That Escalated Quickly

You might say escalated, you also might say excavated… Weather permitting turned into actual permission and now there’s a somewhat big hole just out the backside of our house.  And a pile of dirt.  And bulldozer ruts.  And fortunately not a concrete truck stuck in the ruts, but from what I hear it was close.  Let’s look at snowdrops first just because it’s a much better place to start.

fall snowdrops montrose

A fall blooming snowdrop in full flower this week, and enjoying the mild December we have been having. These beauties originate from Nancy Goodwin’s Garden in North Carolina and I’m forever grateful for the friend who made the trip and brought them back.

The fall snowdrops have been putting on a good show this year, and are enjoying the mostly above and sometimes below freezing temperatures we have been having.  I like the weather as well.  I don’t like how it brings up other snowdrops and bulbs and teases them out of the ground way too early, but… whatever… This year there are bigger fish to fry.

excavator in the garden

Earlier in the week, excavation for the bedroom addition began.  I didn’t expect the hole to look so big… or contain so much dirt.  

The bad news is we quickly hit bedrock.  Considering how poorly drained the whole yard is and how shallowly I am forced to plant nearly everything, this was no surprise, but the shock was that our foundation guy was able to pry and angle, crack and lift, slab by slab of rock out of the hole.  We didn’t have to drill, and that’s a saving of thousands of dollars which sadly I will not be able to put towards plant purchases.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to tally up the numbers differently but right now the checkbook is so bloody and punished even I cannot massage magic out of it.

potager in winter

It looks worse than it is… really… Believe it or not I think just a rake and some grass seed will fix almost all of this, and 98% of the real parts of the garden are still safe.

The mess does look considerable though.  At first I hoped topsoil could be saved and everything else used as fill somewhere, but it’s all a mess now and it is what it is.  Surprisingly the rock had a good amount of sand mixed in so I hope that helps it some day weather down into decent soil, but for now it’s a bit rocky and sterile and might just weather down into stone-filled concrete for all I know.

excavator in the garden

Mount Suburbia.  After the main excavation I raked the rocks out of the lawn and gave it a trim to clean up all the last leaves.  I suspect ‘what the heck is he doing, there’s a gaping hole and a mountain of fill, and he’s mowing the lawn?’ was on the minds of some, but again… whatever.

Once the foundation is finished and backfilled, the leftovers will be moved to level off the back of the lot.  I’m excited about that, and I’m also overly excited about all the rock.  Whenever I get the chance (and enough Tylenol into me) I spend some time hauling rocks and stones away into piles and walls.  It’s awesome.  I have stepping stones galore and enough big rocks to make my North American Rock Garden Society membership legitimate.  I’ve even been pushing for the foundation guy to leave his skidsteer here over the Christmas break so I can move dirt around on my own and find even more excellent rocks.  I doubt it will happen though, and it’s probably for the best.  He mentioned to my contractor something about ‘what the *heck* is up with the rocks?’, but apparently the reply was ‘you’ve seen the rest of the yard, right?’, so I think that makes it ok…

Regardless I think I’m more excited about the rocks than the actual addition.  I’ll try to remember that when I’m writing the next check out.

A Roadtrip

Obviously with a million things to do in the garden, a roadtrip to see other gardens and meet with other gardeners and talk about gardening does not get anything done in my own garden, but who cares, it’s a lot more fun!

Unplanted daffodils and yet to be stored dahlias be darned because last Saturday a few obsessive fall-snowdroppers made plans to meet up at Edgewood gardens to talk snowdrops and of course “pick up a few things”while we’re at it.  Some picked up more things than others and that happens.  Actually it’s harder to not have that happen when faced with the hundreds of hardy cyclamen in perfect fall foliage, and pot after pot of full-bloom autumn snowdrops.

fall snowdrops

Autumn blooming snowdrops on the greenhouse benches of John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.

I don’t mean to sound holier than thou, but I was actually less excited about the amazing plants than I was about meeting up with friends.  It’s been a while and this die-hard group hasn’t been gathering as much as it should, so hopefully I didn’t come across as too needy or desperate when I grilled people on secret soil mixes, perfect winter microclimates, and how does your Galanthus bursanus tolerate sudden lows below 10F…  Somehow these questions only seem possible amongst this group 😉

hardy cyclamen hederifolium

An amazing range of potted hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium).  John may not have a sand plunge (like I do btw) but he does well enough growing these in cold frames and the open garden.

It was excellent, even if the time does fly by when we’re there.

fall camellia

Hardy camellias in full bloom on the shaded hillside.  Even in November there’s plenty to see outside.

There would have been more time, but I foolishly tried to wedge in a side trip on the way down.  Ott’s Exotic Plants of Schwenksville, PA has been on my bucket list for a few years and for some reason this trip was the time when it became “on the way”, so I finally stopped in.

Otts exotic plants

Otts exotic plants.  Multiple greenhouses filled with… exotic plants!  This centerpiece conservatory was big enough to house a waterfall, observation bridge, and 40 year old fiddleleaf fig, which reached for the sky and has a trunk wider than I could ever hug!

I was 100% happy with the stop.  I found the multiple greenhouses to be amazing, and the lush, mature tropical plants were cool, but the thought of heating them all was a little scary.  Many of the greenhouses were filled with sales benches, but some were just filled with plants, and it felt more like visiting a botanical garden rather than some tropical plant clearinghouse.

Otts exotic plants

A little late in the season for the famous mums-mountain, but you can still get a sense for the fall extravaganza which likely takes place here each autumn weekend.  Even on a gloomy, drizzly Saturday in November there were still plenty of people out and about.

One excellent thing about this stop were the free plants.  Since it felt like a botanical garden I didn’t think a $25 admission fee was out of the question, but rather than pay it, I put it towards a plant purchase and ended up paying nothing for the aloe and African violet which followed me out.  Wow, do I have a flair for accounting!

Let’s just not mention the other stop.  Even with an admission voucher, I still went a bit over.  Obviously it’s not my fault, but who would ever suspect I’d need to take home an entire flat of hardy cyclamen in addition to the other stuff?  It was Edgewood Garden’s first and only (hopefully) ‘a tree fell on my greenhouse’ cyclamen clearance sale, and there are still flats left if you’re interested.

Obviously nothing was planted Sunday… or since… oh well, it happens, and just like I’m still having a good week I hope you are as well.

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!

Snowdropping 2021

I’ve heard them say it’s the bad trips, not the good, that you remember best, and over the years they become some of your best memories… so maybe someday this trip will rank more highly, but for now its chilly wetness ranks it closer to the bottom.  At one point my snowdropping buddy stated the day reminded her of the windy, frigid visits to upstate NY and the Temple Gardens open day, and she could be right.  In my defense our local forecast was decent, but I foolishly assumed it would be even milder and just as dry 100 miles South.  Silly me.

naturalized snowdrops

I would guess snowdrop adventures in the UK and EU are far less gritty than our adventures.  Tea and cake from what I’ve heard.  To satisfy that question, we didn’t find either.

As I was driving down my better sense knew this trip was too short-notice and not up to or normal standards, so I dropped the hint that I would be fine doing our traditional park visit alone, and Paula must have looked at the thermometer and thought ‘hallelujah!’

“Yes” she said, “That’s fine, maybe I’ll go next week”.

naturalized snowdflakes

The yellow of the winter aconite (Eranthis hiemalis) was fading, but the snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) were just coming up.

The park we visit hasn’t changed in years, but this year I noticed some cleanup.  Brush removed, new paths, general cleaning up.  I’m glad to see some love going in, but also have to admit a little sadness.  Paths of bare earth cut through swathes of snowdrops and winter aconite means many bulbs were destroyed.  Decades of neglect built the show, I just hope a cleaner and neater future leaves a place for them and remembers the history of this plot.

eranthis

Bulbs are tenacious though.  A tree disaster happens, a scar opens, and still the yellow of winter aconite manages to sprout and bloom amongst the debris.

Ok so I really wasn’t all that sad and I did spend a good hour or so examining hundreds of flowers looking for something special so it was still an excellent visit, but the real star of my trip was Paula’s garden.  I swear there were twice as many blooms as I remembered.  I love when I pull up somewhere and get that stupid grin and start talking to myself about how cool it looks.  Sometimes I even do that with passengers onboard, and probably get concerned looks, but with each passing year I notice less and less, and care?  Not even 🙂

american snowdrop garden

The glow of ‘Jelena’ (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’) lights up and perfumes the highs while snowdrops and heucheras fill the lows.

It was so refreshing to see all the color filling a garden.  On the ride over I was desperately scanning the neighborhoods looking for anything but it was never much more than desolately neat lawns and mulch, or way more evergreens than even a cemetery would want.  Occasionally there were some snowdrops or a hellebore, so I guess there’s hope, but inspiring?  No…

american snowdrop garden

Paula has reached the point where nearly all the beds have snowdrops wedged in between the dormant perennials and mix of shrubbery.  She complained about too many seedlings.  I pretended to understand.

As usual we stood out in the cold examining every drop, commenting on how well it grew and where it was from.  There were also witch hazels, winter aconite, and snowflakes to discuss.  It’s great seeing a garden which comes alive while the rest of the neighborhood sits brown and dead.

american snowdrop garden

One of many hellebores.  The color stood out better in real life, I’m sure I yet again had some camera setting mis-adjusted.

By the time we slowly shuffled around the far end of the garden the icy drizzle had switched over to a rainy drizzle, and when I suggested it might be more polite to skip the other garden we had scheduled, Paula seemed fine with that.  We were both ready to warm up and dry out.  I even passed on an offer to dig one or two trades… tell me that’s not a sign!

american snowdrop garden

The last couple years of plantings line the side garden, each special variety socially distanced with only the occasional seedling breaking quarantine.

I guess I’m not as feverishly desperate as I used to be.  It’s still a thrill to go visiting but it’s more and more about the people, and then coming home is less and less of a let-down.  There are still a few (actually plenty) of snowdrop treasures I covet, but give me a sunny winter day with bunches of average white ones surrounding me really makes me feel as if I’ve arrived…. at least in MY mind 🙂

Have a great weekend, and let this be your **last warning** that pictures from my own garden are up next!

Seven Years and Counting

Prepare yourselves for the 2021 snowdrop season.  They’re starting to come up in earnest and if it’s as warm and rainy this week as they say it will be, all the drops should be open or at least up by this weekend.  Of course I’ll photograph nearly every one.  Multiple times.  I will understand if I don’t hear from a few people while this goes on.  Seriously.  Please don’t even feel obligated since there are already enough people ignoring the guy who wanders around in the cold mumbling and kneeling and photographing dirt that a few more won’t matter.  I’ll be oblivious anyway.

In general snowdrops are nothing much to look at unless you have a couple decades worth of adding and dividing and transplanting under your belt.  But small progress can be made.  Here’s an un-named Galanthus elwesii which a friend shared with me years ago.  It faced death many times before I knew what I was doing, but in 2013 I found a good spot, and in 2014 it finally escaped the muck and cold and narcissus fly attacks which were holding it back, and bloomed beautifully.  It even earned a spot on this blog.

galanthus elwesii

A perfectly average no-name Galanthus elwesii.  It’s one of my favorite garden treasures.

All my purchased snowdrops start as one bulb.  One bulb is nothing much to look at.  You tell someone you have ten different varieties and they ask “where?”  and then you head back inside to warm up.  But eventually one becomes five becomes fifteen and you are on your way, and one year you go outside and say ‘wow, I could almost call that a clump’… and then you look around quickly to see if anyone saw you talking to yourself again…

galanthus elwesii

Seven years and a couple days later.  Obviously I’ve done nothing to it in the meantime, just waited.

So I think I have clumps.  They didn’t all take seven years, and some are not even close, but it’s fun, and today my mother in law accidentally made eye contact as she drove by and stopped to tell me it wasn’t summer.  I said it’s warm enough, and then without any prompting she said ‘oh you do have flowers already.  Will they be ok if it gets cold?’  I went on too long.  She regretted it.

Have a great week, and to the non-snowdroppers I’ll see you in a couple weeks 😉

Unbucketing Day

Wow.  What a difference two days can make.  We’ve gone from winter to spring in just a few hours, and even though I won’t officially call spring until the last snow has melted,  I’m practically spinning with spring fever over the thought I might see some more snowdrops unlocked from the ice this weekend.

galanthus three ships

If you’re not sick of seeing ‘Three Ships’ yet, well you might have some of the same issues I’m dealing with.  He looks pristine even after weeks and weeks under a 5 gallon bucket. 

In case you’re wondering, ‘Unbucketing Day’ is a relatively new holiday which I only just declared this afternoon.  I’m sure there’s a more formal process to establishing new holidays, but I did have some cake this afternoon, and I’m pretty sure eating cake is at least steps one through four of the holiday creation process.

galanthus potters prelude

‘Potter’s Prelude’ has gone by a bit under his bucket.  Even weeks of below freezing temperatures and a few feet of snow can’t stop the passage of time, since he has been in bloom for over three months now.

Fancier folk might call for an uncloching day to celebrate the day when temperatures seem civil enough to uncover these protected goodies, but I resort to buckets.  Ugly buckets.  I can understand the attraction of antique glass cloches sparkling throughout the garden but they don’t come cheap and I’m not sure anyone here would appreciate such an elevated level of refinement when autumn’s decaying gourds still sit on the front lawn and an old washing machine still highlights the far end of the front porch.

galanthus Mrs Macnamara

Even ‘Mrs Macnamara’ has tolerated her time under the bucket.  This is the best she’s ever looked, but even with protection a few blooms were lost to cold, so I don’t think she’s an ideal match for my garden…

So join me in the celebration.  A little warm weather and the snow can’t melt fast enough.  There are a few thin spots where ground is showing but most of the garden is still under nearly a foot of icy, packed snow.   It’s still enough to get into nearly every inappropriate pair of shoes I wear, since of course I slog through the snow right after work and don’t bother changing into better footwear first.  I really just need to be more patient.

winter witch hazel pallida

The witch hazel is late this year.  ‘Pallida’ is only just today warm enough to uncurl the first bits of yellow thread.  Hopefully by this weekend….

Who am I kidding?  This is no time to be patient.  I guarantee by tomorrow afternoon I’ll be shoveling snow off things, poking through mulch, and being far more nosy about my plant’s personal lives than I should be.  I’ll probably even plant a few seeds!

Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

Darn Leap Year

Even though most of the long range forecasts hinted at a shift to colder weather, I’m 99% sure it’s because of the leap year.   I haven’t filled in all the gaps in my new theory but Saturday was much colder than I think we deserved and I bet it would have been a much nicer day if it were March 1st rather than February 29th…. unless that’s not the case.  Come to think of it February wasn’t all that bad this year, with a couple days in the 50’s and plenty in the 40’s to counteract the odd 4 degree night.  Much warmer than normal and practically snow-free, and that made for some wonderfully early snowdrop visits.

galanthus rodmarton arcturus regulus

‘Rodmarton Arcturus’ to the left of ‘Rodmarton Regulus’.  Two stand out snowdrops in a stand out NY snowdrop collection.

First on the list was a visit to an open garden on Long Island NY.  I was in the area to visit my parents and with beautiful sunshine and warm weather in the forecast it just made sense to drag mom out to look at drops.  Dad has learned his lesson on previous colder visits so he wisely stayed home, but even he would have enjoyed the location and warmth.

long island snowdrop garden

The garden’s host leading a group around to admire the drops.    

This is the same garden my friend Paula and I visited last year (nearly a month later btw), and this visit made me realize how spoiled were were the first time.  We had our host nearly all to ourselves that time, and all the stories and tips and conversation made the time fly by too quickly.  This time even though we had to share him with the other groups flowing through, we were still able to catch a glimpse of several treasures and check out what the new season brought.

galanthus joe spotted

Galanthus ‘Joe Spotted’ was looking much finer than my overexposed photos show.  Pity that we were forced to endure such strong sunshine and warm breezes during our visit.

This garden has clump after clump of rare and special snowdrops, so it takes a while to inch through the plantings, but as we got around to the end the healthy clumps of “wild” ‘viridapice’ scattered all through the hedges and shrubbery reminded me that the tried and true also has incredible value.

galanthus viridipice

Patches of Galanthus ‘Viridipice’ around the garden’s edges.  

Come to think of it I may have to order a few more ‘viridapice’ this year when I send in my wish list.  Earlier orders are well on their way to clumping up here and if you’d like to do the same, check under sources on my snowdrop page for the owner’s email address.

winter beach long island

It’s a shame to be less than a mile from the ocean and not stop by.  I miss the winter beach.  

For as pleasant and warm as our February snowdrop visit was, the fake February visit I made yesterday was a far different experience.  On a day which should have been March I set off to the Philly area to meet with my friend Paula for our traditional snowdrop tour.  Cold it was.  And windy.  It was ridiculous to stand out in the wind and cold for nearly three hours but we did, and I’m not sure who was to blame.

winter garden northeast

The garden looked March-ish with witch hazels, snowdrops, and hellebores.  The green of winter aconite looked awfully fresh for a day hovering just above freezing.

Normally Paula and I have much more adventurous spring snowdrop agendas but this year she abandoned me to take on a big overseas adventure in the UK amongst more ancient and vast snowdrop gardens.  Just catching up on that alone took most of the afternoon!

leucojum vernum

Spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) and some yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) carpet the mossy ground under the central cherry tree.

The garden was filled with enough other distractions to compete with the trip stories.  Snowdrops are nice but the hellebores were also coming up all over, and the mix of colors made me grateful there are plenty of fantastic gardens on this side of the Atlantic as well.

winter hellebores and snowdrops

A real winter garden with awesome hellebores and snowdrops seeding and sprouting everywhere.

I also had an experience which shook me a bit.  There’s a leafy evergreen perennial called the Japanese sacred lily (Rohdea japonica) and although some people go absolutely nuts for them, paying thousands of dollars for special forms, I have remained entirely immune to any desire to grow them.  Then I saw Paula’s.  It was kinda nice.

winter hellebores and snowdrops

More snowdrops and hellebores plus a nice clump of Rohdea japonica.  Hmmmm.

I’ll have to be careful the next time I’m around Edgewood Gardens.  John Lonsdale has a nice variety of them scattered across his hillside and what harm could a second look do, but in the meantime let’s think about cheaper plants.  Galanthus worowonii is a species snowdrop which can be had for a few bucks a bag and in general is nice enough, but not much of a bloomer for me.  Then I saw a nice bunch at Paula’s.  Out of all the many goodies this is the one I was interested in, and I think you’ll see why.

galanthus woronowii

A good blooming, nicely formed Galanthus woronowii on the right, and a regular one on the left.  As you would expect most of what I have in my garden are leafy and floppy like the ones on the left.

So now I’m thinking of more unnecessary plants to try,  Might as well add another.  Winter jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum) is a floppy, messy, wanna-be shrub that sometimes identifies as a vine.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s as fragrant as its cousins (it’s not), but it is a surprisingly floriferous late winter bloomer that doesn’t mind freezing more than it thaws.  I see it listed as hardy to zone 6, so I may poke a stem in here (it roots easily wherever a stem touches down) and give it a global warming try.

winter jasmine

Winter jasmine artfully slung over the perfect boulder.  I’m sure it takes a little trimming to keep in check, but the effect is worth it.

Hmmmm.  It seems like I’ve mentioned quite a few new things to try out this year, and there have only been two garden visits so far.  Luckily it’s March and even though the month is a day late in coming, flipping the calendar means one really important thing which you may or may not know about.  It’s the month of official snowdrop events, and next Saturday, March 7th is David Culp’s Galanthus Gala.  From 10-3 Downington Pa shall transform into the epicenter of rare snowdrop sales, hellebore offerings, uncommon plants, and a celebration of all types of plant nerdery in general.  Alan Street of Avon Bulbs will be offering two lectures and I suspect many plants will find new homes that day.  Admission is free, but pre-sale entry and the lectures will require ticket purchase.  All the cool kids will be there and hopefully I can sneak in as well.

Hope you have an excellent week.  March does have its benefits, and hopefully one of them is warming temperatures.  Not an insignificant point since it took me about 8 hours to warm up again after trying to pull off a garden visit in Fake February.

You Call That A Cleanup?

So here we are in late January and winter still hasn’t put up much of a fight.  I fought the urge last time and took the Christmas lights down instead, but this weekend’s rain and above freezing weather was too much and it broke me down.  The snowdrops are coming up all over the front foundation beds and of course I need to see them clearly… plus the ski season stinks.

late winter garden cleanup

This is the after picture, and is probably as good as cleanup gets for this bed.  The keenest eyes may spot a few snowdrops 🙂 

I have a tendency to do my spring cleanups early but this winter you barely know if it’s a really late fall job or if this already qualifies as spring.  Time will tell.  One thing you can be sure of is that my need to tidy up every last stray leaf and twig has evaporated as I get older.  Older and wiser maybe?  The leaves disappear quickly as new sprouts come up and hide them, and they’re small enough that they break down into the soil again before summer is too far along.  If they were bigger and tougher leaves like oak or sycamore I’d rake them off and run over them with the mower before throwing them back on the beds, but they’re not and that makes for a quick tidying up.  The twigs and stems and cut back hellebore leaves were carted off to the back yard,  I didn’t want to attract too much attention running them through the mower in January since I just recently made fun of my neighbor for doing the same.

overwintering lettuce

Verbena bonariensis and lettuce seedlings, both surviving the cold just fine.  It will be interesting to see what all makes it through the winter this year… assuming we don’t get slammed in March.

Maybe I’ll run all the trimmings through the mower in February.  The ten day forecast shows a dip in to the teens and then another warming trend through Groundhog Day and beyond, so early February doesn’t look any more promising for snowy slopes than January was.  I’ll try to cope 😉

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!