I’m officially a terrible historian. This past Saturday’s Galanthus Gala in Downingtown PA was all about people and plants and I barely got photographs of either. I shopped, I talked, I wandered, but the camera stayed off and remained tucked away in my bag. My apologies of course, but if you were there I think you’d understand. There were so many distractions. (give Facebook a search with ‘Downington Galanthus Gala’ and you’ll find plenty of photos!)
David Culp welcomes the crowd shortly after opening. I can guess the time because there are still plants left on most of the tables… well that and there’s a clock on the wall.
It felt like a much bigger event this year with lectures, food sales, and more vendors, but it was still easy to pick up on that gathering of friends vibe that last year had. In between pondering new plant purchases I spend nearly all the rest of the day catching up with old and new gardening friends. Seemed appropriate since the venue for the Gala is the >Downingtown Friends Meeting<, a location with an over 200 year tradition of gatherings. Many of you will better recognize the Friends under a name more commonly used, the Quakers.
Downingtown Friends Meeting. As I understand it ‘A meeting’ is a local group within the Friends, similar to a church, mosque or synagogue, but for Quakers.
Although most people might consider the Quakers to be a footnote in American history, they are alive and well here as they enter their third century in Downingtown, and continue to welcome all faiths each Sunday into their vision of spirituality.
“We express our faith through our beliefs in simplicity, integrity, equality, stewardship, and peace. We invite people of all faiths, backgrounds, and lifestyles to worship with us in seeking a spiritual path”
Dr John Lonsdale of Edgewood Gardens leads a talk on one of his favorite subjects, hardy cyclamen. It was a great Day for presentations, with additional talks by Matthew Bricker and Rick Goodenough on snowdrop propagation and the variety of snowdrops.
I did nerd out a little being in the company of so many distinguished plant experts. There were plantsmen(plantspeople?), authors, designers, experts, and a mix of all of the above, but other than the people I’ve already pushed myself upon I really only cornered one new person. Charles Cresson was someone I spotted at last year’s gala yet didn’t have the nerve to approach, but this year with premeditated intent, I cornered him for a signature on something I’ve held on to for the last thirty years. Charles is a horticulturalist who’s reputation spans decades in the Philadelphia area and who’s garden Hedgleigh Spring is internationally known for it’s design and contents. I couldn’t exactly say why I wanted him to sign the Dec 1988 Horticulture magazine issue which showcased his garden, but I asked him anyway and he was very gracious to do so. He even humored me as I went on too long about how impressed this teenager had been back then, and how today I’m proud to grow plants which grew from seed he had donated to the Hardy Plant Society over the years.
I told you I was a nerd.
Dug up out of the basement and brought down to Downingtown for a signature. Thanks Mr. Cresson.
Of course the Gala ended too soon. Tables cleared out and had a picked over look within the first few hours, and by the end of the event there was barely a hellebore to be seen. They had to turn off the music and turn up the lights to get me out of there but eventually I got the hint and loaded up the car for the ride home. It was still light out though. How could I leave horticultural ground zero before every last bit of light was gone? I decided to swing by a local park where I knew there were naturalized bulbs.
Naturalized Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake) slightly beaten down by the recent snows but ready to rise again.
The trip over to the park had me questioning my decision. Heavy snow and winds the day before had left a series of power outages and fallen trees along the route, and even though the sun was shining there were still enough road closures and downed powerlines to make me wonder if a turn to the interstate might not have been a better choice. I was committed though. My commitment was official after I reached a large pine that had fallen over the road yet was caught up in the electrical wires on the other side of the street. A person can’t hit the gas and zip under a hanging tree just to turn around on the other side, so from that point on I new I was unstoppable. So close yet so far, imagine the words which came out of my mouth when I found the road leading to the park blocked by a fallen tree and strung with caution tape…. argh. Fortunately a slight detour and approach from the other side got me close enough to get in.
The haul. Snowdrops of course, but also species peonies, cactus cuttings, cyclamen, and two pots of Hippeastrum ‘Timothy Calkins’.
I guess it’s now that I should admit I didn’t buy nearly as many snowdrops as you might expect. Two is all I purchased, but the trades and gifts were exceptional! What did surprise me was that I came home with two species peonies at a time when all I’m thinking about is spring bulbs. Who knew? Even worse is they’re dormant so in all appearances what I came home with is two pots of expensive gravel. I’ll pass on trying to explain that one to the spouse since I made the amateur mistake of leaving the tags in.
My end of Pennsylvania is no longer snowdrop-ready. Better get more birdfood, I didn’t bother filling it last week when things were all sun-shiny and spring…
The Gala was my ‘cheat day’, so not a single dollar spent counts towards the budget but I still have to consider what to do with the witch hazel that I may have committed to buying… or the variegated Japanese solomon seals which I’m still considering.
In any case, please join me in all this considering. Two vendors seemed to still have a few snowdrops left over and if you’re interested in a few starter varieties (or worse) you can easily send either or both an email. Just out of curiosity of course. Matthew Bricker (matt_bricker at hotmail dot com) or my friend Paula (pooter926 at gmail dot com) both might have a few leftovers they’d rather sell than replant, and what’s the harm in asking?
Have a great week. We’re still under about six inches of snow with at least as much predicted for Wednesday, so spring seems far off again, but I hope your weather results will vary. At least the sun is wonderfully strong all around 🙂