

There were small clumps of drops everywhere and I was nervous to even use the outer edges of the trail since many clumps edged up to the path.  For a snowdrop fan there was interest galore…. for a non-snowdrop person I suspect they would want someone to widen the path, throw down some mulch, and pick up a few of the fallen twigs.

snowdrop woodland

An authentic snowdrop woodland peppered with clumps of named snowdrop varieties

Here are a few clump closeups from the woodland area.

galanthus nivalis sandersii

Galanthus nivalis sandersii

galanthus diggory

Galanthus ‘Diggory’

galanthus lapwing

Galanthus ‘Lapwing’

galanthus R D Nutt

Galanthus ‘R D Nutt’


double snowdrop

Unlabeled double snowdrop










I’ve got a few more pictures taken of the bank along the driveway but I think I’ll save them for another post.  For now I’ll leave you with some interior shots of the temple (it’s not just for show!).  After losing all sensation in my fingertips, we allowed ourselves a break inside by the temple fire.

Hitch Lyman garden

Warming up in front of the fireplace at the Lyman garden.

I hope we weren’t crossing any poor-garden-conduct boundaries by going inside, but the door was slightly ajar and the fire was so inviting.  Plus by then we were freezing, and a passing snow squall wasn’t helping matters much.  As we were looking around and considering building our own garden temples, I saw this above the door and had the feeling we were just as welcome here as we had been in the rest of the garden.

lyman temple garden

Inside details of the temple

Thanks for having us Mr. Lyman.

Seeds and seedlings

Our usual last frost is somewhere in the area of May 15th but I’ve never seen it happen that late. Usually the first week of May has been ok. Still I go off the 15th anyway and as a result I always feel behind. I did start the onions and leeks about two weeks ago (I think that’s about nine weeks early?) and the little sprouts have been coming up on the fringes of the shop light, but as they start grow it’s time for the change-over.

seedlings growlights

The cyclamen and snowdrops are kicked out from under the light, and the new seedlings take over.  They’ll be fine on the cold windowsills now that its warmed up a bit and the onions and leeks should be happy with the prime lighting locations.  You’re looking at lancelot leek and copra, red wings, and ailsa craig onions.

seedlings growlights

In another two or so weeks I’ll start the main crops of warm weather transplants such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.  Also I’ll get some lettuce and cabbage started for early transplanting.  A cold frame would really come in handy about now but I never did more than just collect the windows.

I did start some other stuff (hardy perennials and bulb seeds) when I started the onions, these are all chilling outside.  The finer stuff sits under a plastic tote, the larger seeds get topped off with chicken grit for protection and sit out in the open.  When things warm up outside to their liking hopefully I’ll get some sprouts.

winter sowing

They should have been planted about a month earlier to get a real taste of winter, but I didn’t get the seeds until the end of February, so they get what the get.

I also tried something new this year.  For seeds that need a cold spell, I tried the Deno method.  It’s named after Dr Norman Deno and is a method he used to test germination on thousands of seed types.   Basically you take moist paper towels, spread the seeds out on them and then fold them up.  This goes in a baggie with info on the outside and either gets room temperature treatment (warm) or refrigerator treatment (cold).

winter sowing

They need a little more attention (you need to check on them periodically for germination), and they need immediate planting in soil when they do show signs of sprouting, but they take up so much less room!  The other big plus is you know where your seeds are and you can easily see if they’re dead and rotted.  No more staring at an empty pot waiting.

Here I have a dozen or so started seeds sitting in the fridge, nice and neat and out of the way, and so much more acceptable than pots full of dirt next to the yogurt.

winter sowing

If you’re into seed starting, check out “the science of seed germination” at Hayefield blog.  It’s a great intro to the science behind seeds and it offers a couple great links, I’d try and put the link right here for you but haven’t mastered that bit yet 😉

Good luck on your seeds!

First day of spring?

The sun was out and temperatures crept up to the fifty plus range, so I did what every self respecting suburban boy does when the bad weather breaks. I washed the cars. Donna was pleased, clean cars and an industrious husband are far more respectable than a spouse who shuffles around the yard looking for crocus sprouts, but I couldn’t avoid poking around in the crusty flower beds. Here’s the one right next to the front walk.

spring garden cleanup

The ugly reality

It was time for the trash and dead banana plant carcass to disappear so that there will be room for spring sprouts.  Sure it’s early, but I think everything there will be fine even with a couple more freezes.  I feel much better now.

spring garden cleanup

A fresh new look

Sorry, but I can’t help putting in one more winter aconite and snowdrop photo.  Sure it’s the same two inch plant from an earlier post, but in case you didn’t notice, the subtitle for this blog is “more than you ever wanted to know about my garden”, so to keep it honest I go for the overkill.

snowdrops and winter aconite

Shoots and flowers coming up to make spring a thing

A low of 20F is forecast for later in the week and winter hasn’t been completely crushed,  but I’m going to call this past weekend spring (even if it’s just really really early spring).

Next I should consider cleaning the hellebore bed, it could use some attention too.

spring garden cleanup

More of the ugly reality

The pussywillow at the end isn’t waiting so I better get on it, but at least for now the winter grime is off the cars and a couple plants have some breathing room.

spring pussy willow

Hope for spring