The Last Day of Winter

While spring is always welcomed few express any sadness at the passing of winter yet it has its own special highlights and plant interests which we treasured as they provided beauty and enjoyment when little else was in flower.

Winter is the season of Witch hazel with its spidery flowers in yellows, reds, oranges and, my favourite, marmalade. It is the season of the pretty blue daisy-like flowers of Olearia phlogopappa ‘Combers Blue’ and the sweet-smelling Lonicera fragrantissima. The hellebores delight us early in the New Year but no flower carries us through the winter season as strongly or with more delight as do the snowdrops.

Hamamelis
The spidery and fragrant flowers of Witch-hazel: Hamamelis x intermedia. 
Olearia phlogopappa 'Combers Blue' (2)
Olearia phlogopappa ‘Combers Blue’ which flowers in the depths of winter

Here, we had our first snowdrops of the season in flower in the first week of October – cultivars of the the Greek species, Galanthus reginae-olgae, which I grow in pots in the glasshouse as they will not thrive in the wet soil of our garden – and now, at the end of March, we still have a number of cultivars in flower, giving a flowering season spanning six months. Few other plants give such a service in the garden.

Rather than list all the snowdrops in flower at the moment I’ll show a few of Irish origin, as these are my special interest among snowdrops.

Galanthus 'Straffan' with Eranthis hyemalis 'Guinea Gold'
Galanthus ‘Straffan’ – an Irish snowdrop which originated at Straffan House, Co. Kildare, in the late 1800s. It has the wonderful habit of producing a second and slightly later flower from each bulb so that a clump seems to be in flower for a very long time. The yellow flower is Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea Gold’
Galanthus 'Greenfields' (1)
Galanthus ‘Greenfields’ came from Liam Schofield who was the head gardener at the renowned garden of W. B. Purefoy, “Greenfields”, near Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary, and noticed this snowdrop, a cross between Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus plicatus, growing in the garden. He sent bulbs to the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin around 1950 and also to Brigadier L.W.H. Matthias of the Giant Snowdrop Company and from there they came into general circulation. It is an excellent garden plant, strong growing and easy to please. 
Galanthus 'Waverley Aristocrat' (1)
Galanthus ‘Waverley Aristocrat’ is one of several beautiful introductions bred by Harold McBride. It is a good big snowdrop which looks especially good in a group. 
Galanthus 'Woodtown' (2)
Over the last few years, Oliver Schurmann of Mount Venus Nursery in Rathfarnham,
Dublin, has listed Galanthus ‘Woodtown’ on his plant list. Oliver told me that he had received the
bulbs from Eithne Clarke who had rescued bulbs from Woodtown Park, Rathfarham before
redevelopment. It is an excellent snowdrop, big, bold and strong growing. 
Galanthus 'Irish Green' (2)
This is Galanthus ‘Irish Green’.  It was found by Ruby and David Baker near Ballintaggart, Co.
Wicklow in 1994. The inner segments twist and curl back on themselves in a very irregular
arrangement. The outer segments, generally numbering three to five, are narrow and the pale
green colouring can vary to extend over the entire segments or may be completely absent. It is a very variable plant. It is a peculiarity, hardly a beauty but of some interest.
Galanthus 'Lady Moore' (3)
Galanthus ‘Lady Moore’ is named for Phylis Lady Moore, wife of Sir Frederick Moore, one time Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin. She was a very keen gardener and gave some of her special snowdrops to a Mrs. Rutherfoord as they both attended a Sale of Work at the Mansion House in Dublin at the beginning of the Second World War. Mrs. Rutherfoord’s daughter, Rita, – always knows as “Miss Rutherfoord” – very kindly gave me bulbs shortly before her death. They are a treasure to me and I’m sure you can understand why. 
Galanthus 'Green Lantern' (2)
Finally, a snowdrop I especially treasure, Galanthus ‘Green Lantern’, for its connection with Mrs. Corona North of Altamont Gardens in Co. Carlow. I had been given bulbs on a few occasions from Altamont and had lost them on each occasion – it happens! However, I was sent bulbs from a kind snowdrop enthusiast in England last year and had three flowers this season and hope that I can manage to keep it going this time. 

I could go on but enough is enough!

Snowdrops give joy and interest when little else is in flower in the garden and there is a certain sadness at the end of their season – but they will return and, perhaps, that is a reason to look forward to winter!

 

9 thoughts on “The Last Day of Winter

      1. Perhaps I should have included ‘Cicely Hall’ and ‘Hill Poe’ which are still in flower here but I didn’t want to go on and on – snowdrop enthusiasts are inclined to do that, you know! LOL

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  1. First time reading this blog. Absolutely fascinating world of snow drops. I can well understand your enthusiasm . Loved the entire glimpse into your beautiful Irish garden. appreciate your sharing the names of each plant.

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    1. Many thanks, Kathleen. I only started this blog recently and moved material from a blog I had previously written for a gardening society. I love the snowdrops and have a good collection of them with a special interest in those which arose here in Ireland. I like to background stories, the connections with people and places. It makes them all the more interesting, I find. Nice to hear from you!

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  2. I like ‘Green Lantern’ too. I haven’t noticed if the green tipped ones I’ve seen this year have green on the inside tips as well as the outside as this one seems to have. Something for me to look out for!

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    1. It’s one I’m delighted with, Susan. After several losses it’s great to see one doing well. Green tips on the inners? Always, to the best of my memory and knowledge. I have photos from some years back but they are on an external hard drive – too much work! Are you keen on snowdrops? There’s some good groups on Facebook: Snowdrops and Galanthophiles. Classic Snowdrops.

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      1. I like almost all kinds of flowers – I’m even coming round to kniphofia. I’ve never caught the Facebook bug though and much prefer WordPress.

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  3. Both my wife and I are very keen gardeners and love visiting gardens and taking photos. WordPress blogs attract me very much but I haven’t gotten a good grip on them, to be honest. I enjoy writing but I haven’t found my way to develop this into seeing material from other people to a great extent. I enjoy the groups on Facebook very much, lots of contacts etc, sharing of photos of what’s in flower – snowdrops have featured heavily in the past few months.

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