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).
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!
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!
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.
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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!