A Total White-Out!

Waterford, south-east Ireland, 20th February 2021

The snowdrop season is in full swing, indeed settling into the downswing as the weeks move along. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis – both the single and the double form – has been in full flower for the past ten days or so here and is now beginning to go past its best. There is still a good selection to come into flower, the late-season cultivars, so the snowdrop year hasn’t reached its end as of yet.

It has been a most awful week here and there seems to be a sheet of water constantly sliding down the garden and gathering at the bottom which is gradually turning to a quagmire. There hasn’t been much opportunity for gardening with the ground so soft and wet but we did pot up the dahlia tubers which were overwintered in the garage. All have been potted up and put into the glasshouses. At times, we wonder if it is worth the bother – 50 pots of dahlias to be minded until the last frosts have passed, then planted out and lifted again in autumn. Would it be easier to have less, to buy a few each year rather than storing more and more, or even to stop growing them altogether. We used leave them in the ground until we lost all in the very hard winter of 2010/11. We could go back to that way of growing and simply take our chances.

Ophrys apifera – Bee Orchis

Before moving on to the complete white out, there is the story of the walkers on the road. People walking the road will often salute/pass the time of day, maybe chat about the garden or what is in flower at the moment. Two ladies told me of a very exciting find, one of huge interest to me: they had found bee orchids, Orchis apifera, on what was previously an industrial site within a kilometre of our house and I look forward to visiting and photographing these when in flower as I have a strong interest in our native orchids. Another lady stopped and commented that the snowdrops were lasting very well for me. The chat went on from there, leading to her asking if I was the man who wrote the blog on the garden on Saturdays. She recounted that she had been on the road about a fortnight ago, when I was power-washing the drive, and while chatting to me she began to think that my face looked familiar. She said that it was only some days later that it came to her where she had seen me – on the blog! It has happened previously that I have met people who have told me they had read the blog and it always comes as a surprise, even a shock, which is rather silly, I suppose. When I write, I don’t think who might read it and it regularly comes as a surprise that anybody at all reads it but it is very gratifying when somebody comments. A bonus!

Now, to the white-out, the snowdrops! These photographs are all from this past week, with one exception, and I have organised them in a capricious way, an impulsive arrangement of six groups as much to spare the reader as anything else – if you tire after one batch you can click “Close” and move along elsewhere for all that is to follow are more snowdrops. I am mindful of what Bertram Anderson wrote in Seven Gardens or Sixty Years of Gardening:

“Of snowdrops, apart from the species…there are many seedling varieties and hybrids that delight the enthusiast but leave the ordinary person with that defensive look that one acquires when confronted by a madman… but he did continue: …but let me say here that in the early cold and frosty or wet months  of the year no other group of lowly plants can give so much interest and pleasure.” 

So, let me begin with a run around the garden, views of the garden this past week, where each view has snowdrops:

There are some snowdrops which I feel equate to good choral singers. They may never be great solo performers, never have characteristics individually to warrant any great admiration but when viewed in a group they make a pleasing contribution to the garden; the choir rather than the solo artists!

Snowdrops with double flowers are valuable garden plants. They don’t set seed and because of this they last longer in flower. The flower is, generally, also larger, chunkier than the single-flowered varieties and this gives these snowdrops more impact in the garden.

The yellow snowdrops always catch the eye; that brightness and freshness is very appealing bringing light to the dull days of winter and spring. I notice that one in this group is also a double flower – dual purpose, two reasons to appeal!

Those snowdrops which have green markings or a greenish flush to the outer segments are very popular at the moment. Galanthus ‘Trym’ is the parent of many of these green-marked cultivars while ‘Rosemary Burnham’ was one of the earliest of the virescent types.

Finally, a grouping of what is left: those single-flowered cultivars which are not green on the outside, nor yellow – just ordinary snowdrops! Are they all the same?

No doubt, I won’t be able to resist including a few snowdrops in coming blogs as there are some nice ones still to flower but they will be in smaller numbers, certainly there will not be another total white out! Aren’t you relieved by that news!

I’m sharing this blog with a group of fellow bloggers who contribute to a “Six on Saturday” theme which is hosted by “The Propagator” on his blog site. To read more contributions to the Six on Saturday theme go to The Propagator’s entry for today, scroll down to the comments and you will find other bloggers have posted links to their Saturday entries there. Lots to read!

49 thoughts on “A Total White-Out!

    1. Hi Julian, It’s good to have the snowdrops – and we don’t want the snow! – at this time of the year but it is soooooo very wet at present, a quagmire!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Paddy – can you beat the 91 mm which has fallen here in the last 24 hours, and over 200 mm already this week – a record for us. But the snowdrops seem to take it all in their stride, don’t they?
        Best wishes Julian
        PS I see our Met Office are now holding out the prospect of more settled conditions in March – let’s hope it’s not a mirage!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, the garden is pure quagmire here at the moment. I walked down the garden today because a flower caught my eye and it was splish splash with every step and muddy marks left behind me. It’s only causing damage to go on grass at the moment. A good dry week would be a great help.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. How nice to have such a chance encounter – your reputation precedes you!

    The garden is looking spectacular with all the Snowdrop, and some nice stands of Cornus too. I sympathise, concerning the Dahlias. I’ve done a bit of a mixture of keeping some and chancing others (although on a slightly smaller scale than yourself).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we need a rethink in the dahlias – perhaps, just leave them to their own devices in the ground for we seldom get a really damaging freeze here and a good layer of garden compost would see them safely through most winters.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. G. ‘Annalivia’ – because it is one I found in an old garden; has been acknowledged by the experts as distinct, and I have named it for two of our granddaughters, Olivia and Anna! That’s as good a reason as any!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are a few more: ‘Lady Moore’ because of its connection to a famous Irish gardener and I received the bulbs from a lady who had them from Lady Moore back in 1940. ‘Mrs. White’ because it is one Mary found. And, on and on it goes – those with connections are most significant.

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  2. So many snowdrops! How do you remember which one is which? I think I like Lady Elphinstone best.
    As ever, the photos of your garden are splendid.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is a consideration which has been in my mind on several occasions – what is on our minds when we write? What is our mindset when we write? Are we writing for an audience or simply writing for ourselves? Are we simply enjoying expressing ourselves without consideration, any great consideration at least, of those who will read our material? For me, it certainly comes as a surprise for somebody to say that they have read my blog. I may add that it comes as a pleasant and welcome surprise so I realise I certainly am not writing completely for myself. I have some thought to an audience but, I suppose, the blog does mean that we are not subject to an editor; that we have full control over our content and style rather than simply providing material for another to shape to suit their purposes. I wrote on a number of occasions for a gardening magazine and, as another contributor explained, everything was written by the editor – all material presented was reshaped to fit into the desired style for the magazine.

        That’s enough rambling for now!

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  3. What a bounty of snowdrops, they contribute so nicely to the lovely setting you’ve given them. Very enjoyable to see. I’m always surprised by how tall (a relative term, of course) they grow for you. All sorts of variables influence that, I suppose, soil, light, moisture, bulb maturity etc, but the majority of yours definitely seem to have more elongated scapes than those I grow. I shall have to exhort mine more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am inclined towards a good proportion of what I would describe as good garden plants – a patch of white good enough to be seen at 50 metres. Of course, there will also be the especially pretty ones which deserve a closer look but I want garden plants first and foremost.

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    1. I’ve been there a few times, Eileen. Matt Bishop, who is a leading light in the snowdrop world and joint author of the most authoritative book on the genus, worked there for a number of years and is responsible for establishing the snowdrop collection there. It’s a pretty garden but not as well maintained nowadays as it was under his tenure.

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      1. I don’t mind a little bit if fuzziness at the edges but I despite it in a garden which charges for admission or make boast of how good they are – I expect high standards when I pay for admission.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Paddy, it’s so lovely to hear about all the chats you have with nearby walkers. I found a bee orchid in the chalk grassland across the road from me last year. Everyone was yomping around on their lockdown walks oblivious to the delights just a metre from the path. Lovely snowdrop selections this week as always. Lady Elphinstone is very unusual.

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    1. Over the past number of years I have become more and more interested in our native orchids and have been very fortunate to have a group of wonderful friends who share this enthusiasm. We go on days out regularly to visit sites with orchids; great days out and the best of company. It is something I have enjoyed more and more. Last year, we had a flowering of several hundred bee orchids on what was a covered in and reclaimed landfill site about 20 minutes from home, a fantastic happening.

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    1. We are on a quiet rural road, a cul-de-sac, which ends just beyond our house. It is a popular place for walkers though there is a greenway at the start of our road – almost 50 Km of paved walkway along the route of a disused railway line – and people regularly stop for a chat. Some are regulars so there is always something to say to each other.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. These days, especially, it is lovely to have somebody stop and chat. We have regulars who come along our road most days so chats are frequent!

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      1. Ah, yes, only a small area is open to the road and if we are working up the garden we wouldn’t even see the people. It’s not a case of constant interruption; the occasional chat is always very welcome.

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  5. You can’t include too many pictures of snowdrops and your lovely garden-with deep snow on my garden and-22 F. early this week I needed a spring stroll.Wow!G.elwesii is my only variety,in pretty good clumps.It seems to bloom as well from deep shade to full sun(and at the same time,oddly enough). I was able to order a copy of Mr.Anderson’s book from Amazon.We still have a fair amount of winter yet,and plenty of time to read while confined at home.

    On Sat, Feb 20, 2021 at 2:10 AM Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener wrote:

    > Paddy Tobin posted: ” Waterford, south-east Ireland, 20th February 2021 > The snowdrop season is in full swing, indeed settling into the downswing as > the weeks move along. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis – both the > single and the double form – has been in full flower” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Having said on Jon’s comments that I am sometimes underwhelmed by snowdrops, I now feel the opposite! The naturalistic planting en mass works so well. 50 pots of dahlias, wow, that’s going to be quite a show. How exciting about the bee orchids, they look lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a range of good-value snowdrops which make a good impact in the garden and are well worth growing. There are others which are previous little things but prices are frightfully inflated because they are at present a very popular plant. Prices do drop and exchanging with friends is the best way to go.

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  7. I guess you might sense me drooling from over here Paddy – what a delight. Another post that I shall come back to many times, I’m sure. And you’re famous too!!! Interesting to read about your own favourites (‘Annalivia’ – how lovely) – particularly those with connections to others. I agree so much, but I feel it’s the same for all plants and I most regret the plants I’ve lost that have been given me by special people. For me, I specially liked ‘Cowhouse Green’ – but there are too favourites in your post to name them. I think I will be long gone before my snowdrops are making the large groups that yours do. But I can still dream that someone else might enjoy them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The older well-established cultivars grow well – ‘S. Arnott’ and the likes – and will quickly make a good impact in the garden.

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  8. I go through soul-searching regarding the dahlias every year myself. But the option to leave them in the ground is not available to me; they would surely die in our winters. If I don’t dig them up and I want them the next year I would have to buy more. Since I am gradually curating my collection to eliminate the slow-pokes and keep the early bloomers (because we have a short season) I so far have decided to continue. But I don’t have a glasshouse so getting them started early means clogging every window with pots and dragging them outside on nice days and dragging them back in for every cold night. And then for reasons I can’t discern, some years they are shy bloomers despite all my efforts. Anyway: you are sick of rain and I am sick of snow. I hope this is not like 2015 where we didn’t lose snow cover until April.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Paddy,

    Loved this post as always. I hadn’t heard of Galanthus Analivia. Is it an Irish snowdrop? The name suggests it is. And do you know anything about it’s origins?

    Your garden looks wonderful in your photos. Makes me long for the day when we can visit gardens again. Regards to you and Mary

    Mary O’Brien, Cork On Sat 20 Feb 2021 at 08:08, Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener wrote:

    > Paddy Tobin posted: ” Waterford, south-east Ireland, 20th February 2021 > The snowdrop season is in full swing, indeed settling into the downswing as > the weeks move along. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis – both the > single and the double form – has been in full flower” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary, Lovely to hear from you; hope you are keeping well etc. Re G. ‘Annalivia’: a few years back, 2017 I think, a member of the IGPS – and I can’t for the life of me remember his name only he was from Wicklow – contacted me to say he had stayed at the Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny and had seen snowdrops with amazingly wide foliage. To be honest, I didn’t think it was worth any further attention – wide foliage is common in elwesii and plicatus – but we were in Altamont and made a detour to visit out our curiosity and the wide foliage was plicatus, as suspected, but I then say several pinches of yellow-marked plicatus at the base of beech trees. I had told the hotel I was coming for a look around and went then and got permission to take the bulbs and have grown them on. There were three differently-marked yellow plicatus and I have decided (was told!) to name the best (I showed it online and it received favourable comment and that it was worth naming) one for two of our granddaughters, Olivia and Anna and “Annalivia” seemed to put their names together in a manner than ran easily off the tongue and also had an Irish ring to it. It was a bit touch and go in the garden for the first two years but has increased gradually since. I chipped two bulbs and have about 20 chips coming along well. When these come along a bit I intend using them to spread it around – best insurance to be sure it continues growing! The other two are less vigorous, nicely marked and pretty, so I’ll wait a few years to see it they merit a name.

      We are really missing the days out this year, and last year, and would really love to be going to snowdrop gardens at the moment. Oh, by the way, Sarah Angel’s snowdrop – “Charlie’s Angel” is a brilliant grower and doing very well here. An excellent snowdrop, I think, and one to be treasured.

      Best wishes from Mary, she says!

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  10. I think that en masse and planted naturally they are ethereal drifts within a garden and set the scene so well for the coming of spring. I love looking deep into them and seeing the differences. I’m an embroiderer and a few years ago was taught to stitch stumpwork snowdrops by my friend and master teacher, Jane Nicholas. They were a real challenge but so lovely when done. Do google and see if you approve of her interpretation. Thank you for the pics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing beats a drift of snowdrop! The individual beauties are fabulous but one needs big numbers to make an impact in the garden.

      I’ve just looked at an embroidery by Jane Nicholas – Snowdrops and Cranefly and it is fabulously beautiful. Such wonderful work!

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