2013 Winter Interest Plants

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Galanthus 'Brenda Troyle'Galanthus ‘Brenda Troyle’ is one of the most robust and fragrant snowdrops in the Cresson garden.

This may be my last post that focuses on snowdrops, and I am sure some readers will rejoice.  I am aware that many gardeners do not share (or understand) my obsession.  However, I want to show photos from the recent Winter Interest Plants Seminars hosted by Charles Cresson for my nursery customers. 

Before I get to that though, I have to tell you about the snowdrop event this weekend at Winterthur, the fabulous garden in Delaware, US.  On Saturday, March 9, at 11 am, Alan Street, the world famous snowdrop expert from Avon Bulbs in England, is presenting the annual Bank to Bend Lecture on snowdrops.  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be one of two nurseries selling snowdrops and other winter interest plants at Winterthur.  I hope to see you there.  Here are the details:


Join plantsman and snowdrop expert Alan Street of the renowned nursery Avon Bulbs as he offers insight into these precious flowers, sharing how they have become a worldwide phenomenon and how Avon Bulbs brings them to market. Registration includes tours of the March Bank display and access to specialist nurseries selling snowdrops and other winter interest plants. $20 non-members; $10 members.

Call 800.448.3883 to register or find out more.

Bank to Bend includes free admission to the garden, tours of the March Bank and access to specialist nurseries Black Hog Horticulture and Carolyn’s Shade Garden to purchase rare and unusual bulbs and other winter interest plants.


Cresson Winter Interest SeminarCharles Cresson talks about his witch hazels, winter aconite, and snowdrops with some die hard winter interest gardeners.

This is the third year that nationally known horticulturalist Charles Cresson has hosted my customers in his Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, garden to view and discuss winter interest plants.  Every year we see different plants, depending on the weather, but every year the group is just as enthusiastic despite the weather.  This year, February (and all winter really) has been cold and dismal, and the seminar days were no exception, but the attendees were enthusiastic and full of questions for Charles.

Cresson Winter Interest SeminarsCharles demonstrates how he protects important plants with plastic boxes if the weather is going to be unseasonably cold.

Plants are “late” to come out this year because it has been so cold.  The emergence of winter interest plants like perennials and bulbs is dependent more on the soil temperature than on the date.  If the soil warms up early, as it did in 2012 when we had no winter, many plants will bloom early.  This year it has been cold and gray, and many plants have yet to bloom or emerge.  Yet, such is the magic of Charles’s garden that there was a lot to see.  Here are some of the highlights in the order in which we saw them:

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'After seeing this daffodil for many years blooming in Charles’s garden in February, I finally added it to mine this year.  It is called Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.


Eratnhis hyemalis (pale yellow form)A rare pale yellow form of winter aconite, Eranthus hyemalis.


Crocus tommasinianusThe snow crocus, C. tommasinianus, is my favorite crocus because it blooms now with the snowdrops and multiplies rapidly.


Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'‘Ruby Giant’ snow crocus is a deeper purple.


Crocus tommasinianus 'Taplow Ruby'‘Taplow Ruby’ snow crocus


Galanthus 'Atkinsii'Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ is an old-fashioned and reliable snowdrop that should be part of any collection.


Galanthus 'Atkinsii' & Arum italicum 'Pictum'One of my favorite combinations, ‘Atkinsii’ with Italian arum, A. italicum ‘Pictum’.


Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost' with Cotoneaster salicifolius 'Henryi'The leaves of ‘Pink Frost’ hellebore, H. x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’, pair beautifully with this rare cotoneaster, C. salicifolius ‘Henryi’.


Helleborus foetidus & Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost'‘Pink Frost’ again with bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, in another winning combination.


Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Winter's Song'‘Winter’s Song’ hellebore, H. x ericsmithii ‘Winter’s Song’ is very early blooming so it was fully out on this cold February day.


Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince'‘Ivory Prince’ hellebore was just starting to open.


Iris unguicularis subsp. cretensisThis subspecies is an especially dark colored version of the winter-blooming Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis subsp. cretensis.


Galanthus 'Mighty Atom'

Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’ has one of the best presentations of any snowdrop.


Galanthus rizehensisGalanthus rizehensis is a rare and desirable snowdrop species.


Galanthus 'Standing Tall'Charles’s newly introduced snowdrop ‘Standing Tall’ continues to stand up to whatever the weather throws at it.  If you didn’t know better you would think it was a daffodil.


Galanthus elwesii 'Standing Tall' Cresson photo-001‘Standing Tall’ in full bloom in early January.


Galanthus 'Beth Chatto' ‘Beth Chatto’


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'Charles and I both acquired six-petaled ‘Godfrey Owen’ last year but his was not felled by snow and ice.


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'‘Godfrey Owen’


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'The inner segments of ‘Godfrey Owen’ are extraordinary too.  This photo represents to me what galanthophiles are all about.


I know the participants enjoyed themselves because even after an hour and a half in the cold, they were still asking Charles questions.  I hope my readers have gotten some vicarious enjoyment.

I you would like to see what was featured during the 2011 and 2012 seminars, follow these links:

2011 Winter Interest Plants

2012 Winter Interest Plants



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  We are now accepting reservations for our very popular Hellebore Seminars .  The Friday session is full but the session on Monday, March 18, at 10:00 am has nine spaces left.  For details, click here.  The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar of the website and orders are being accepted now.  To view the catalogue, click here.  The 2013 General Catalogue is available here.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

50 Responses to “2013 Winter Interest Plants”

  1. I love all blooms at this time of year! And I have become enamored of hellebores lately. But I can see why you love the little snowdrops. So sweet, so delightful, and each so different. I love the way Godfrey Own opens up like an umbrella!

  2. So great to see things blooming. Here in Boston we still have snow on the ground. I want “Godfrey Owen” in my garden next year. Think it can thrive this far north?

    • Debbie, I couldn’t really predict whether any snowdrop would grow in a zone other than mine, but I don’t see why not. However, Godfrey Owen is generally not available in the US. It was just a fluke that Charles and I got it. Carolyn

  3. I love the photos of ‘Godfrey Owen.’
    It’s interesting that we now experience what I think used to be normal winter temperatures as unusually cold and spring as late. Last year, I had crocuses in bloom by now; today, I just saw the first signs of their foliage coming up.
    Once again, I didn’t manage to get to the flower show. I think I just need to face the fact that this comes at a bad time in the semester for me, just as I’m getting ready to go up to Maine for spring break. I do hope to get to the Boston Flower Show while I’m home, though.

    • Jean, You will notice that I put the word late in quotations in my post and that is exactly what I was getting at. However, in my 21 years of running Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, I have never experienced so many cold and sunless days in February. Usually by the 15th I am outside at least every other day working. However, last year was not a year to set your clock by because the ground didn’t even freeze. That makes a huge difference. Carolyn

  4. Hi Carolyn… I can’t help thinking how different the concept of winter interest plants is depending on where one’s gardens are situated and the corresponding climatic conditions. By virtue of the large snowfall amounts, sometimes devastating winds, and the like, winter interest here in Wisconsin depends heavily on large evergreens and the shapes of nicely pruned deciduous trees. Even the hellebores wait till spring to show up in our climate. Spring really starts out as a time of clean-up, pruning, etc. as winters and critter damage can be quite devastating to the gardens. This year holds no promise of being anything different. I enjoyed your photos today and the accompanying information. Sometimes I find myself wishing we were in a climate where winter was more likely to be brown than white and where these gems might brighten our days so early in the season! Larry

    • Larry, I love white winters, and the plants in my post are not phased by them. Snowdrops and hellebores will sit under snow cover just waiting to appear again when the snow melts. Have you ever tried ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef’ Christmas rose or any of the very early snowdrops. I would think they would work in Wisconsin and bloom during the heart of the winter in between snow storms. Carolyn

  5. Thank you for the “virtual” tour of Charles Cresson’s winter interest plants, what beauties! Winterthur is on my “to visit” list, I will be planning to visit at “Snowdrop time” one of these days.. I wish I could drop everything and come this Saturday, drive up so I have a car to stash some newly acquired snowdrops.. very tempting.

  6. While I am not someone who is crazy about special snowdrops, I love the singles and doubles planted in huge drifts rather than one or two special ones, I always enjoy reading your posts so continued even after your warning. I’m glad I did or I would have missed a very interesting post, and seeing a different variety of the winter Iris that has been giving me pleasure in the garden since November. Christina

    • Christina, Yes, I too love the singles and doubles planted in huge drifts, but that drift has to start from one plant if the cultivar is expensive or generally unavailable in the US. Then slowly over the years and with careful dividing it can be increased to a swath. Charles gave me some divisions of the Algerian iris so I am very excited that I will finally have it in my garden. Carolyn

  7. What a lovely post, but then you know how much I love snowdrops! Alan Street of Avon Bulbs is where I buy most of my snowdrops, he is just 1 hour away from me. Love Godfrey Owen, but I am waiting for his price to come down!! Such a lovely selection of winter flowering plants and bulbs, enough to draw anyone into the garden, no matter how cold it is!

    • Pauline, You are right we all need something to get us outdoors in the cold and sometimes dismal winter weather. For gardeners it is plants that bloom in winter. How lucky you are to be an hour from Avon Bulbs—I’m jealous. Carolyn

  8. Good luck on your sale. You really showed a superb selection of winter bloomers. I love that iris. I wish I could get down on the 9th, it sounds like a wonderful event. Like your area, here is also cold and we have quite a bit of snow. I will not be seeing any blooms for a while I think, although next week we go from 20° today to 42°. What a difference.

  9. Carolyn,

    I have been treading out to the spot where I planted several very special Snowdrops I got from you several years ago. They are thriving just fine, and it’s so much fun to go out there and bend down and check out their amazing beauty. I’m thankful to have them.

    Pam Coath

  10. gardeningshoe Says:

    Godfrey Owen is a bit special, isn’t he? There are some beautiful plant combinations here – I love the Arum/Galanthus one. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos – it is rather indulgent to have a winter tour while snuggled up on a sofa, although immensely enjoyable!

  11. Judith Spruance Says:

    Love you pictured and your articles. But love of snowdrops is not an addiction but a passion. Addiction is a real life problem and your passionate interest in snow drops etc. is healthy!

    • Judith, I had already changed the post to say obsession but passion is a good word too. However, I disagree that the word addiction has only negative connotations. One meaning for addiction is devotion as in “great interest in a particular thing to which a lot of time is devoted.” The negative meaning of addiction has just taken the spotlight. Carolyn

  12. Paddy Tobin. Says:

    Carolyn, while the world of snowdrop enthusiasts constantly chase after the novel and different it is good to read you recommend one of the old reliables, G. Atkinsii. It is well to remember that it is old and commonplace simply because it is a healthy plant, grows well, and people like it. To me it is one of the outstanding snowdrops in the garden . While I also grow G. ‘Godfrey Owen’ it, though beautiful, will never have the garden impact of G. Atkinsii. It is that category of little gems that we admire in detail but a clump would not catch your eye in the same manner as a clump of G. Atkinsii. Sometimes the old ones are still the best.

    • Paddy, You are so right, especially in the US where a sweep of ‘Godfrey Owen’ is but a dream but a clump of ‘Atkinsii’ is a definite possibility. After all, how can you resist a snowdrop that is described as resembling the pearl-drop earring of Elizabeth I (from the description of Atkinsii in the snowdrop bible)? Carolyn

  13. Carolyn, I’m interested in collecting different winter aconites. Would you consider selling them in the green, too?

  14. I am intrigued by the cotoneaster, what pretty foliage. Will check it out further.

  15. I am afraid I am one of those not so interested in snowdrops. I can’t really tell how they differ, apart from the Owens – it is a nice looking plant. Regardless I love visiting your blog snowdrops and all.

  16. It must have been a wonnderful visit. Now I wish I ordered every one of your snowdrops offered this year (but you know that darn thing called money just doesn’t stretch far enough!). Those hellebores look wonderful too. I can’t imagine having that much in bloom this soon.

    On a very happy note, my snowdrop order arrived today and I was able to tuck them into the garden. It was nice to dig in the garden for the first time this year.

  17. I hope that you carry on posting about snowdrops as I am just getting to know them. I see your point about Mighty Atom, three petals looks aesthetically better to me.

  18. I love when you post about snowdrops because you show so many different ones…wish I had the money to indulge my addiction…wonderful that you are at Winterthur and I love the events you have.

  19. I’m fascinated with Hellebores the way you’re fascinated with Snowdrops. Thanks for sharing photos of both. I like Snowdrops, too, but they don’t last long here. Right now everything is covered with more than a foot of snow, so I won’t be seeing any blooms for a while. 😦

  20. Gorgeous winter photos! The more you post about snowdrops the more they grow on me.

  21. Carolyn, what a fantastic collection of snowdrops!!! last picture: perfect! I hope to visit your nursery some day and enjoy (shine or rain!) your snowdrops and hellebores Great weekened!

  22. How can anyone get tired of snowdrops?! They are so incredibly sweet and cheerful. I added approximately 200 in a forest border this fall/winter (as I didn’t get them all planted in a timely manner), and I’ve had a nice staggering of blooms. I can’t wait for them to establish and make lovely, lush clumps of blooms as in your photos! What an incredible event–I wish I lived closer so I could attend. Thanks, though, for sharing your beautiful photos!

  23. Carolyn, thanks for yet another great and informative post! Every time I visit your garden I find another few plants I wish I could have. My snowdrops are coming to an end now but I have ordered 150 snowdrops in the green and they should arrive this week, possibly still in flower. Nothing special, can’t afford that, I have ordered Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus ‘Flore Pleno’ and from before I have Galanthus Woronowii. Would really like some of the more unusual ones but they cost too much. They sell 44 different snowdrops where I have ordered from, plenty to choose from!

    But one plant I have put on my wish list after reading your post is Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’, it is beautiful! Can’t get enough of hellebores, I have two more on order coming soon. Looking forward to your next post.

  24. That Italian arum/snopdrop combo is stellar! I’ve never seen a snowdrop as showy as ‘Godfrey Owen’, either. Great photos!

  25. I knew they were die-hard gardeners when I saw the group in their coats, and so many of them smiling! Nothing like beautiful plants, a knowledgeable garden master, and fellowship with other gardeners to warm up the atmosphere!

  26. Ernestcavallo Says:

    Dear Carolyn My standing Tall is on flower! Earlier than I hoped but still a welcome new resident of my garden. I live on the east end of Long Island. I wonder if you have similar experience or reports. Sincerely, Ernie

    • Ernest, So nice to hear from you. In the catalogue, Charles described the flowering time of Standing Tall as before Christmas and into January for our zone 6b. From reading the galanthus thread on the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum, I believe that most collectors consider this to be a very desirable bloom time. The eastern tip of Long Island appears to be a full zone warmer than here at 7b so it could bloom even earlier for you. We have had four snowstorms with about 6 inches still on the ground and another storm starting right now so no one down here can see their snowdrops. I did go outside and dig around and my Standing Tall plants are in bud but under snow so I am sure they won’t bloom until the weather warms up a little. They have been in bud for two weeks, probably longer, but are in suspended animation with all the snow and 20 degree weather. I will ask Charles what his plants are doing and report back. Look for my snowdrop catalogue very soon on the website. Carolyn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: