Sunday, March 09, 2008

Why They Call Them Snowdrops

It was four below zero this morning when I tumbled out of bed... just another fine spring day in Iowa. The garden gate squeaked and shuddered with cold when I opened it, and the foot of ice and snow on the frozen ground crunched loudly under my boots as I trundled down the path, surveying a scene that could as easily be from the far north tundra as from an idyllic midwest flower garden. I have been gardening for twenty-five years in Iowa, and have never seen such a late (no, not late: nonexistent) spring. Our early snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii (el-WEZ-ee-eye) in favorable winters may bloom in early January; in more wicked years it may not bloom until mid or late February. This year I thought it might be April before it could open its small hanging bells.
However, much to my delight I found a small spot in the garden where the sunlight collected on a southward slope, and this little gathering of snowdrops was rising out of the icy ground, with blooms poised to open on the first hint of warming. That they could tolerate below-zero temperatures in the open attests to a hardiness beyond expectation or explanation. I guess though I don't need to explain it... I just want to enjoy it. Galanthus elwesii is the early, or great snowdrop. It is native from western Turkey up through the high Caucasus and west to Eurasia, and should be the snowdrop of choice for most gardeners in this country, as it better tolerates sunnier, dryer, hotter conditions than its frailer, later-blooming little cousin Galathus nivalis, the English snowdrop. Galanthus elwesii is almost always the first bloom in the garden, so its flowering is very special, while nivalis blooms a month or so later when there is plenty of competition for attention.
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Great picture ! .. but I would have to shovel off about 4 feet of snow to even come close to ground level .. I have had enough snow and not enough garden !!!
Snow-madness has hit ..... !!!!
Note to self: Plant snow drops.

Blissfully, we have lacked snow cover for about 5 days now, though we had a skiff yesterday, it was gone today.
I don't know how you do it! I am here in Missouri looking , looking, and looking for my snow drops.......the green is there but not the drop!
GardenJoy... other than a few little spots, our garden is also buried...DEEP!

Nickie... I hope it's really spring for you.

Nancy... It takes them a few years to "settle in", before they really do well. Plus, maybe you've got Galanthus nivalis rather than elwesii??

I found mine today in the southeast corner of the yard which gets the most sun. The snow has receded and there they were. I could see one still encased in ice.
Philip... you're probably behind me, as your garden is pretty shady and doesn't have the south slope... but, have faith!
nothing here yet (3 hours east of you) but Hope Springs Eternal....yes?

NW Illinolis
Catherine... all gardeners are optomists!
I am smiling as I read your comment on my little snowdrops! Ture they have not been there long BUT as you probably have guessed I have not idea which kind............
Hey, I didn't see you sneak into my garden to take that photo! ;^) The bloom times of my Galanthus elwesii are more variable than yours. The earliest they have bloomed is December, & the latest is around St. Patrick's Day. Amazingly, mine are already blooming, which puts this year only around the 3rd latest. (1996 & 2003 were the worst.)
Wow, cool, cute little things! So is this the kind of stuff I'm missing out of, not living in snow? Growing up in Hawaii, and now on the central coast of CA, I kind of had a stereo-typical view of what living in the snow would be like...All I ever heard of was the negative stuff - shoveling snow, throwing salt rock on the sidewalks, etc...But noone ever mentioned these cute little snowdrops. I'm learning a lot of cool things browsing through blotanical!
Don, I have to admit you are having a worse winter than me. We have snow on the ground, too, but it is not so bitter cold. I gotta get me more of them thar elwesiis. Mine are all nivalis, which in my ignorance I planted in a nice moist area, where they thrive. But I definitely need earlier ones on the south side.
What a delightful find! Hoping for something similar here in NS, if it ever warms up. :)
Anony... probably elwesii.

plantgurus... you know, I lived for six years in SF. The first year I missed the seasons, but one February I was getting ready to go out hiking on a sunny day in the 50's, and saw on t.v. about a big blizzard going through Iowa. I smiled, and never missed winter after that.

Kathy... definitely get elwesii.

Nancy... it's coming your way.

We must try these snowdrops again, we have had three failures so far. Maybe they were the wrong kind, must look for elwesii. Is drainage an issue? Do critters eat them? You are a tough gardener to boot up and trudge out to view a snow covered landscape!

Frances at Faire Garden
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