Snowflakes (Leucojum) Continue the Snowdrop Season

Leucojum aestivum, Stylophorum diphyllum

Summer snowflake with Celandine poppy in the woodland at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

When snowdrops are finishing, their close relatives, snowflakes (Leucojum),  are ready to take over the display.  They are quite beautiful, but haven’t been subjected to the intense selection process that has resulted in over 1,500 snowdrop cultivars.  They are very easy to grow, and I think they deserve more attention.

Nursery News:  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.

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Leucojum aestivum, Stylophorum diphyllum 4-26-2015 6-43-58 PMLeucojum aestivum in my woodland in April.

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There are two main species of snowflakes: Leucojum aestivum or summer snowflake and Leucojum vernum or spring snowflake.  Summer snowflake blooms in April in our area so the common name is very confusing.  It is a large and vigorous plant reaching 12 to 18 inches with multiple green-tipped, white, lantern-shaped flowers at the end of each flower stem. 

It likes moist soil but grows quite well in my dry woodland as you can see from the photos.  It grows in dappled woodland conditions but also quite sunny spots and seeds aggressively in my garden.  Summer snowflake is native to Central and Eastern Europe.  The cultivar ‘Gravetye Giant’ has bigger flowers, but I have not grown it.

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 Spring snowflake

Spring snowflake, Leucojum vernum, blooms in March in our area so it could easily be called winter snowflake. On its own, it is a diminutive plant reaching 6 to 9 inches with single, green-tipped, white, lantern-shaped flowers at the end of each flower stem.  The leaves are strap-shaped and a very pretty glossy, bright green.  It likes moist soil but grows quite well in average moisture conditions in deciduous shade to part shade locations.  Spring snowflake is native to Central and Southern Europe. 

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Leucojum vernum Ithan Park 3-17-2016 5-21-07 PM
A very upright and dark green Leucojum vernum—it stood out from the hundreds around it.
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Although unassuming as a single plant, spring snowflake is breath-taking when massed as the following photos show:

Leucojum vernum at Winterthur 2016 3-12-2016 2-52-03 PM 3-12-2016 2-52-03 PM

A clump of spring snowflake.

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Leucojum vernum at Winterthur 2016 3-12-2016 2-52-03 PM 3-12-2016 3-49-41 PM

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Leucojum vernum at Winterthur 2016 3-12-2016 2-52-03 PM 3-12-2016 2-52-31 PM

A hillside of spring snowflake in mid-March at Winterthur.

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Leucojum vernum at Winterthur 2016 3-12-2016 2-52-03 PM 3-12-2016 3-46-20 PM

Spring snowflake combined with Amur adonis and glory-of-the-snow in mid-March at Winterthur.

There are some named forms of Leucojum vernum, which are quite interesting:

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Leucojum vernum Ithan Park 3-17-2016 5-20-19 PM

Leucojum vernum var. wagneri (or vagneri) produces two flowers on each stem, although none of mine did that this year.  I have read that it is no longer a valid variety.  If you visit naturalized populations of Leucojum vernum, a certain percentage will have twin flowers. This photo shows a wagneri with standard-shaped flowers and green spots.

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Leucojum vernum var. wagneri

This wagneri has the yellower spots typical of var. carpaticum pictured below.

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Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum

Leucojum vernum var. carpaticum has yellow spots on each petal instead of the normal green spots.

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Leucojum vernum 'Null Punkte'

‘Null Punkte’ from Germany is pure white with no spots.

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Leucojum vernum 'Gertrude Wister' Cresson garden

‘Gertrude Wister’ is a semi-double spring snowflake with 12 or more petals instead of the normal 6.  It was discovered by noted bulb expert Gertrude Wister in her garden on the Swarthmore College campus in Pennsylvania, US.

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Leucojum vernum 'Gertrude Wister'

A group of ‘Gertrude Wister’.  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is honored to be the only source for this cultivar.

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The surface has barely been scratched though—there are many beautiful forms under evaluation:

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Leucojum vernum Cresson garden

A form with 8 petals found in Charles Cresson’s garden.  This is the one I want.

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Leucojum vernum Ithan Park 3-17-2016 5-20-08 PM

This lovely flower appeared in the midst of a group of var. wagneri.  It has the spots, but then the very pointy tips are dipped in green paint.

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A similar paint-dipped flower, but this one is outward facing, even more pointy, and has more color.

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DSCN7756

A very large flower with much more prominent spots.

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Leucojum vernum Ithan Park 3-17-2016 5-18-044

A very large-flowered wagneri.

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Leucojum vernum Ithan Park 3-17-2016 5-24-032

A wagneri with more separated petals.

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Leucojum Johan Germany 2

A very large flower with alternating spotted petals and pure white petals.

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Leucojum vernum 2016

Two flowers fused on the same stem: we will have to see if this repeats itself.

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Leucojum vernum double Johan

A true double flower under evaluation by a friend in Belgium.

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Leucojum vernum double Johan

Very beautiful!

Carolyn

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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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25 Responses to “Snowflakes (Leucojum) Continue the Snowdrop Season”

  1. I love these too….crazy weather is limiting the blooms and now it is getting into the 30s/20s again. A strange spring in the garden.

  2. For your information: In Denmark these are called Dorothea lilies – which I think sounds rather glamorous for such a petite and subtle flower. I have always been fond of them, perhaps because they take over where the snowdrops begin to fade a little – and they have such staying power even in vases.

    But they truly are elegant little flowers in their own right. That green droplet…

    (And by sheer luck I have them in moderate numbers in my new garden. The snowdrops are immoderate – so will be shared with friends, because won’t they enjoy being divided? In my mind you are the Queen of Snowdrops, so who better to ask…)

    • Soren, So glad you appeared here as we haven’t “talked” in a while. Snowflakes are indeed one of the more elegant flowers. I like that “Queen of Snowdrops”, commanding. Yes, snowdrops that have gotten into tight clumps can stop blooming so by all means divide them and share the fun. I divide mine now and was just doing that today! You need to find out what is the right time to divide in your climate. Carolyn

      • I have tight clumps of snowdrops in the borders and I have random appearances throughout the lawn… In fact they are rather widespread in the lawn – which gives me confidence that I bought the right house and garden! I mean, if snowdrops can be happy here, so can I!

        I imagine the right time to be when the blooms are going off but the leaves are still green – is that a wrong assumption?

  3. Len Lehman Says:

    great post!

  4. Carolyn, I just emailed my cousin about visiting your nursery. Tell me when it is a good time for her to get your advice on what plants she can purchase for her woodland garden. It has many critters feasting, so that is a consideration. I have posted on her garden a few times, (not Barb in St. Lucia, Pat in PA), you might remember the property.

    • Donna, For wildflowers and native woodland plants, the best time is mid-April before my second open house sale on April 16. If she is especially interested in hellebores, which maybe she is for critter resistance, then now is a good time. Thanks for the referral. Carolyn

  5. I’ve never developed a fondness for for snowdrops or snowflakes because, with snow on the ground from November to April, I am heartily sick of white by the time spring flowers appear. But this year, with very little snow and all of it having melted away by mid-March, I’m thinking how nice it would be to have some of those flowers brightening up the drab late-winter woods.

  6. Oh No! First a Galanathus addition, now Leucojum.
    Great photos at Winterthur. It was a great photo day

  7. That field of spring-flowering bulbs is so beautiful! You always share such beautiful photos and great information. Happy spring!

  8. You always have the neatest things. I love the massed snowflakes and all the interesting flower variations. ‘Gertrude Wister’ is stunning!

  9. Thanks for all the info Carolyn, I have never grown snowflakes, every time I look at the price of them I find something else I need much more – and I end up another year without them. But I can see how it easily can become a craze for the right snowflake, just like snowdrops! Next year I might invest in a small clump and then just carefully divide – they are so pretty.
    All the crocuses and snowdrops are finished in my garden, I have late daffodils and tulips now – and despite the cold weather the roses are starting to produce flower buds.

  10. debsgarden Says:

    The photos of masses snowflakes at Winterthur are amazing. I love my own snowflakes, but you have opened my eyes to the different varieties.

  11. Not sure if you’ve covered this one on your blog Carolyn, but when I saw it I immediately thought of you.
    http://www.gardenista.com/posts/garden-visit-snowdrop-season-at-painswick-rococo-garden?utm_source=remodelista&utm_medium=pubexchange

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