Autumn and early wiinter flowering snowdrops; was RE: Fading Labels

Jim McKenney
Fri, 18 Dec 2009 07:52:02 PST
Judy mentioned snowdrops flowering in her New Jersey garden.

The nature of our winters here on the east coast is such that any plant
which tries to bloom during the winter is up against huge odds. The
winter-flowering plant game is a dicey one here. Winter here almost always
eventually takes a big bite out of the garden. And that seems to take a big
bite out of local gardeners’ enthusiasm for winter flowering plants. Recent
winters have been so  mild that new gardeners will be in for a nasty
surprise if old-style killer winters ever return. 

Decades ago I tried two of the autumn-flowering snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis
reginae-olgae (as it was called back then) and something called Galanthus
nivalis corcyrensis. Neither persisted for long in the open garden. It was a
real bother to acquire these from UK sources (does anyone else remember Mr.
Mars of Haselmere?), and I made no rush to replace them. 

Now, years later, I have a renewed interest in the snowdrops which flower at
this time of year. I've selected two here which I call my Thanksgiving
snowdrop and my Christmas snowdrop. They really do flower on or near the
dates suggested by their names. The Thanksgiving snowdrop is a one-spot
Galanthus elwesii sort. It has a largish, slender flower but is otherwise
not very prepossessing. Its only claim to my attention is its blooming

The Christmas snowdrop (it's just beginning to bloom now) is a typical
two-spot Galanthus elwesii, with softly rounded ample flowers smaller than
those of the Thanksgiving sort, but more substantial. 

Both of these are clumpers and with luck there will eventually be a nice
patch of each. Each of these grew for decades in the lawn; it was only when
I realized that their season of bloom was not an anomaly that I marked them
for cosseting. They now grow in the cold frames where their flowers are
protected should the weather suddenly turn nasty. 

These Galanthus elwesii forms seem to be indifferent to our local weather:
plants in full bloom don't seem to suffer when the temperature plunges into
the single digits F; mechanical damage is another matter. Flowers are on
rare occasions destroyed by severe weather, but the plants themselves seem
not to suffer at all. I suspect that in the long run these Galanthus elwesii
variants will prove to be much better autumn and early winter flowering
garden plants than Galanthus reginae-olgae and similar forms in our climate.

I might have another group of late-autumn snowdrops on hand. A friend gave
me some plants of Galanthus elwesii sorts which, when I visited her garden a
week of so ago, were in full bloom out in the open. It will be interesting
to see what these do when they settle down and bloom in my garden. 

Judy and I have now told you about the snowdrops blooming in our gardens;
who else out there has snowdrops now? In particular, who on the east coast
has snowdrops blooming in the garden or under cover? 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where another snow drop is all over the news: we are awaiting the fall of
between 5 to 12 inches of snow beginning tomorrow night. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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