Our Days Are Numbered

There’s an impending air of doom hanging over the garden, and the threat of next week taints everything.  The Cubs winning the World Series was likely the first sign of the apocalypse and now I can only imagine what next Wednesday could bring.  Our current stretch of warm weather has me even more nervous since as we know from high school science, freezing is an exothermic process and on the chance that Hell has indeed frozen over science would predict that things up here on the surface would warm up as a result.  I’ve never hoped for a cold snap more, even if it means losing the last of the autumn flowers.

late chrysanthemum

The latest of my seedling chrysanthemums.  This one’s not as hardy as the rest but does well enough up near the foundation.

The last of the autumn leaves are really hanging on in the warmth.  This red maples along the fence is always my favorite with its sunset blend of reds, oranges, and yellows.  As the days go on it will hopefully fade to pale yellow with red highlights before finally covering the lawn with a carpet of next year’s mulch and compost.

maple fall foliage

For most of the year I resent the greedy water stealing roots of this pesky red maple (Acer rubrum), but for a few days in autumn I forgive it and soak up every glowing minute of its final foliage show.

Closer to the ground the earliest (or latest, depending on your perspective) bulbs are beginning to show signs of growth.  My absolute favorite right this moment is the fall blooming snowdrop a friend of mine brought back for me from Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  I love a plant with a story and this one has a good one.  Its full name is Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose and to be honest I love writing that one out.  It’s the nerdy Latin way of describing a fall blooming snowdrop with a single green mark that comes to me via Montrose Gardens.  This one and its thousands of sisters are all the descendants of a handful of bulbs Mrs. Goodwin purchased decades ago at a local hardware store.  They say the rest is history, but in this case it’s a history which required years of division and transplanting as the bulbs were slowly spread across her acres of woodland.  The bulbs now make an unparalleled show each autumn around Thanksgiving and I wouldn’t rule out some day making the eight hour trip to see it in person.  Such are the dreams of the obsessed, but if you’d like more information have a look at this NY Times article on a visit to the gardens, and also consider looking up Nancy Goodwin’s book “Montrose: Life in a Garden” for a monthly chronicle of the gardens.  She was also a big fan of the Cyclamen family and grows thousands of them as well.  That’s my kind of gardener.

fall galanthus elwesii monostctus

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis group ex. Montrose.  Yeah.

Besides fall blooming snowdrops, there was also an October surprise here when my two auricula primrose insisted on sending up a few autumn flower stalks.  I’d rather they waited until spring since the flowers don’t look nearly as big or nice as the could, but my hope is they really liked their repotting and are only just ramping up to an even more amazing show in March under the growlights…. unless they’re planning on dying, which is always another possibility for plants in my care.

primula auricula

A pair of primula.  Primula auricula hybrids to be exact.  The yellow had bloomed before but this is the first flower for the brownish one, and I’m pleased with the color.

Some other final color in the garden is the Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydons Favorite’.  It waits until the very end of the season and carries it out with a clear lavender blue color and attractive dark eyes as the flowers fade.  I should really give it a little more room and respect next year, and not let it suffer all summer crowded and untended while the summer annuals steal the show.

Aster oblongifolius 'Raydons Favorite'

Amidst the mildew decay of fading peony foliage and frosted zinnias, Aster ‘Raydons Favorite’ offers up fresh color for this part of the border.  I think more would be a good idea.

I can’t do a late fall post without slipping in a cyclamen or two.  They’re sending out more and more of their beautiful foliage and while other parts of the garden are fading, these go from strength to strength.  I may have to talk to John Lonsdale about adding a few new ones since you can never have too many of these treasures and he always seems to have a few special ones for sale at Edgewood Gardens.

cyclamen hederifolium

The hardy Cyclamen hederifolium starts flowering without foliage in late summer.  I love it even more when the leaves begin to come up and there are still plenty of blooms to accent them.

The range of foliage types in Cyclamen hederifolium is really outstanding.  The dainty and distinct flowers are almost more of an afterthought.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

A pale pink form of Cyclamen hederifolium with a leaf pattern which I love.

For the moment I may have resisted adding any new Cyclamen but don’t be under the false impression I’ve resisted all the other goodies which can be found during fall planting season… or even better found during autumn clearance sales.  For some reason I found the Santa Rosa clearance sale (still going on btw, and don’t miss out on the additional 20% off coupon code) and discovered I needed more grasses and a trio of carnivorous pitcher plants.  Who knew?

Sarracenia from santa rosa gardens

Three new bog plants (Sarracenia) for the bog I don’t have.  Hopefully I can keep them happy elsewhere since they’re so absolutely cool with their sinister insect trapping pitchers.

As I go on and on about new plants I won’t even mention the tulips which need planting, the daffodils which need replanting, and the projects which need finishing before the bottom drops out of this pleasant autumn weather.  Let’s hope that’s the only thing which the bottom drops out of this week.

Have a good one!

The Temple Nursery 2016

I’m not exactly sure how many years it takes before something becomes a tradition but I’m going with two, and since this year marks my fourth springtime visit to the Temple Nursery’s open garden day I guess it is now a tradition, and tradition shouldn’t be tampered with.  I say that because up until the morning of the visit I wasn’t entirely sure I would actually make the drive up to Ithaca NY and beyond since this season’s early warmth had me pretty sure there wouldn’t be much left to look at as far as the garden’s snowdrop (Galanthus) collection goes.  To a certain extent that turned out to be true, but at the end I realized a day visiting a garden in the (almost) spring is never a bad idea, and even if the weather’s not perfect it’s always fun to get out once winter starts retreating.

hitch lyman garden

Side view of Hitch Lyman’s upstate NY garden.  The nursery’s namesake ‘temple’ is visible in the back.

If this visit has become tradition, imperfect weather has also become a tradition, and after weeks of above freezing, almost balmy weather, the bottom dropped out of the weather system two nights before.  Light snow for Saturday and then a low of 17F (-8C) the next morning did in many of the remaining snowdrops and wilted many of the emerging perennials.  We’re used to freezing our kazzoies off on these visits though, so by the time the temperature rose into the 40’s it felt downright balmy.  No wind either and not a single snow squall during the visit… unheard of!

galanthus ex. highdown

The Lyman garden is known for its snowdrop collection, and only a few remained in bloom after all the ups and downs of the weather.  Here is a Galanthus labeled ‘ex. highdown’ which has held up remarkably well to the cold.

The majority of the snowdrops were past, which is somewhat surprising considering The Garden Conservancy had already moved the open date forward two weeks and the date was nearly a full month earlier than last year, but what can you do at such an unsettled time of the year?  I just felt a little bad for others who had traveled much further to see what is normally an exciting collection of hundreds of different snowdrop varieties growing happily in the garden’s small woodland area.

eranthis hyemalis noel ayres

Just a few late blooming winter aconite remained.  This might be Eranthis hyemalis ‘Noel Ayres’ or something similar.  Compared to the bright yellow blooms of the species, this might be an Eranthis only a collector could love. 

I also felt bad for the plants.  The majority of the snowdrops were flat on the ground from the previous night’s cold, and overall the garden did not show well for someone expecting swaths of snowdrops and early flowers.  They’ll recover I’m sure, but frozen plants are never fun.

freeze damage primula

Early primroses wilting as the warm sun hits them.  This would have been a much cheerier sight just a few days ago.

Still I found plenty to keep me entertained, and I enjoyed the company of the garden’s owner, Conservancy volunteers, and several other entertaining guests.  Hanging out… is that too common a term for a Conservancy event?… outdoors with other like minded gardeners on a not-too-cold March afternoon is something I don’t get to enjoy too often in my neck of the woods, so I was quite pleased for making the drive up.

galanthus dr dress

It looked like some kind of sea creature to me, but it’s a Galanthus labeled ‘Dr Dress’ which I believe is the source of this unusually curly leaved snowdrop.

Of course there were blooming snowdrops as well.  I was pleased with some of the later blooming varieties such as the daintily named ‘Dumpy Green’

galanthus dumpy green

Galanthus ‘Dumpy Green’

and the very attractive late 19th century snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

galanthus virescens

The classic green snowdrop, Galanthus ‘Virescens’.

Luckily for me one of my favorites was still in bloom.  It’s been divided since my last visit and is still doing well, Galanthus ‘RD Nutt’ is one that always catches my eye, even though it’s no more white or green or fancy than any other of Mr. Lyman’s many other snowdrops.

galanthus rd nutt

I’ve asked and then forgotten if ‘RD Nutt’ is the name or source of this snowdrop.  It always seems such a neat and heavy bloomer, and appears to be holding up well to the weather.

So I’m glad my schedule cleared up enough to make the trip again this year, and it was a treat to finally see the gardens with a few traces of blue in the background sky.  We will see what next year brings but I’m sure as usual we will make the best of it!

hitch lyman garden

Hitch Lyman’s home, moved to the spot in the 90’s and restored back to it’s original grandeur.

One final note though.  I was a little insulted by how well the hardy cyclamen were doing considering the sad state of my own plantings.  My own Cyclamen coum were killed back to the roots and failed to put on much of a show this spring.  I’m going to blame a lack of mulch and see if I can’t do something about that next year.  We just didn’t have the protection of a snow cover last year, and it looks like these did.

cyclamen coum upstate ny

Some Cyclamen coum looking quite happy in their upstate New York home.  A nice woodland mulch and most likely a protective blanket of snow have them blooming happily with nearly perfect foliage.

Thanks again to the Conservancy and Mr. Lyman for another enjoyable visit, and in case you are interested the Temple Nursery sells snowdrops as well as growing them.   To get on his mailing list (there is no online available) send three or four dollars to the following address: Temple Nursery (H Lyman) Box 591 Trumansburg, NY 14886 and you should receive a listing in January.  Act fast, they sell out in just a few weeks 🙂

Have a great Easter!

Snowdrops part II

By now I’m going to guess several of you know I have a “thing” for snowdrops.  It’s a lonely thing since my nearest fellow snowdrop lover lives miles and miles away, but it’s a thing and like all things you just have to deal with it.  With that said I will forgive anyone who glosses over this post since not everyone will ‘get’ this thing, and many will not even want to appear as encouraging this thing, but that’s fine.  Once the daffodils open I’ll move on and we can again comfortably ignore my little secret until next year.

Luckily for you the season is practically over in my garden (so this will not drag on for the weeks which it normally does)  and here’s only just the briefest summary of a few of my favorites from this year’s snowdrop season.  We will begin with a new one, ‘Daphne’s Scissors’, which came via Carolyn’s Shade Gardens last spring.

galanthus daphnes scissors

Galanthus ‘Daphnes Scissors’, an early bloomer with me and early enough to open at the same time as the winter aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis).

‘Blonde Inge’ sometimes gives trouble as far as her blonde highlights go, but this year there’s a nice touch of yellow to the insides of her flowers.  This is her third year in the garden and she seems to be settling in nicely.

galanthus blonde inge

Galanthus ‘Blonde Inge’, the covergirl for Naomi Slade’s great little book “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops” which I had the pleasure of reading this winter.

I’m trying to stick to snowdrops which don’t all fall under the same old same old category… this is still a stretch since green-white-yellow is the slightly limiting range which we’re always working with, but to the obsessed even the plain old white and green can be something special 🙂

galanthus straffan

Galanthus ‘Straffan’, an oldie but goodie which has been gracing the gardens of snowdrop lovers since 1858.  This is year three for my plant and I’m quite pleased to see its graceful upright blooms multiplying.  Maybe someday I’ll be up to the hundreds you see in other gardens 🙂

Galanthus ‘MoretonMills’ was the first expensive snowdrop I splurged on.  I won’t say how much I paid but it was a ridiculous amount for such a tiny little thing and each spring I hold my breath until it sprouts.  Fortunately it’s one of my favorites and is also beginning to multiply.

galanthus moreton mills

Galanthus ‘Moreton Mills’, a poculiform snowdrop where the three inner petals are as long as the three outer petals.  If this plant breaks the four inch barrier I’d call it a growth spurt.

As a variation on the green and white theme, here’s one which is more green and green and white 🙂

galanthus kildare

I love this one, it’s Galanthus ‘Kildare’ doing very well in its second year in the garden.  The blooms are huge. (relatively speaking of course!)

Another of my very favorites is ‘Primrose Warburg’.  It’s been doing very well here and is actually becoming what I could optimistically call a clump.  The downside to collecting unusual little bulbs is that you must often start with just one and to be completely honest a single snowdrop, no matter how special, does not exactly put on a major show in the garden.

galanthus primrose warburg

Galanthus ‘Primrose Warburg’.  Even those who yawn at the sight of snowdrops will acknowledge the bright yellow differences on this one 🙂

I’ll leave you with my lovely little golden snowdrop patch, and repeat that the snowdrop season is essentially over here.  It was a weird one, and for me it was a lame one with harsh late freezes damaging many of the blooms followed by a warm couple days which wilted the rest.  Add a few days out of town for work and snowdrops which came up before my schedule allowed me to fully admire them…. well enough said.  At least I was able to enjoy a few crocus.

natuaralized crocus

All the crocus came up nicely in the meadow garden and even the rabbits couldn’t keep up with them all.  Luckily mother nature and global warming stepped in and wiped them all out with back to back hailstorms.  Oh El Nino, you’re really having your fun this year.

The crocus season felt like it lasted three days.  They burst up and bloomed and then the weather did them in.

dutch crocus

A few of those fat hybrid Dutch crocus growing by the front steps.  To get really nice clumps it helps to dig them up and spread them around every three of four years.  Forgetting where they are and accidently digging them up in June is my method of choice.    

Fortunately there’s still plenty of spring left since it’s only just the end of March.  A cold spell last week slowed everything right back down, but the first weeks of April look remarkably mild and I’m sure there will be plenty of things sprouting up and blooming and helping me ease my snowdrop hangover.  Don’t get your hopes up too much though, I did visit another snowdrop garden last weekend and have one more white and green post yet to come.

If I don’t speak with you before Sunday, have a great Easter!

Snowdropping 2016

*ok so I’m trying to get back onto the blogging ball.  With a schedule finally cleared up I have a bunch of catching up to do here as well as on other blogs… so flashback to something I began writing about two weeks ago!*

Spring doesn’t normally roll around to this end of Pennsylvania until the end of March,  but this year on the tail end of El Nino it looks as if winter has just thrown in the towel and let spring walk right in a few weeks early.  “Sit down and stay a while” I say, and although I should speak glowingly about my own spring treasures in bloom right now, my first panicked thought was I might miss the snowdrop season down south.  I promptly sent out a few emails, jumped in a car and met up with my friend Paula at a park near her home for our second annual Philly snowdrop adventure.

naturalized snowdrops united states

Snowdrops naturalized on the grounds of a former Philadelphia estate.

Last year our snowdrop adventure was a response to the miserably long winter, this year it was a desperate attempt to catch the season before it flashed by.  We made the trip on March 8th and even though we were nearly a month earlier than last year many of the earlier bloomers were already past.

leucojum vernus yellow

A nice yellow tipped spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) blooming amidst the rubble.

In spite of the advanced season we did manage to catch plenty of snowdrops still in bloom, and it was fun wandering from patch to patch searching for those little “specials”.  Maybe someday after a hundred years of abandonment and years of gentle woodland protection my own garden will produce something different but for now I’ll have to rely on these hidden treasures.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus nivalis

We saw plenty of patches of four petalled snowdrops, but also a wonderful range of larger and smaller, thinner, longer, taller…. all the tiny variations on white and green which may make some gardeners yawn, but which make me smile.

But there was only so much time we could spend sweating our way through the underbrush.  We had bigger fish to fry this morning and for us it was a visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.  John grows and sells (but more just grows and grows) about a billion plants in his suburban landscape and the plantings range from high desert cactus to mountain to woodland to everything in between.  I was lost on much of it but I’m going to try my best and show a few favorites even if the names are lacking.  If you are more cat-like and on the verge of death due to some unsatisfied identity curiosity then I would absolutely suggest contacting John directly via his website.  He will surely have an ID for you, as well as cultural conditions, related cultivars, the exact source of his plant…. and to top it all off he probably grew it himself from wild collected seed!

iris and hardy cactus

A beautiful species iris right alongside hardy cacti.  Did I mention the cactus?  There were beds planted full of them as well as agaves and yucca, all surviving the Pennsylvania snow and ice without any additional winter protection.

I need to just move on here.  I love growing bulbs and there were more here than I’ve ever even considered so here are just the highlights of our visit.  Keep in mind the calendar is still saying winter for a few more weeks and the real show is still at least two months off!

eranthis guinea gold

Winter aconite (Eranthis species)  galore in the Lonsdale garden.  We missed the peak for many of the Eranthis hyemalis types but these crosses with Eranthis cilicica (similar to the ‘Guinea Gold’ cross) were just opening…. don’t let the label throw you off, that’s for something else yet to come right in front of this patch of gold.

At nearly 80F (26C) and sunny even a few of the first primula were opening.

pale yellow hardy primula

The winter may have been short, but even here a sudden drop to around 0F (-17C) did its damage to winter foliage and early sprouts.  Still bright and beautiful though, and its location on what looked to be a dry shaded slope has me rethinking how tough primroses can be.

Hellebores were everywhere.

speckled hellebore

Just a plain old hellebore which caught my eye.  a little winter damage but I love the speckling.

John said he was in the process of working through the hellebores, getting rid of many older and self seeded plants, and ‘upgrading’ some of the hybrids… and I wish him luck.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, and it would take a more critical eye than mine to thin the herd.

hellebore anna's red

One of the newer, cross-species hellebore cultivars.  I forgot what it was, but maybe it’s ‘Anna’s Red’?

Plenty of hellebore species as well.  All over the garden were bits and shoots coming up from seed collected throughout the hellebore world.

green hellebore

A cool green species hellebore.  Green may not be the showiest flower color but they sure look great close up.

hellebore tibetanus

Hailing from China is Helleborus thibetanus. This plant was only just brought into cultivation in the 1990’s and if you can believe it John says this plant plant produced only one flower last year. What a difference a single year can make!

Trilliums were also everywhere.  John kept naming species, naming ranges and ecotypes, naming seed sources, describing how many were yet to come…. it was all a little overwhelming.  I think to return in May and see patches and patches of trilliums blooming across the hillside would be quite the sight.

trillium foliage

One of the earliest trilliums already up.  The foliage is just amazing and there were hundreds more sprouting or just waiting to burst out of the ground.

There were tons of early trout lilies (Erythronium) coming up as well.  More cool foliage, exquisite flowers 🙂

trout lilies erythronium

Just a few of the earliest of the trout lilies coming up.  I love the fine markings on these and the fancy purple pollen just as much as the silvery speckling on the leaves.

I’ve never seen blooming Hepatica (liverwort) in person but recognized the little jewels the minute I saw them.  Maybe this will finally be the spring I venture out into the woods and find a few blooms of my own in the wild.  I’ll be excited to find anything, but suspect they won’t hold a candle to some of the selections and hybrids which we saw springing up out of the leafmould.

red hepatica

What color on such a tiny bloom.

violet hepatica

The detail on these flowers is amazing in all its intricate perfection.

It was also well into Adonis season.  Several cultivars were spotted throughout the beds and each one seemed better than the last and we hit them perfectly with their flowers open wide in the warm winter sun.  The saturated colors were almost too bright for an early March afternoon.

double yellow adonis

Double yellow Adonis Amurensis

I’ve heard that this native of NE Asia isn’t all that hard to grow it’s just a little slow to start and a little pricey to get a hold of.  Spring sun and a sheltered woodland location for the summer seem to work well for it, just know that the ferny foliage dies back and the plant disappears once the weather warms for summer.

orange adonis cultivar

An orange Adonis cultivar with a nice bunch of hardy cyclamen leaves.  Cyclamen were nearly everywhere, I began to not notice them unless I had to step over a particularly nice one seeded into the path 🙂

fringed orange adonis

Dark ferny foliage, a fringed pale orange flower…. what’s not to like about this Adonis?

We spent way too much time at John’s but it wasn’t until we checked our watches that we realized how much we had actually imposed on his day!  The poor guy had just finished up about ten days of on the road and had been through more states in a week than I hit in a year and here we were not even giving him enough time to enjoy his first day back.  So we tried to get a move on it, thanked him again for his hospitality and time, and then rushed through the last hordes of snowdrops, cyclamen, and cacti between us and the exit… did I mention the cacti?  I could easily fill a second visit with just the cacti (not that I’m really hinting).

Off to Paula’s!

snowdrops galanthus in garden beds

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis mostly) scattered throughout the garden beds.

Paula has really put in some work into collecting and dividing and spreading snowdrops throughout her garden, and it’s really an inspiration to see the possibilities of what a few years hard work can produce.  It makes me wonder when and if my own garden will ever start to show a similar effect of late winter interest.  There were goodies everywhere and of course it was the snowdrops which I really honed in on.

galanthus elwesii

Nice established clumps of Galanthus elwesii (the ‘giant snowdrop’) with it’s bigger blooms and grayer foliage.

Paula really has a great winter garden going with snowdrops galore and plenty of color from the earliest bloomers.  It’s here where we wound down from our latest snowdrop adventure.

double snowdrops galanthus and hellebores

Double snowdrops (Galanthus ‘flore pleno’) and hellebores fill in a shaded slope.

There were hellebores, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflakes, witch hazels, crocus, all kinds of flowers coming out to brave the last few weeks of winter.

raspberry veined hellebore

A real nice raspberry veined hellebore.  I really need to do a little ‘upgrading’ of my own!

Of course we got bogged down in examining every tiniest bloom and discussed every growing nuance.  That’s what makes these garden visits so special.

galanthus gloria

Galanthus ‘Gloria’, a perfect flower with such long inners with just the smallest touch of white.  I really like these ‘pocs’ where the inner petals nearly match the long white outers.

By this point my winter knees were starting to complain about all the kneeling and bending which I’d been putting them through all day.  Maybe I should have started getting back into gardening shape a few weeks earlier, but in spite of the little aches and slower pace we carried on for a few more closeups.

galanthus doncasters double charmer

You almost wouldn’t guess this were a snowdrop, but it’s Galanthus ‘doncasters double charmer’ in all its crazy, spiky, greenness.

And a final snowdrop….

galanthus big boy

Galanthus ‘big boy’, just coming up and already big even before it expands to its full size.  The green tips are a nice touch and I think I like it!

And then the day was over.  Time to hop in the car and head back North.

orange witch hazel jelena

An orange witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ ) in full bloom as the day ends.

A special thanks to John Lonsdale for a great visit, and thanks of course to Paula for putting up with me for the whole day.  It wouldn’t have been half as much fun without her, and when we were pulled over and asking a stranger if they’d mind us traipsing around in their side yard looking at the snowdrops I knew I had the right travel buddy.  Until next year!

Cold? I barely noticed.

The new amaryllis are coming into bloom and between them and mommy’s valentine’s day roses  things are looking very festive around here.  I don’t mind one bit but it’s surprising to me that the dirty flower pots at the end of the table are being tolerated as well as they are.  Usually non-edible growing things are frowned upon in the dining area.

double amaryllis red peacock

The girl picked out some nice roses this year and although red is always a valentine’s day favorite, I and hopefully others love this blend of colors even more.  The timing on the double red amaryllis also couldn’t be better, I believe it’s ‘red peacock’.

During a weak moment this winter I came across a clearance sale for amaryllis (hippeastrum) and decided to treat myself.  Treating yourself is always a good idea in December and soon enough a few new amaryllis were sitting at my door.  Since I was already buying cheap bulbs of a flower which I really don’t need, I decided to try something new and picked a few doubles and miniatures.  So far so good!

Belladonna mini amaryllis

A miniature amaryllis ‘Belladonna’.  Even more mini due to the lack of roots and long storage before planting, but still putting on a nice show.  I impressed myself by pulling some moss out of the lawn and tucking it in around the bulbs for that little bit finished look 🙂

All the amaryllis were planted in nice new terracotta pots which I’m ashamed to say required more time and effort to find than any of the actual bulbs.  Apparently clay pots are not filling the shelves during the holiday shopping season…. or at least not filling the shelves at the first three places I tried… but persistence paid off.  Hopefully the bulbs will appreciate my struggle.

As the bulbs settle in and sprout there are more things coming into bloom in the garage.  I’m especially pleased to announce the opening of my little auricula primrose.  The color is a mustardy yellow which although very ‘refined’, wouldn’t be my first choice for a show stopping color.  I love it though and am looking forward to seeing a few more blooms opening over the next few days… and hopefully having the flower stem straighten out to get rid of some of the ‘nod’ it has!

auricula under grow lights

My lovely little auricula growing under lights.  I can’t seem to do a decent job photographing yellow, but hopefully you can still make out the mealy white center which makes these flowers so distinctive.

Outside is a different story, and it’s a mix of hope and optimism as well as worry.  We had enough warmth earlier in the winter to bring on a bunch of stuff way ahead of schedule, and some of those things paid a price for their eagerness when the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  The hellebores in particular are looking sad.

freeze damage hellebore

I don’t know if this hellebore will recover to bloom this year.  It won’t die, but the freeze damage doesn’t look good.

Also sad are a few of the daffodils.  Early risers such as anything with tazetta or jonquil blood (two of the many daffodil species crossed for the hybrids we have today) were mushed back to the ground.  Some will die, but most will carry on and just have browned tips to their leaves when the blooms come up.

freeze damaged daffodils

Freeze damage on early daffodil foliage.  In spite of the way they look I think they’ll be ok.  The buds and more leaf will continue to sprout once things warm again.

The bad news is that after a few spring-like days we and the rest of the East coast are having some of the coldest nights of the winter.  I would feel much better if a nice blanket of snow covered up last weekend’s early bloomers but just a dusting of snow accompanied the cold snap.  For now ignorance is bliss and I’ll again enjoy last week’s signs of spring as we slowly warm up from a blustery low of -8F (-22C) last weekend.

wendys gold Gerald parker galanthus

‘Wendy’s Gold’ and ‘Gerard Parker’ in bloom last week.  I loved the early glimpse of spring, but this week had to scrape traces of snow off the lawn in order to pile it over them for a little extra cold protection.

I should know later this week if there is any damage to my snowdrop treasures.  I remain optimistic, but sadly enough in years past I have had it that drops have died from a late season arctic blast, and these bloom are far along, and this cold snap is severe.  But what can you do?  Wendy and Gerard got a box over them but I’m not ready to go all over the yard covering things for each cold snap.  These bulbs will have to show their true colors.

galanthus magnet snowdrop

Galanthus ‘magnet’.  This one’s on his own so I’ve got my fingers crossed for these next few days.  If worse comes to worse I’ll be able to try ‘magnet’ again from a different source, since I’m not positive this one’s correctly labeled.

Wish my bulbs luck.  If they do survive I will never underestimate the hardiness of some of these earliest bloomers.

winter aconite

Last week’s show of the aptly named winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).  I love this pale version of the usual bright yellow.

As a backup plan I’ll start a few more seeds this week.  Empty ground is always a good reason for new plants, and if worse comes to worse there are always annuals 🙂

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 🙂

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

A few weeks ago I posted about the trouble with idle hands and how they were inching me over to the dark side.  It sounded funny at the time but the string of bad luck and minor tragedy which followed reassured me that there will be no deals made on this end and I would in fact like to stay on the lighter side.  So to sum it up surgery has been scheduled for some, blood tests every three months for others, stitches have been removed, and the family has a new bunny.  Hopefully garden cleanup will now continue to bring us back into good graces.  It’s about time for both 🙂

yard cleanup perennial beds

The front yard is definitely looking a little wild and wooly now that the snow has melted.  Probably time to get rid of the sled.

Cleanup has been ongoing all week (in between April showers) and this morning the sunshine and leftover morning frost are making the front yard glisten with springtime promise.

front yard garden cleanup

front yard garden cleanup

The view from inside the front door was also in need of some sprucing up.

messy yard spring cleanup

I sometimes think my entire neighborhood is an advertisement for plastic and vinyl.

Cleanup this spring is nearly all power tools.  Everything gets cut down with the hedge trimmer into manageable bits and then the largest bits are raked onto the lawn for mowing up into the bag.  The bag is then emptied onto the beds out back.  The front yard then gets a nice topping off with shredded leaves from last fall’s cleanup.  Not only do the shredded leaves cover up all the twigs and debris I was too lazy to remove, they also frame the first crocus nicely.

spring garden cleanup mulch

Mulched leaves on the beds and the lawn mowed at its lowest setting.  Things look better already.

Work has an annoying way of getting in the way of spring cleanup, but whenever I have a chance it feels great to get out there again.  The birds follow behind looking for worms and the kids rediscover all the messes they can make with the most simple of tools.  Spring mud and mulchpiles are fun but I’m just happy enough to see plants finally growing again in the open air.

hardy cyclamen with leucojum vernum

The pink cyclamen coum look much better this spring even after our insulting amount of cold and snow.  Temperatures were actually lower than last winter but a good amount of leaves and flower buds made it through and at least I have something to set off the spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) flowers this year.

I’ve added an embarrassing amount of snowdrops since last year.  These showed up in the mail one day as a baggie full of washed clean, sprouting bulbs.  I planted them immediately and they are perfect this spring.  In contrast the dry bulbs of the same type which looked perfect upon planting barely sprouted last spring and have now died off completely.

double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno

The double snowdrop (galanthus ‘flore pleno’) hopefully settling in nicely under the apple tree.  FYI -the apple tree is that twig at the back of the photo 🙂

I will bore you with more snowdrops at a later date but for now other spring bulbs.

corydalis George baker

The first corydalis, this one’s “George Baker”, looking good and reminding me I should divide my other overcrowded clumps.

Ok one more snowdrop.

galanthus wonston double

Galanthus ‘Wonston Double’.  I have to keep reminding myself I don’t like doubles.

This little bulb who’s name I will never be able to spell without looking up (scilla mischtschenkoana) is one of those unassuming things which you never NEED but you should always have.  This one’s been with me for a while going all the way back to a single stray bulb which must have been overlooked or abandoned by squirrels after all its brothers and sisters had been planted.  Being the daring teen who I was and feeling a little dangerous, I pocketed the bulb and brought it home.  Somehow it survived being unplanted all winter and within a few weeks even put out the first of many pale, icy blue flowers.  It has never reseeded (likely because they’re all the clone descendants of one single bulb) but it’s multiplied and followed me from garden to garden over the decades.  hmmmm.  I should go back to that park some day and see how the original planting has made out.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana.

The hellebores are starting as well.  This one is right up against the porch foundation and lives the good life.

white ashwood hybrid hellebore

I bought this one as a white Ashwood seedling from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I bought this one as a started plant, but deep down inside I covet seeds from the Ashwood line.  They’re either crazy expensive or I just can’t find them here in the states.

A few of the other hellebores are also coming along.  Drought last summer has really taken a bite out of this year’s show but the real killer was my transplanting several and then not really bothering to give them any aftercare.  A sprinkler would have done wonders in August, but you can’t dwell on these things in April.

double pink hellebore from seed

A nice double pink hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.  I’m glad I had the chance to buy seed from them before they closed retail sales…. but I’m still missing all the cool seedlings coming along each spring.

Last spring’s late blasts of arctic weather didn’t please the hellebores at all but this year the more settled pattern has done them well.  I finally get to see a nice clean bloom on my yellow.

yellow hellebore from seed

This one, also from Elizabethtown seed, looks buttery enough for me to think ‘yummy!’  I’ve been wanting a yellow like this for years.  Wish me luck it clumps up and continues to do well 🙂

The warmer temperatures and singing birds have me completely optimistic and I’m starting to rake back the winter mulch from around my late fall conifer splurge from Conifer Kingdom.  They all look great and I’m hoping for healthy new growth in a few weeks.  Just think… if my blue spruce (p. pungens ‘Walnut Glen’) doubles in size this year it may break the four inch mark!

late planting conifer winter protection

A late planting of conifers still snuggled in under a thick winter mulch of shredded leaves.  Time to start peeling it back.

So spring is finally here.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m buying pansies today.  The only snow left are snowdrops and since I paid a visit to the Temple nursery on Saturday you’re still going to have to sit through that, but fortunately the pictures aren’t all that great so you’ll be spared much of the repeating white and green.  Enjoy!

Happy Easter! (almost)

Another warm day and we jump ahead a week (and I’m sure we’ll take three steps back tommorow).  Generally I prefer a long drawn out spring, but at this point I’ll take anything we can get, even if it means fast-forwarding through the season.  Five days ago the bunny buffet officially opened with its first crocus bloom and now a second sunny day has brought out the rest of the snow crocus (mostly crocus chrysanthus types).

crocus lawn of dreams

Van Egelen’s “lawn of dreams” crocus mix just starting to bloom. 200 snow crocus barely make a splash, but it’s enough to bring me out to sit in this part of the garden on a sunny day.

These are what remains of a fall 2012 planting <for more planting details click here> of about 200 snow crocus and maybe 150 tommies (crocus tommasinianus).  The tommies are not yet up but are supposed to be better spreaders and less tasty to all things which love crocus as much as I do.  Unfortunately Pennsylvania rabbits must be a less refined bunch since in my experience they mow down all crocus equally.

snow crocus naturalized lawn

They sure would look nicer spotted about in a velvety green carpet of lawn, but this is the Pennsylvania tundra so you get what you get!

I don’t mow this patch of thin grass until late, so waiting for the crocus foliage to die off naturally is no problem, but if you are a mower keep in mind that the crocus need to grow for five or so weeks after blooming in order to build up next year’s blooms.  Because the rabbits were so brutal on both bloom and foliage last year I didn’t think I’d see any flowers this year, but fortunately they came through even if a little weaker.  Luckily the snowdrops are not at all tasty to bunnies.

first snowdrops galanthus

The first snowdrops opening in the backyard.  They’ve multiplied but not so much that I can’t still count every last bloom to compare to 2014’s show…. sad and desperate, I know.

I of course did not follow the rules of common sense last year and ended up adding more new and expensive snowdrops to my garden.  They’re just as white and drop-shaped as my free snowdrops and all the other ones I have, but they’re much much better 🙂

galanthus lapwing

Galanthus ‘lapwing’

Another new bulb added last fall is iris “Katherine Hodgkin”.  Everyone loves Katherine for her subtle colors and intricate patterns…. except me.  I have a lower class of taste and of course prefer the brightest colors, and this one doesn’t show up as well as I’d like.  My mother of course will like it, and my wife too if she ever happens out into the garden before May, but I on the other hand say “meh.”  Hopefully our children will not inherit their taste from me but will instead be the perfect blend of well rounded, refined, garden loving young adults.  Optimism is one of the highlights of spring.

iris Katherine hodgkin

Iris “Katherine Hodgkin”.  Makes me think of dirty snakes.  I bet it’s virused too, I can see darker blue streaks in the blooms on the left and believe this is a sign…. 

A couple more warm days and all the early bulbs will be blooming.  Crocus are a favorite and along the warm south side of the house the first of the plump and bright dutch hybrids are opening.  I wish they lasted longer, but nothing lasts forever and when spring turns warm and sunny I always make a point of getting out to see them.

first dutch crocus blooms

Dutch crocus just starting to bloom in the warmest parts of the garden. The bees will be happy, the bunnies too.

Yesterday was beautiful, today not so much.  I want to get out there and clean up but don’t want the neighbors judging me for gardening in the cold, gray drizzle.  Looking at the forecast, Easter Sunday is supposed to be the most promising day, but Godless and crazy is probably a worse label than just plain old crazy so maybe I’ll try and get a few things cut back and cleaned up before then.   Fortunately I was out there last weekend for a start (the backyard snow melted briefly before the latest batch came down, so I rushed out to do some raking and trimming!)

vegetable beds ready for spring

The vegetable beds cleaned, straightened up, and ready to go. I even went over the lawn with the mower to give it a springtime “vacuum” of twigs and other debris.

It’s going to be a lazy cleanup this year, I can feel it already.  Electric hedge trimmer to cut everything back, mower to go over it once to chop, mower bag emptied on the beds to cover up all the leaves and bits which I didn’t bother raking out.  Done.  I need more time to transplant and divide, and gift plants with shovelfuls of compost.  Plus the mulched debris will keep down many of the self sowers, and I think last year’s “riot” of volunteers was a little messier than I want this year.  Always have to keep things changing!

Best springtime and Easter wishes to all, enjoy the weekend!

A snowdrop or two.

Tomorrow promises a few inches of fresh snow, so what better act of defiance is there than to enjoy a few spring flowers today?

galanthus Gerard Parker and Wendy's Gold

‘Gerard Parker’ and ‘Wendy’s Gold’, two of the earliest favorites.

I probably shouldn’t refer to them as spring flowers, it’s still clearly winter when you look at tomorrow’s snowy forecast and last night’s low of 18F (-8C), but I just feel funny calling them winter bloomers.  Winter is definitely not a time for flowers around here.

galanthus elwesii

A nice little bunch of the giant snowdrop (galanthus elwesii) with the first winter aconite opening up behind them.

Even so, the hold winter has on the calendar is starting to loosen and I for one am fine with that.  After snapping these pictures I trimmed a few hellebores and cleaned out the front porch bed so that these new little sprouts could show off to their fullest.  I didn’t get much further than that though.  The whole time I was haunted by little people asking about a baseball game and whether or not I was done yet.  The other snowdrops will have to wait.

galanthus elwesii snowdrops

Some of last year’s forced snowdrops.  They spent last winter flowering under lights in the garage, now they’re settling in outside.  By next year they should make for a nice show in this spot. 

Something else which I hope is waiting are the cyclamen coum.  They don’t seem as winter-weary as last year but the foliage still looks a little worse for wear.  Last year nearly all the flower buds were lost to the cold and ice, but this year looks a little more promising.  A few have already taken advantage of the four warm days without snow cover and have opened up their first blooms 🙂

early flowers on cyclamen coum

Last year every last leaf on this hardy cyclamen coum was a soggy frozen mess.  This year looks a little better and I’m hoping for a nice bright springtime show!

Another first for the year is the snowdrop “John Gray” from Far Reaches Farm out in Washington state.  Last winter I enjoyed this one under lights in the winter garden and it doesn’t seem to have minded the time indoors at all.  This year it’s on Pennsylvania time and is blooming much later of course.

galanthus John Gray

Look, another white snowdrop.  FYI for all those snowdrop snobs out there, it’s galanthus “John Gray”.

The rest of the snowdrops are still laying low.  I’ll try to show restraint in the coming days as they open up but I’m not making any promises.  It’s been a long winter and it’s not just the birds who are singing a springtime song!

cool weather vegetable seedlings under lights

Cool weather vegetables are on their way in the winter garden.  The last cyclamen are shoved to the side and the few sad little snowdrops have been kicked to a windowsill to make room.  Even my treasured yellow primroses had to step to the side.

In all honesty the weather is rarely warm enough for the real spring bulbs such as crocus and hyacinths until the last week of March, so even with our February snowpocolypse we really aren’t much off from a normal year.  Still I would have been fine with an early spring, and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing for even more sun and warmth!

It wasn’t me.

Those crazy Europeans, they’re at it again with their crazy galanthomania.  I guess here in America we revel in our questionable pop culture and right to bear (and use) arms, but “they” go nuts over those little white flowers of the genus galanthus.  I think Japan is the only other place where plant nuts are so free to express themselves.  In the UK, snowdrops on Ebay are a springtime phenomena and just this week a new record was broken with the sale of “Golden Fleece”.

galanthus golden fleece sold on ebay

The winning bid for “Golden Fleece”, a yellow inverse poculiform (inPoc) which up until its appearance on Ebay was just a dream for some dropaholic.

1,390 pounds converts to about $2,150, and the 4 pounds shipping works out to a little over six dollars.  I did a little (very little) investigating and found that an ounce of gold closed at about $1,260 today, and according to my inexact estimates this snowdrop is worth approximately twice its weight in gold…. all at six dollars shipping.

I guess people are into snowdrops.  Fortunately I’ve missed that addiction, but if you haven’t and you’re somewhat interested, here’s a link to a Money magazine article on the “snowdrop bubble”.  It features an interview with our very own Carolyn of Carolyn’s Shade Garden, and if you happen to be interested she still has a few more reasonably priced snowdrops left for sale at her nursery…. just in case you’d like to see what some of the fuss is about.

Me on the other hand, I’m waiting for someone to cry out that the emperor has no clothes, or at least that all his clothes look the same… they’re all little bits of white and green and sometimes yellow which you can’t tell apart until you’re six inches away.  I of course would never fall for that.