Archive for snowdrop companion plants

New Snowdrop Book

Posted in bulbs for shade, containers for shade, landscape design, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2015 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The 2019 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar, and we are taking orders.  To access the catalogue, please click here.

Cover of SnowdropsThe cover of the exciting new snowdrop book recently published in The Plant Lover’s Guide Series by Kew Gardens in London.

I don’t think I have ever done a book review on this blog, but I want to share my excitement about the new snowdrop book published by Timber Press in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.  It is called The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops and was written by Naomi Slade, a prize-winning British journalist.   I highly recommend it as an invaluable resource for gardeners at all levels in their love of snowdrops, from novice to expert.

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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Galanthus nivalis in Welford Park, BerkshireCommon snowdrops, G. nivalis, at Welford Park in Berkshire, England—just one of the locations identified in the book as a place to see snowdrops (photo by Naomi Slade appears on page 16) .

The best part of the book for me is the photographs, both those accompanying the individually profiled snowdrops, which are both enticing and accurate, and also the many pictures of snowdrops in gardens mostly in the US and UK, which are quite beautiful.  Whether you are a thoroughly obsessed galanthophile or just thinking of branching out with snowdrops for the first time, you will love reading this book, not once but over and over.

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 4-13-14 PMThe title page for the chapter on Growing and Propagating snowdrops.

The book is divided into five main chapters followed by further information on where to see snowdrops and where to buy them.  Slade begins with an explanation of “Why I Love Snowdrops” that sets the tone for the whole book, which is approachable, informative, and refreshing.  Although the author points out that a lack of detailed knowledge is not a barrier to appreciating this universally loved plant, her enthusiasm makes you want to acquire or revisit that knowledge.

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 2-35-43 PMPhotos illustrating the discussion of good companion plants for snowdrops.

The next section of the book considers “Designing with the Milk Flower”.  Slade discusses garden design and placement, easy snowdrops for beginners, naturalizing, rock gardens, and container planting.  There are many inspired ideas for companion plantings covering other bulbs, perennials, trees, and shrubs. 

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 2-40-18 PMCreative uses of snowdrops in containers

In “Understanding Snowdrops”, the book explains in a user-friendly way snowdrop morphology or structure, concepts that are important to understanding the differences between snowdrops and deciphering written descriptions of them.  Slade covers snowdrop species and their origins, conservation and trade, and even snowdrop theft.

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 4-14-20 PMAlthough originally mostly single-flowered and green and white, Slade explains that the Greatorex doubles led to many more double forms and that yellow and even orange snowdrops can be found.

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 4-13-56 PMProfiles of ‘Grumpy’ and G. elwesii var. monostictus

The “Spotter’s Guide” section highlights 60 snowdrops chosen with great care to represent the range available and includes many of the most-loved and best-performing cultivars.   The photographs are excellent and the individual descriptions are fresh and informative.

. Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 4-13-36 PMEach snowdrop profiled gets plenty of space for photos and descriptions.

The final main section is on “Growing and Propagating” and covers planting, dividing, fertilizing, propagating, and pests and diseases.  This is followed by a very comprehensive guide to where to see snowdrops worldwide, including the US, and where to buy them, including Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

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Sladesnowdropbook 1-13-2015 5-53-33 PMCambo Estate in Scotland is a great place to see snowdrops, while the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum on galanthus, click here, is a great place to learn about snowdrops.

One of Naomi Slade’s missions in writing this book was to appeal to an American audience, and she has succeeded.  While the UK is definitely the eye of the current snowdrop tornado, Slade ferrets out a lot of information useful to US readers.  Of the eight snowdrop professionals whose interviews she spreads through out the book, three of them are American, including me on page 76.  The book identifies and also anticipates the snowdrop collecting frenzy that is coming to America.  I can’t wait.

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snowdropsAnother photo of Welford Park by Naomi Slade.

If you would like to order a copy of this book, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has it available for $24.95 plus $5.95 for priority shipping.  Send an email to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  

Carolyn

Nursery Happenings: 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.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events or are interested in mail order, 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.

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.

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Companion Plants for Snowdrops

Posted in bulbs for shade, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2015 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

The 2019 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar, and we are taking orders.  To access the catalogue, please click here.

Galanthus nivalis & Arum italicum 'Pictum'Snowdrops, G. nivalis, with Italian arum and snow crocus, C. tommasinianus, in the background.

The main attraction of snowdrops is that they bloom at a time of year when flowers are rare in the garden.  There is nothing like a solitary group of beautiful white flowers to light up a dismal, cold day in February.   Although companion plants are not necessary to achieve this effect, snowdrops are even more lovely when paired with other flowering plants or evergreen leaves.  This post will give you some ideas of what plants combine well with snowdrops to create winter interest in your garden.

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 cell 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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Galanthus nivalis and EranthisSnowdrops and winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, are the perfect combination for early in the snowdrop season.  Both naturalize well in woodland conditions.

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Eranthis hyemalis & Galanthus 'S. Arnott'Winter aconite and ‘S. Arnott’, the most popular of all snowdrops with UK gardeners.

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Galanthus elwesiiEvergreen (technically winter green) ferns are a great backdrop for snowdrops, here giant snowdrops, G. elwesii, and Japanese holly fern.

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Galanthus elwesii var. monostichtus Hiemalis Group CSG -01The evergreen leaves of hellebores also set off snowdrops well.

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Hybrid hellebore & G. 'Brenda Troyle'When the hellbores bloom it is even better, here a hybrid hellebore and ‘Brenda Troyle’.

. Galanthus 'Standing Tall'‘Standing Tall’ picks up the silver markings on the evergreen leaves of Chinese ginger.

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Galanthus nivalis and Cyclamen coum at Carolyn's Shade GardensSnowdrops with winter-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. coum.  They also pair well with the much larger, silver-marked, evergreen leaves of fall-blooming cyclamen, C. hederifolium.

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Galanthus reginae-olgae, Lamium 'Shell Pink'‘Shell Pink’ lamium blooms in my garden into December so it is a great companion for fall-blooming snowdrops like the G. reginae-olgae above.  Once the flowers are gone, the silver stripes on the evergreen leaves continue to combine well with later-blooming snowdrops.

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Galanthus nivalis & Arum itlalicumI think snowdrops and Italian arum are my favorite combination, here under the reddish branches of ‘Magic Carpet’ spiraea.

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Galanthus 'Atkinsii' & Arum italicum 'Pictum'A beautifully marked arum and ‘Atkinsii’.

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Galanthus nivalis & Heuchera 'Creme Brulee' Many native heucheras hold their color all winter and look great with snowdrops, especially ‘Caramel’, ‘Citronelle’, ‘Frosted Violet’, ‘Autumn Bride’, and ‘Blackout’.

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Galanthus 'S. Arnott', Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'Favorite ‘S. Arnott’ with the very early-blooming daffodil ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.

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Galanthus nivalis, Crocus tommasinianusSnowdrops naturalized with ‘Ruby Giant’ snow crocus.

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Galanthus nivalis CressonOf course, there is something to be said for naturalizing large quantities of common snowdrops to enjoy en masse.

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galanthus in French woods from AlanSomeday your woods may look like this French forest photographed by Alan Street.

Carolyn

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Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 7a. 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 or are interested in mail order, please send your full name and phone number to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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.

The Un-Common Snowdrop

Posted in bulbs for shade, Shade Perennials, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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 cell 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.

Hybrid hellebore & G. 'Brenda Troyle'All snowdrops are great companions for hellebores.

The 2019 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar, and we are taking orders, to access the catalogue please click here.

I have written a lot of articles about snowdrops, covering among other topics their ornamental characteristics, fascinating history, the importance of provenance, and profiling many cultivars.  For links to all my previous snowdrop posts, click here.  I have never, however, talked in detail about any of the snowdrop species from which cultivated snowdrops, now numbering over 1,000, have been selected.  I hope this post will be the first in a series discussing each of the more important snowdrop species.

Much of the information in this post comes from Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop et al. (Griffin Press 2006) which is absolutely indispensable if you are researching or collecting snowdrops.

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Galanthus nivalis & Arum italicum 'Pictum'Common snowdrops pair well with snow crocus (just visible in the background) and really bring out the silver patterning on the leaves of Italian arum, which look fresh all winter.

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G. nivalis and C. coum 'Rose'Common snowdrops are a wonderful companion for the leaves and flowers of winter-blooming hardy cyclamen.

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Galanthus nivalis & Heuchera 'Creme Brulee'Common snowdrops look great paired with native coral bells, many of which keep their bright leaf colors all winter.

Brian Capon in his very handy book Botany for Gardeners defines a species as a “group of individuals sharing many characteristics and interbreeding freely.”  Generally these individuals are growing in the wild and have a defined native range.  There are 20 types of snowdrops that meet this definition and constitute the genus Galanthus, but only three of them have given rise to most of the named snowdrops: G. nivalis, G. elwesii, and G. plicatus

Here I want to discuss Galanthus nivalis otherwise known as the common snowdrop although it is by no means common in any sense of the word and would be one of the first snowdrops I would add to my collection if I had to start over.  In fact, it has received a coveted Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

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G. nivalis CressonCommon snowdrops naturalize quickly in the mid-Atlantic U.S. generally by producing bulb offsets.

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The common snowdrop has the largest native range of any snowdrop species and is the species most widely grown by gardeners.  It is native to western, central, and southern Europe from France to the part of Turkey in Europe.  It was first mentioned in print in the 16th century when it was already being grown as an ornamental plant. 

Linnaeus named it Galanthus nivalis in 1753.  According to another fascinating book, Plant Names Explained (Horticulture 2005), gala means milk, -anthus means -flowered, and nivalis means snowy or snow-like.  Common snowdrops fill our gardens here at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, which is part of an old estate called Wayside dating back to the 1600s (we live in Wayside Cottage which formerly housed the gardener).

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Galanthus nivalis/Common SnowdropGalanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop

Common snowdrops are generally 4 to 6 inches tall.  The narrow, straplike leaves are green with a glaucous center stripe giving an overall gray-blue appearance.  The flowers have three outer petal-like segments and three smaller inner segments.  They are pure white with a bright green v-shaped mark around the notch (called a sinus) on the apex of the inner segments. 

Common snowdrops flower here in February and March no matter what the weather and prefer moist deciduous woods with deep organic soil.  However, they are not picky about cultural conditions and will naturalize freely in a wide range of garden settings, including the dry woods of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  They pair beautifully with native coral bells, snow crocus, Italian arum, hardy cyclamen, and hellebores.

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Galanthus nivalisA natural mutation at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens, if you look closely these flowers have four outer segments (petals).

Because common snowdrops generally spread through bulb offsets rather than seed, the flowers in colonies are theoretically identical.  However, natural variations occur as you can see from the photo above where the flowers have four outer segments.  Often these mutations are not stable and do not persist as was the case with the flowers pictured.  However, sometimes ornamentally interesting and stable changes occur, and, if they are noticed by a sharp-eyed galanthophile, they enter cultivated gardens and even become a named cultivar available for sale.

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G. 'Flore Pleno'A clump of double common snowdrops

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Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'double common snowdrop

I want to highlight three cultivars of the common snowdrop to give you an idea of the range available.  The double common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’ (or sometimes G. n. f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’), is the oldest known snowdrop cultivar, first illustrated in 1703 and described in a prominent gardener’s dictionary in 1731.  Although it is sterile, it spreads vigorously from bulb offsets and is tolerant of a wide range of cultural conditions.  I have been told that in England it is often more abundant than the straight species. 

‘Flore Pleno’ has a lovely flower and has the advantage of being less expensive than the rest of the double snowdrops available so it is great for naturalizing.  It is the parent with G. plicatus of the Greatorex double series of snowdrops to which ‘Dionysus’, ‘Hippolyta’, ‘Ophelia’, and several other double snowdrops belong.  ‘Flore Pleno’ was also given an Award of Garden Merit by the RHS.

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G. 'Viridapice'the green-tipped snowdrop ‘Viridapice

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G. 'Viridiapice'‘Viridiapice’

One of my favorite snowdrops is the green-tipped common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis ‘Viridapice’.  It was originally found near an old farmhouse in northern Holland by a member of the Hoog family, owners of the venerable but now defunct Dutch bulb nursery Van Tubergen.  It is a vigorous and large-flowered snowdrop characterized by a beautiful and strikingly prominent green marking on the apex of the outer segments and a large single mark on the inner segments. 

Unfortunately,  the name ‘Viridapice’ was applied over the years to a number of different green-tipped common snowdrops, some of which are quite inferior.  I acquired my strain from the old Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, and I am happy to report that it is a superior strain and one of the best naturalizers in my garden.

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Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart'the double common snowdrop ‘Blewbury Tart’

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Galanthus nivalis 'Blewbury Tart'‘Blewbury Tart’

Finally, I want to highlight a newer cultivar of the common snowdrop, because I love it and because it was discovered by the only person I know who is more excited about snowdrops than me, Alan Street of Avon Bulbs in England.  In 1975, Alan noticed ‘Blewbury Tart’ in a churchyard in the village of Blewbury in Oxfordshire, England, where he grew up, and collected it with the permission of  Vicar Hugh Pickles. The famous galanthophile Primrose Warburg helped to name it because she called it Blewbury Muffin when Alan gave it to her, thus inspiring the name ‘Blewbury Tart’.  

I asked Alan if there was a special anecdote that I could relate here.  He told me that when he first exhibited it in 1985, a prominent British journalist said it looked like a “squashed fly on a windscreen”.   Nevertheless Avon offered it for sale in 1992.  It is an unruly double with an outward-facing dark green inner rosette encircled by three narrow outer segments.  It looks like it is having a bad hair day and always makes me smile when I see it.  Alan relates that another prominent British galanthophile, Ruby Baker, considers it a favorite.

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Although I don’t expect most gardeners to share my obsession, whenever I write about snowdrops I hope to communicate some of the enthusiasm that snowdrops arouse.  Maybe you will add them to your garden this year!  All four snowdrops profiled are available from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

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.

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 carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com. Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

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.

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