My goodness, what a surprise! I looked out my window on February 23 and noticed snowdrops coming up. This is the earliest date yet in my garden (at the northern edge of Zone 6), the previous earliest date being March 4, several years ago. While outside checking on this unexpected phenomenon, I also noticed a clematis vine with green buds. It seems we might be on the verge of an early spring.
I dearly love the snowdrops, and some years a heavy snowfall flattens them. Although they attempt to rebound, it’s never quite the same. I’ve put some upside-down buckets over them to protect them from the weight of snow. This looks absurd and, of course, snowdrops are meant to stand in snow, but I’m emotionally invested in these little bulbs and will leave the buckets in place for a week or so.
Over the years I’ve planted several hundred snowdrop bulbs, mostly the common Galanthus nivalis, but have only a few clumps to show for my effort. I also have a little patch of the frilly double snowdrop (G. nivalis flore-pleno), and, strangely, just one bulb of the much larger G. elwesii that returns every year and stands all by itself (I guess the others died). This is a disappointing success rate and I turned to Louise Beebe Wilder’s Adventures with Hardy Bulbs (1936), which has a whole chapter on Galanthus. Ms. Wilder gardened on a country property just outside of New York City, and authored several gardening books based on her observations and experiences. She was a good hands-on gardener and I like her unpretentious manner of sharing both her failures and successes.
Ms. Wilder points out that snowdrops can’t bear being out of the ground for long and must be planted soon as possible. She suggests planting in August, and “not to do this will court loss and a poor showing for many years.” Well, I guess she’s right about that, though I don’t think I can find snowdrop bulbs that early. Possibly there might be bulb sales starting up in September. I suspect the elapsed time from lifting the bulbs, passing them through a supplier into a retail store, and then into my hands, could be as long as eight weeks—and that’s too long for snowdrops to be out of the ground. This must be the reason for the poor success rate in my garden. My snowdrop clusters have thickened and I see some little seedlings drifting away from the mother clusters. It’s slow, but they’re rewarding and I love them.
Ms. Wilder says snowdrops should be planted three to four inches (8 to 10 cm) deep, and two or three inches (5 to 8 cm) apart. They resent being moved, so leave them in place forever. But if you must move them, do it while they’re in full flower. I’m certain that if I ever leave this garden, I’ll take the snowdrops with me. I’ll have to arrange the house moving to coincide with the snowdrop blooming. A gardener has got to have her priorities straight.
After reading Laura Langston’s inspiring article about growing fresh garden peas in the spring issue of Garden Making, I decided I want to grow some this spring. Because of the creature in my garden (a ground hog), the peas will need to be grown in a container, with slim bamboo stakes threaded through chicken wire for support.
There are such a lot of garden peas to select from, and I’ve devised a strategy to maximize the potential pea crop in my small container space. The majority of pea flowers on the vines each produce one pod. But I notice some pea cultivars are compact, with short vines that flower and produce two (or even three) pods from each single flower. That means double the quantity of pods harvested from a small space.
Three varieties I found are ‘Dakota’, 24-inch (30-cm) vines with five to six peas in each pod, 53 to 55 days (veseys.com); ‘Frosty’, 28-inch (70-cm) vines with seven to eight peas in a pod, 65 days (veseys.com); and ‘Snowbird’, an edible pod sugar pea with double or triple pods from each flower, 18-inch (45-cm) vines with five to six peas in each pod, 58 days (burpee.com).
Needless to say, I will grow ‘Frosty’, because of the high number of peas in each pod. It’s likely that each flower on these double-podded vines will produce 14 to 16 peas. Now, how many flowers to each vine, and how many vines in a container, and how many total peas? The gardener’s mind boggles, but I’m hoping to have plenty of fresh peas this spring.
Thanks for visiting with me at Making a Garden. See you next week!