Snowdrop Peeping

I had a jolly day out this Sunday with my friend Victoria.  We indulged in a day of what we call ‘snowdrop peeping’, visiting three very different gardens known for their snowdrops.  The first garden was a private, very personal garden, open to invited friends for a coffee morning so I have decided not to include any photos of it.  The second garden had a range of snowdrops, stunning views, and was interesting even though it was a cool February day.  However, the snowdrops were mainly specialist snowdrops, interesting to this gardener, but photos of small clumps of snowdrops don’t make that interesting viewing so I have decided to share with you just the photos of the last garden – Colesbourne.

Colesbourne is a mecca for galanthophiles (snowdrop obsessives) as well as those who enjoy an excuse to get out early in Spring for some fresh air and to walk in a beautiful setting.  As you can see the snowdrops at Colesbourne grow in great swathes and I was reminded that when I visited a few years back for a talk by Sir Henry Elwes  that every year they dig up, divide and replant the snowdrops to aid them spreading.

Colesbourne is a private estate with a fairly formal garden near the house but also an arboretum (open at other times of the year) and a beautiful lake which was created in 1922 to power hydro-electric power for the house.  I didn’t see the lake last time I visited and was as equally transfixed by it as I was the snowdrops.  You will see that even in the winter the water has a strong blue colour and it is believed that this is a result of the colloidal clay in the water.

As the house and gardens are situated on the side of a hill the plantings benefit from the slopes which allow the visitor to see the flowers more closely rather than resorting to their hands and knees as I have to in my garden.  The below photo doesn’t quite capture the light but when we visited there was a wonderful contrast between the darkness of the yew against the sunlit snowdrop covered slope. In the formal garden are the more specialist and rare snowdrops in tiny groups all neatly labelled.  We amused ourselves by playing spot the difference and concluded that whilst we did now appreciate that there were differences we need those differences to be really obvious to us – height, flower size, obvious markings etc.

As with all good snowdrop displays the planting isn’t all snowdrops.  At Colesbourne as you get nearer the house the snowdrops are accompanied by Cyclamen coum and Crocus tommasinianus .  I think they provide a great contrast to the snowdrops and make them sparkle more. 

Colesbourne, like many Victorian country houses, has an interesting selection of intriguing outbuildings;  this one is, I think, an old ice house.  The moss and lichen on the roof was a delight.

And just for my galanthophile friends I did buy some named snowdrops – three small pots of Galanthus S Arnott which is scented and I want to start to create a small swathe of snowdrops in part of the garden where I don’t have any snowdrops.  I also bought Galanthus Ophelia which is a double and apparently a reliable snowdrop for establishing.  Galanthus woronowii a species, which bright green broad leaves, was acquired from one of the other gardens and will be a great addition to my collection which is around 20 varieties now.

I feel like I have now fully embraced the snowdrop session and I am now ready for the next instalment of Spring – Daffodils and Narcissus.

Snowdrops

I have been posting photos of the snowdrops in my garden since Boxing Day but now is the time when the majority of the snowdrops are flowering especially the Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus nivalis ‘Flora Plenowhich are slowly but surely spreading through the borders.

Many of my special snowdrops have gone over but there is now a second wave coming through which I haven’t always appreciated due to them being amongst the Galanthus nivalis.  This one is Galanthus ‘James Backhouse’ which I think has a nice elegant slender flower.

For those who question if there is any difference between snowdrops, this is Galanthus nivalis ‘Flora Pleno’.  A gift from my friend Victoria from her garden.  It isn’t that unusual, and is definitely established in the Big Border, but it is rather gorgeous.

Amongst the Galanthus nivalis ‘Flora Pleno’ is this clump which is taller and more elegant.  It may well be a standard Galanthus nivalis – I have no idea and I don’t remember planting anything particularly special in this spot.

 Now even the most cynical of the galanthophobia cannot fail to see how this snowdrop is different. This is Galanthus plicatus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ the gold reflecting the yellow markings.

This snowdrop is a real mystery.  It was given to me by a friend of a friend, who also gave me Wendy’s Gold,  who couldn’t remember its name but told me it was a big snowdrop.  I assumed he meant tall but it is now clear that the ‘big’ refers to the size of the flowers which are huge compared to my other snowdrop flowers.

If any one knows, or has a clue, what this snowdrop might be I would love to know.

So those are some of my snowdrops, I hope you enjoyed them. Next will be the narcissus.

 

 

A winter’s weekend

Galanthus Ding Dong

I’ve been slowly adding special snowdrops to the garden for a number of years now.  Nothing very unusual but each year I have bought 2 or 3 special bulbs and planted them out in the garden.  So it is thrilling to see them bulking up now and reappearing year after year even if the labels which I know I put with them aren’t so reliable.  Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ is usually one of the first to flower and is now a good size clump from just one bulb.

Galanthus ‘Selborne Green Tips’

Galanthus ‘Selborne Green Tips’ is in the same border as ‘Ding Dong’ and by a process of elimination this should be ‘Selborne Green Tips’ but there is a distinct lack of green tips so now I am befuddled.  I will have to wait and see how the flowers open out and see if there are any more clues.

Another mystery is this hellebore.  I have had it for years and I have always thought it was a helleborus niger but as the plant has grown again I’m not so convinced.  What is really strange is that it always seems to struggle to lift its flowers up, they spend all their time almost prostrate and facing the ground.  If anyone has any ideas I would love to know what it is.

I mentioned earlier that I am reviewing the garden and it is interesting how when you have ignored a space for nearly a year that you then see it with fresh eyes.  One of the areas that is top of my to sort list this year is the compost area.  I have battled with the compost bins for years but  now with my fresh approach I have  decided that enough is enough. They take up a huge amount of space in my small garden and with the best will in the world I’m awful at turning them and managing them.  About once a year I steel myself to empty them out and it nearly kills me partly because I have to move all the unrotted stuff but also because the slopes in the garden makes it exhausting to barrow the good compost around.  So I am planning to do away with them – outrageous I know.  My local council has a green waste collection service so I have bought a wheelie bin and it is collected fortnightly.  I am impressed with how much it takes; so far it has coped with my obsessive tidying up and pruning and if for some reason I create more garden waste than it can take  I will take the extra to the dump and put it in the green waste recycling there.  Then when I need a mulch I will buy some green compost back from the council.  Yes this is a more expensive approach but I buy green compost every year anyway and I doubt I will buy more so I see it as a win win because once I have cleared the current bins I will have a new area to plant up which can only be a good thing.

So that’s the first plan for the new year.

Hope you managed to spend some time in your garden this weekend.

 

 

Thoughts from the Garden – 8/1/2017

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At this time of year any time snatched in the garden is a welcomed treat.  Here in Malvern it has been mild but also very damp with heavy rain on Friday and rain again overnight on Saturday and most of this afternoon.

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I have a lot of tidying to do and I am prioritising those parts of the garden where the bulbs will be emerging over the next month or so.  I always start with the back slope as I have a lot of Galanthus nivalis planted here, so many that last year I had to divide them and spread some into the adjoining borders.  The slope has historically been very shady and so is planted with ferns and epimediums.  It’s quite amazing how much debris you can clear away from such a small area by the time you have collected up all the fallen leaves, weeded out various seedlings and cut back the dead fern fronds. Over the last year some Iris foetidissima have self-seeded here which I think I will be removing the next chance I have as I want to add another epimedium. It will be interesting to see how the removal of the boundary trees affects this border and whether my ferns will continue to thrive.

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The end of the slope just before the bench has really filled out over the last few years. The Fatsia japonica ‘Spiderweb’ seems to have settled in and has lots of new leaves.  The problem I have is how close it is to the fern, whose name I have lost as I was one of my first ferny acquisition, so I am thinking I might have to move the fern but I will think about it for a while.

img_9076 I also need to move this Adiantum which has been looking very unhappy for the last year.  Adjacent to it is Galanthus ‘Galatea’ which should be fully open in the next week if the sun shines.

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Also close to opening is Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ which is growing in a drier border under the Field Maple.  I am really pleased with both of these as I took the decision a couple of years ago to risk my special snowdrops in the ground rather than keep them in pots and so far they have rewarded me with reappearing each year and beginning to bulk up.

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Due to the rain overnight this morning was very foggy with little sign of the Malvern Hills behind the house.  I was torn as yesterday I had finally bought an extra tree for the front garden and I wanted to plant it.  I have felt deep down for some years now that the front garden needed a third tree to balance the Silver Birch and Sorbus.  It really irritated me over Christmas so yesterday I popped down to the local plant nursery and bought a Sorbus pseudohepehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’.  I toyed with another Sorbus vilmorinii like I have in the back garden but it seemed daft to have two the same when there are so many lovely varieties to choose from. This morning, despite the fog I decided to get it planted as I was concerned that next weekend might be much colder and not so conducive to tree planting.  I also started weeding the front garden and mulching it.  It’s a big job as this is its first winter and there are lots of persistent weeds to deal with. I have some planting I want to do over the coming months so some preparation is needed.  Sadly I didn’t get far as the drizzle reappeared and set in for the rest of the day but at last it was a start.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 15/2/2016

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February is really becoming hellebore time in my garden although unusually I haven’t added to the collection yet this year although I am sure there is still time. Above is a selection of some of those that are looking good this week. Interestingly the colours don’t seem as strong this year with Anna’s Red looking no darker than my long-established dark pink hellebore and the yellows seem very pale.

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I need to relocate some of the hellebores so the flowers are easier to see and I don’t have to step into border to take photos.

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I do like the yellows so I might see about adding to these instead of more purple and pinks.

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Crocus tommasinianus are beginning to spread under the Field Maple which is very satisfying.  Sadly this year with the seemingly endless overcast days it is rare that the flowers are actually open so I was lucky to catch these crocus open the other day.

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I’m also really pleased to find some hepaticas flowering this year.  I planted two groups last year in opposite sides of the garden to try to work out what was the right environment for them.  It seems that the more shady damper area is preferred to the dry shade area so I will relocate the hepaticas from the less desirable spot.

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The snowdrops are also slowly but surely spreading around the garden and are beginning to form a white haze on the back slope.

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I have a growing number of named varieties in the garden, acquiring a few more each year.  I think this is one I got some years ago but I have lost the label so I have no idea what it is but the flowers seem larger than Galanthus nivalis, in particular the outer petals are longer.  I will have to see if I can find a record on this blog or in my label box of what it might be.

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The last of my favourites this week is this unknown camellia which although quite a small shrub is smothered in bloom, luckily we have not had many frosts so the flowers haven’t gone brown.

Also flowering in the garden are pulmonaria, cyclamen, witch hazel, and slowly but surely the various narcissus.  This is Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’.IMG_4106For more February blooms from around the world visit Carol at May Dream Gardens and check out the links.

 

Catching ‘White Fever’

Galanthus plicatus 'Sarah Dumont'
Galanthus plicatus ‘Sarah Dumont’

In response to those readers who, like me until recently, can’t see the obsession and fascination with snowdrops – after all aren’t they all the same I would point to the photograph above. This is of Galanthus plicatus ‘Sarah Dumont’ and I think is quite distinct from the everyday Galanthus nivalis

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that over the last month I have been exploring the world of galanthophiles in a bid to try to understand the fascination.  This isn’t the first time I have put my toe in the water so to speak, back in 2011 I visited John Sales garden to see his collection of snowdrops but I found myself still struggling.  I have also looked at various magazine articles etc and it isn’t easy.

Anyway, on Sunday, my eyes were finally opened and it started to make sense.  I attended the Galanthus Group study day in Leominster.  As soon as I arrived I went to look at the plant sale tables and here it quickly became apparent what a variety there is.  I believe that if you are a newbie to galanthus you really need to see a collection of them set beside each other so you start to notice the different heights, size of flowers, foliage, markings etc.  I find myself particularly drawn to the snowdrops with long outer petals.

The first talk of the morning, ‘Snowdrops in the Green’, focussed on the green markings of snowdrops – or virescence.  The speaker, Jim Almond, went through the different groups of snowdrops (nivalis, elwesii, plicatus, woronowii and ikariae) and showed us ones which were particularly well-marked.  He also touched on caring for your snowdrops stressing the importance of dividing them every 3 years or so to maintain the clump’s vigour; passing some to friends so if you lose yours there might be a ready supply elsewhere; growing some in pots as a back-up; and feeding every Autumn with bonemeal.  He identified some that were good doers and would bulk up quickly: Galanthus plicatus ‘Trymlet’ and Galanthus ‘Modern Art’. These are now on my wish-list.  Any would be galanthophile has to have a wish-list apparently – mine is quite humble.

The second talk of the morning was by Joe Sharman, a very respected galanthophile and breeder.  He talked about rare, curious and new snowdrops.  I have to admit to struggling to concentrate at this point as lunch was beckoning and I think I was reaching information saturation overload by this point.  Interestingly though it become increasingly clear from both talks that snowdrops can be rather troublesome and pernickety about where they want to grow.  There was a lot of talk about varieties disappearing, going out of circulation, being hard to establish and multiply and I suppose this adds to the rarity, desirability and cost of some of them.  There was also much criticism of the prices being paid on ebay and charged by one well-known retailer when the same plants can be bought from specialist nurseries for much less.

Note: I am 90% certain I have the right names against each snowdrop

Lunch over and we made our way to Ivy Croft to see the snowdrops growing.  I nearly missed this part of the day due to other commitments but one of the ladies I met persuaded me that I really needed to see clumps of the different varieties to appreciate them better and she was right.  Luckily I had met up with some friends from another garden group I attend and they were far more knowledgeable than me and could identify many of the different varieties.  Whilst I still love the vast sweeps of snowdrops as shown in previous posts, and many at the study day did too, I found it fascination to see all the variations.  I found myself drawn to the taller and beefier snowdrops rather than the tiny and short ones, though there was speculation this was due to my eye sight getting worse!  It appears that due to the vastness of varieties available people often collect specific groups – one lady was collecting all the ones named after insects, such as Wasp (which is a lovely snowdrop and on my list).

So to conclude the ‘white fever’ hasn’t grabbed me as it has one lady I spoke to who admitted to having “around 200 varieties” but I have decided to start collecting snowdrops with the plan to add a few each year.  If I am honest it isn’t just the differences in the varieties but also the people who drew me in as they were a friendly and interesting group.  But above all, I think that part of the attraction must be the beauty of snowdrops at a time of year when there is very little else in flower.

I would like to thank my blogging friend Anna for her encouragement and advice in recent weeks – she is a real snowdrop addict.

My Garden This Weekend – 17th February

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The garden is definitely showing signs of spring this week.  Primroses are starting to flower and shoots are pushing through the ground in the borders.  I think the slightly warmer temperatures and a few dry days have really helped.  They have certainly cheered me up.

Sadly the badger also seems to have woken up and there were numerous holes around the garden where the badger had been seeking out the tulip bulbs.  The badger’s visit have also resulted in my plans for a fern border being changed.  My son has a wood store against the fence where the badger accesses the garden and the badger’s excavations have undermined the structure. We have come to the conclusion that the only way forward is to accept the badger’s presence,  so on Saturday afternoon it had to be moved to a new location and I waved good-bye to the planned fern border.  It’s not all doom and gloom as there is still some space for the ferns I had planned to group together and actually moving the wood store means I can access the compost bin better.

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I was glad to see that my early intervention with the slug pellets has certainly benefited the Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ whose foliage is looking shiny and healthy.

I managed to grab a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon in the garden and this allowed me to cut down many of the deciduous grasses.  They had reached the point were they were looking incredibly battered and broken.  In the past I have cut the grasses carefully, sorting through the new shoots to remove the old stems.  However, having watched Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden and seeing her take the  shears to her this year I was more gungho with my approach.  I also cut back the foliage on the epimediums so that their flowers would be visible within a couple of weeks.

There was also time to pot up some plants I had received to review from the Plant Me Now plant scheme and the snowdrops which I bought from Avon Bulbs.

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Then today, Sunday, has been a true horticultural fun day.  I have spent the whole day emerged in the world of galanthus courtesy of the Galanthus Group, specialist group of the Hardy Plant Society.  The group’s objective is to make the varieties of snowdrops more accessible to everyday gardeners and although many of the 80-100 attending were real experts there were also a few like me who knew nothing but didn’t feel out of place.  We had two talks in the morning by Jim Almond  and Joe Sharman, then after lunch we went off to visit a local garden, Ivy Croft, to admire the collection of snowdrops.

I will fill you in more with details of the day later in the week but suffice to say that I have finally discovered what the fascination is with galanthus.  It isn’t until you see lots of different varieties together that you start to understand the sheer variety out there. I bought a couple to add to the three I bought earlier in the week and even better I won one in the raffle – a delightful Galanthus ‘Sarah Dumont’ which has a yellowish ovary.

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I have lots of plans for the garden but I am really enjoying going to local talks and meetings as I am meeting interesting and knowledgeable people who are very generous with their knowledge and generally fun to spend time with.