Were those snowdrops all just a dream?

It’s hard to believe that just over a week ago this gardener was completely consumed by snowdrops.  Today the grass is green and people are nursing sunburns but just seven days ago we braved the usual snow squalls and windchills to pay Trumansburg NY and Hitch Lyman’s Temple Nursery a visit.

snowdrops temple nursery

The garden’s namesake reflected in the overflowing waters of the garden’s pond. There had been plenty of rain in the days previous… good for melting the last of the snow.

This was our third visit to the gardens and for a snowdrop lover it’s always a treat.  Mr. Lyman opens his garden through the Garden Conservancy, an organization committed to opening gates and preserving gardens across North America, and although this one’s early spring drabness might not appeal to everyone, it’s a treasure chest for those interested in seeing what is likely North America’s most diverse collection of galanthus (snowdrop) cultivars.  But perhaps your interests lie in the warmer seasons and silly things such as sunshine and butterflies.  If so check out the other garden open days listings, and you may be surprised at what’s open in your neck of the woods!

snowdrops at hitch lyman garden

Snowdrops along the woodland path of Hitch Lyman’s Temple Gardens.

Since most of the rest of the world is well beyond snowdrop season I’ll try to keep this quick.  Interest in little white flowers dims quickly once the tulips start to open and I want to list this year’s favorites so I have something to look back on next January when the fever starts up again.

galanthus mrs backhouse #12

You can’t go wrong with the clean and simple. This is an old classic, galanthus “Mrs. Backhouse #12”.

Since I’ll be the first to admit that nearly all small white snowdrops look remarkably identical I’ll try to focus on a few that stand out.  The ‘greens’ caught my eye this year, and galanthus ‘Greenish’ was looking perfectly different this spring and really makes a nice clump among the whites.

galanthus greenish

Galanthus “Greenish”

Green is different, but a green ‘spikey’ is even more different.  I’m not sure if this tiny burst of flower is to everyone’s taste but it is definitely what I’d call ‘interesting’….

galanthus boyd's double

Galanthus “Boyd’s double”

Yellow is also different, but on a flower like “Spindlestone Surprise” it looks just great.  This was one of several nice clumps of yellow drops.

galanthus spindlestone surprise

Galanthus “Spindlestone Surprise”

Ok, so one more picture of an interesting green.

galanthus green arrow

Galanthus “Green Arrow”

I hear that when temperatures rise enough above 40F (5C) the flowers in this garden will actually open wide and show off their inner markings.  I have yet to experience that since we always seem to be at the garden the day before the sun comes out and the air temperatures rise.  This year was par for the course since the Sunday forecast called for a calm and sunny 60F.

galanthus augustus

Even when still closed, the puckered petals and grass green foliage of galanthus “Augustus” still make for a great show.

I hate to admit that over the years I’ve added quite a few snowdrops to my garden, and with each new one I somehow tell myself it’s exactly the drop to complete some final empty void in my collection.  To publically admit I have a collection is a bad sign in itself, but to admit I NEED even species snowdrops is probably another bad omen.  They’re all white and green, just like every other snowdrop, but each one is just so much more special than the last 🙂

Galanthus koenenianus

Galanthus koenenianus. How can you not love those fat grey leaves? This was just one of several interesting little species snowdrops Mr. Lyman grows.

Now that we’re getting into special little things which make your fulfilling life seem just a tiny bit lacking lets look at this early blooming scilla relative which goes by the name of puschkinia.  This strain is supposed to have more rounded heads with darker lines of color and since I don’t grow it (yet) I’ll take their word for it.

Puschkinia scilloides 'Aragats Gem'

Puschkinia scilloides ‘Aragats Gem’

…and what gardener goes on a garden visit without adding something to the wishlist?  These last two will surely remain on the list for a while since even I can’t justify the pricetags which usually accompany them.

galanthus phillip andre meyer

Galanthus “Phillip Andre Meyer”.  I think of these as pagoda shaped although they’re usually referred to as inverse poculiforms (ipocs, or inpocs if you fear the wrath of Apple’s trademark police).  The flowers are reversed (inverted) with the green inner petals on the outside, and all six petals nearly similar in length.

“A. E. Bowles” will not likely visit my garden anytime soon but I’m going to put it as number one on the wishlist.  How exciting (for me at least) to be able to see it in bloom, and what a great way to commemorate such a talented plantsman and author.  Actually the snowdrop “Augustus” is another drop which is named after him, as well as dozens of other cultivars of plants.  Not a bad legacy in my opinion.

galanthus e a bowles

Galanthus “E.A.Bowles”

Of course it’s not all about pedigreed names and high pricetags.  There were plenty of clumps who’s names were known only to Mr. Lyman yet were still fantastic first signs of spring.

double snowdrop galanthus elwesii

No obvious label on this one, but its fat, rounded blooms made me happy to see it. Nice foliage as well.

After a long visit we were finally on the road again and made a quick pit stop at Ithaca’s Cornell Plantation.  The plantation is part of Cornell University and we wanted to stop in quickly for a look at their gardens, in particular their winter garden.

cornell plantation winter garden

Cornell Plantation’s winter garden.  Bright conifers, colorful bark, and a few winter bloomers all just recently released from underneath a cold blanket of snow.

The winter garden was a nice stop but since our fingers were still tingling from the cold we didn’t exactly linger much.  I don’t think I’d mind coming back in another few weeks when things really explode, but on this particular day the conifers and bare twigs, for as colorful as they were, just couldn’t keep us away from the heated car seats.

cornell plantation winter garden

More gardens at Ithaca’s Cornell University. The arboretum and other parts called but we wanted to get home before dark!

In spite of the weather we always end up enjoying our visit up to Trumansburg, Ithaca, and the Temple Gardens and are grateful that Mr. Lyman opens them up each spring.  In case you’re unaware Mr. Lyman also sells snowdrops so if you’re interested the process is to send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886.  Catalogs go out in January and the drops are usually sold out within a few weeks so you need to be quick!

Enjoy spring and your very own garden visits 🙂

Back to the Temple

 

Last Saturday some friends and I made the trip up to Trumansburg, NY for what I hope will become an annual tradition; the open day at Hitch Lyman’s Temple Garden Nursery.  As was the case in 2013, winter still had a firm grip on the weather so a thick coat was essential (and gloves and hat and scarf), but at least there was more mud than ice this year.  That’s a start….

open garden day

First garden tour of the year!

For those who don’t know, Mr. Lyman is (among other things of course) a lover of snowdrops, and his Temple Nursery catalog is the most specialized retail source for snowdrops in the US.  There are other great sources out there now, but Hitch has been dealing snowdrops since before they became cool (am I the only one who considers them cool?), and his collection is considered to be the largest in this country with around 400 varieties planted throughout the property.

snowdrops at the Temple Garden

Snowdrops all over, patches big and small, named/unnamed…. heaven for the galanthophile (snowdrop lover)

The bank along the driveway is the first planting you see, and here’s my first favorite, galanthus “Wasp”, with its long wispy blooms.  Not that I’m stalking Mr. Lyman’s snowdrops, but I just want to say it looks so much better this year upright and not all flat and frozen.   8 blooms this year (up from 4 the year before -in case you’re wondering).  I took a lot of pictures last year too 🙂

galanthus wasp and dodo norton

Galanthus “Wasp” with “Dodo Norton” in the back

I could go on and on about my visit but I’ll try to keep this somewhat short.  I referred to Hitch as a dealer of snowdrops, and I think that’s an appropriate term for someone who sells something so addictive…. here’s galanthus “Naughton” (also just 4 blooms last year)  Hope it bulks up quick enough to make it into the catalog soon!

galanthus noughton

Galanthus “Naughton”. Maybe it’s a little droopy, but the flowers are so big, and I love the little curl to the pedicle(?) just above the bloom.

Doubles are starting to grow on me.  Even the smaller blooms that normally bore me.  “Cornwall Gem” has small sideways blooms that are held further out from the stem.

galanthus cornwood gem

Galanthus “Cornwood Gem”

“Mordred” has a nice fat look that I liked.  It’s hard to say for sure though if this fat look stays,  since it could change completely as the flowers expand and open (if the weather ever improves).  Odd that for this one the sun came out, with a name like Mordred I would have expected even more dark grey ‘Lord of the Rings’ weather to rain down.

galanthus mordred

Galanthus “Mordred”, a nice recurved fat double with green tips.

Once up the driveway we were invited in to the house for signing in and paying the $5 admission fee.  We had only been out of doors for 20 minutes at most, and the break from the cold was already a welcome relief!

inside hitch lyman house

One of the most welcoming sign-ins ever! It’s hard to see, but some of those cut snowdrops were huge, and the cookies and muffins were a nice touch.

Out again and into the snowdrops.  There’s a more formal part of the garden out back beyond the garden’s namesake temple.  My traveling company spent most of their visit inside the temple, next to the warm fire.  Fortunately they weren’t offered wine or else I suspect we never would have gotten them out of there!

hitch lyman temple garden

Hitch Lyman’s backyard temple. Even though the pond was unfrozen this year, the fireplace inside was still a welcomed retreat from the cold.

From what I could see, the formal garden promised an explosion of lilacs , hellebores, and peonies as well as the small bulbs which were scattered throughout.  In past years I’ve seen reports on the summer garden, but I don’t believe he’s opened it in the last few years.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to see this in person when it’s green.

hitch lyman formal garden

A small part of the formal garden. Apples trained to goblet shapes, beds filled with perennials, lilacs and tree peonies everywhere, and buds of hellebores and herbaceous peonies sprouting all over.

Close ups of the beds showed plenty of signs of spring, snowdrops and winter aconite (eranthis) plus many other goodies on their way.

hitch lyman garden beds

Winter aconite waiting for the sun to open up, snowdrops scattered throughout.

Personally I was fine poking around in the still dormant beds looking at goodies, but the bulk of  Mr. Lyman’s snowdrops are in the back of the property and it’s there we rushed off to next.  To keep things moving along, here are more favorites, such as “Ballerina” a very neatly arranged double.

galanthus ballerina

Galanthus “Ballerina”

….and “Flocon De Neige”, a wish list snowdrop.  Easily on my top 10 or even top 5.  It’s hard to say since I don’t actually dare put a wish list together.

galanthus flocon de neige

Galanthus “Flocon de Neige”. Six outers with a doubled inner, very pure looking.

“Pricilla Bacon”, part of a healthy patch all with perfect large rounded flowers.

galanthus pricilla bacon

Galanthus “Pricilla Bacon”

The odd little “Alburg Claw”.  Not a great picture, but There’s some kind of strange attractiveness to this one.

galanthus alburg claw

Galanthus “Alburg Claw”, a tiny plant which I hope to see thriving during next year’s visit.

The snowdrop plantings lined a taped off trail that meandered through the woods.  You could tell quite some work had been done to get the gardens ready for this Garden Conservancy Open Day, brush was cleared, patches labeled, sprouts uncovered.  All this must have been carried out in the last four days since our most recent snow storm!

hitch lyman anowdrop garden

Trail through the snowdrop woodland. Snowdrops extended deep into the trees, and I can only imagine all the additional treasure growing on in the distance.

I felt as if there were easily twice as many snowdrops as remembered from my last visitWarmer weather and another year’s growth seemed to make all the difference, plus I recognized a few names which seemed to have been moved here from off the driveway bank.  “Sophie North” was now in the woods, and this unidentified favorite from last year now has a name too.  It’s galanthus “R.D. Nutt”(and was only two bulbs last year!) 

galanthus rd nutt

Big Flowers, two blooms per bulb, nice wide plicate (folded on the edges) leaves, and olive colored ovaries make galanthus “R.D Nutt” another one of my favorites.

A few really stood out for having big blooms.  This is “Grayswood” who’s blooms are easily an inch long.  I don’t have small hands.

galanthus greyswood

Not the best picture of galanthus “Grayswood”. It’s listed as having four outer petals, but I didn’t have enough sense to look. In my defense my hands were probably freezing at this moment.

“Imbolc” is another one I’d put in the short fat group (a good group to be in if you’re a snowdrop).  Technically it’s out of the “Mighty Atom” group, a strain of stocky, large flowered drops, but until my snowdrop sophistication grows….

galanthus imbolc

Galanthus “Imbolc”. I love this one, but have two related ones which are similar, so it’s closer to top 20, and not top 5.

“Major Pam”, a nice clump which was offered in Mr. Lyman’s catalog this year.  Tight, neatly organized blooms with short inners, it’s part of my “I don’t like doubles” remission.

galanthus major pam

Galanthus “Major Pam”

You’re doing well if you made it this far.  I’m almost done so here’s “Peardrop” showing two blooms per bulb, nice long blooms…. I’m not sure if the bulbs to the left are also pear related, but the one on the right looks to be a real nice drop.

galanthus peardrop

Galanthus “Mrs. Thompson”.  Almost always referred to as a ‘variable snowdrop’ because it can be all over the place with extra petals, twin flowers, Siamese twin flowers…. I think it really makes for a nice display, but I wonder what the real Mrs. Thompson thought of having such a fickle flower named after her?

galanthus Mrs Thompson

Small blooms, big blooms, four petals, six petals; galanthus “Mrs. Thompson” looks good all the time (to me at least)

I included “Richard Ayres” because one of my hardier traveling companions told a nice story about meeting the real Mr. Ayres when this was spotted.  I always love a good story, too bad the sun couldn’t come out to open him up a little.

galanthus richard ayres

Galanthus “Richard Ayres”

Finally a little hope for my ugly duckling of the snowdrop patch, galanthus “Blewbury Tart”.  Grown well and in a bigger clump maybe someday mine can also have an attractive oddness to it, instead of just plain old oddness.

galanthus blewbury tart

Galanthus “Blewbury Tart”, a ‘unique’ looking snowdrop that still needs some time to grow on me.

So thanks for sticking with me for way too much galanthus talk.  We probably spent about three hours out in the cold and I believe it confirmed my and my friend’s suspicions that there’s something deeply wrong with my idea of fun.  With frozen toes and fingers we returned to the house and headed around the side for one last look.  Unless it was the hypothermia talking, there was still a point here when I actually may have skipped across the grass to look at another snowdrop.  I’m that far gone.

hitch lyman house and fountain

A beautiful springtime sky in western New York. It almost makes you want to take a dip in the fountain 🙂

I have my fingers crossed for next year.  Maybe the sun will come out and maybe I’ll even have the courage to talk to Mr. Lyman.  Despite the cold and wind he was out and about in the gardens mingling, answering questions, and probably just plain enjoying the return of green (and white) things such as “Mrs. Wrightston’s Double”.

galanthus mrs wrightston's double

Galanthus “Mrs Wrightston’s Double”

So that’s it.  It may seem odd to those of you in Europe to again be looking at snowdrops (you’re probably in bathing suits by now) but for us it’s only just turning in to warmer weather.  I’m happy for that, and I’m happy to see green things returning here too.

Thanks again to Mr Lyman for another enjoyable visit and continuing to open his garden to visitors, and if you’re interested in receiving a snowdrop catalog, word on the street is to send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886.  Catalogs go out in January and the drops are usually sold out within a few weeks.

Uh Hello Spring?

Spring will start Thursday.  Technically it should take off with the spring equinox, but around here Thursday will be the first day.   I’m sure of that.

Today’s high just barely reached the freezing point and yesterday didn’t quite make it, but the forecast shows warming and I’m 100% positive spring will come Thursday and stay…..  unless it doesn’t.  The first winter aconite opened so that’s a hopeful sign, but to see the snowdrops all flat and frozen this morning didn’t warm my heart any.

winter aconite (eranthis)

First blooms of winter aconite (eranthis)

I’d been hoping to get a better picture of the snow crocus in the meadow, but the two warm days were only enough to bring out a few and these quickly became the spring tonic for our local rabbits.  There will be secondary buds coming up, so fingers crossed, but how can I resent the little bunnies for their springtime snacking after the winter they’ve had?  Look at that dead grass…. no vision of spring there.

snow crocus

snow crocus (almost) blooming out in the meadow

The new snowdrops are also just waiting…… This planting of galanthus viridapice (a green tipped snowdrop) has one bulb that is just a little earlier and looks just a little bit off, I suspect it’s mislabeled, perhaps it’s “sharlockii”.

galanthus viridapice

galanthus viridapice? just waiting for warmer weather to open

Also on my mislabeled snowdrop list is this galanthus “Sam Arnott”.  It’s not supposed to be double or green tipped…. also there’s not supposed to be a tulip sprouting there just in front,  maybe I was a little hasty in throwing all the moldy bulbs into the compost… and then using the compost too soon.  Oh the stuff that never gets mentioned in the gardening books 🙂

galanthus sam arnott

galanthus “Sam Arnott” and not galanthus “Sam Arnott”

But until Thursday rolls around, there’s not much else to look at.  I did turn an optimistic corner and started the winter garden changeover.  All the snowdrops and cyclamen were replaced with seedlings of lettuce and broccoli and hopefully by the time they’re a decent size it will be time to go outside.  For now the highlight is a potful of muscari “Valerie Finnis”.  I surprised myself by getting this one chilled and through the winter and then into bloom.  It’s a nice look, too much foliage for my taste, but remember beggars can’t be choosers.

muscari valerie finnis

Muscari “Valerie Finnis” forced indoors under lights

Here’s another reason spring will come Thursday.  My “in the green” snowdrops from Carolyn’s Shade Garden have arrived all safe and sound and need to go outside in the garden (“in the green” because they’re bareroot, actively growing, not dormant bulbs).  They can handle plenty of frost, but the next two nights of 16F (-9C) lows might be too much of an insult for these city drops (Carolyn is located outside of Philadelphia).  I’ll leave them to sit like this on a windowsill for the next two nights with just enough water to keep them wet, but not enough to have them sitting in water.  I’m excited to have them and the plus side to this treatment is I get to admire them close up for a couple days.  The blooming one is “Straffan”.

snowdrops in the green

Snowdrops in the green from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens

So wish me luck.  I don’t often complain about winter but I think I’m done with this one.  The clock’s ticking and I’d like at least three weeks before people start complaining about the heat!

Snowdrops in the green

Most bulbs are best moved around and transplanted after they’ve yellowed and died back.  The bulbs are dug, dried and stored for a couple of weeks and then replanted again when the proper planting time rolls around.  It’s a convenient way to handle them and most bulbous plants are designed to handle months of dry, hot, dormancy.  Snowdrops are not.  Most snowdrops don’t appreciate drying out, and to get around this quirk the practice of sending snowdrops “in the green” started.  It’s a genteel way of saying you dug them up while growing and transplanted them that way.

My “in the green” snowdrops from The Temple Nursery arrived about a week and a half ago.snowdrops in the green

Snowdrops in the green are dug and sent shortly after bloom or even while still blooming.  I planted them (almost) as soon as I got them and I can’t wait to see them grow and thrive in my garden.  The bulbs look great and are carefully packed in damp sphagnum moss, wrapped in paper towels, hand labeled, bagged in plastic, and shipped priority mail.  Everything about my order said that care was taken and attention was paid to all the details.  Mr Hitch Lyman is the proprietor of The Temple Nursery and is well known for this old-school attention to details.  The catalog is a carefully prepared list out of his own garden, and the list changes from year to year depending on what’s ready for dividing.  There’s no internet presence, and correspondence is hand written.  Based on how fresh my bulbs were I feel his “dug to order” description was entirely accurate. 

I didn’t mean for this post to be a gushing waterfall of praise, but I guess I’m excited about my plants.  There are a couple other sources for snowdrops, Brent and Becky sells them dry and is a good source, the three other “in the green” sources I’ve heard about are:  Carolyn’s Shade Garden, Linden Hill Nursery, and Black Hog Farms (couldn’t find a web link… they might only do garden shows etc.).  I also got a batch of dry bulbs from Van Engelen, and they were excellent.   

If you want to give the Temple Nursery a try, send a catalog request to: The Temple Nursery, (Mr. Hitch Lyman), Box 591, Trumansburg, NY 14886.  I’ve never heard anything official on this but I sent $4 with the request.  Send it early.  Not only do the snowdrops sell out fast but the catalogs are also limited, so send it out soon!