A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: Slowly does it! -January 2017 - Entry 53
Snowdrops - inevitably...
Despite the winter being neither particularly cold (min -2C so far) nor unusually wet, it seems to have felt quite long and this is at least to some extent due to the late appearance of most snowdrop varieties; 2-3 weeks overdue in most cases. Not only did I not have any snowdrops to put in the Christmas Day posy but I was hard pressed to find any for our New Year's eve party. I don't know why but I don't have 'Three Ships' (anyone offering?!), and the earliest here this year has been one of the very best IMHO, G. nivalis 'Brenda Troyle', Not only is this a good vigorous doer with large, well-formed flowers borne on strong stems, but it has one of the sweetest and most pervasive scents of any snowdrop. Also in full flower now are 'Backhouse Spectacles' (who could resist a plant with such an intriguing name, the origin of which I have mentioned here more than once, so will not bore you with again), 'Trymposter' (another of my favourites), the well known and widely grown, but distinct and lovely 'Magnet', and the doubles, 'Dionysus', the much more diminuitive 'Ophelia', and .'Lady Beatrix Stanley'. We all know who Dionysus was - the Greek good of Madness and Merriment, among other things - and 'Ophelia', but what about Lady Beatrix Stanley? She lived at Sibbertoft Manor in Northamptonshire (now a residential home) with her husband, George, brother of the Earl of Derby. Whilst George was Governor of Madras, Lady Beatrix developed the gardens around their official residency in Ootacamund (Ooty) and sent her drawings of the province’s plants back to the RHS in London. When she and George returned to England, Lady Beatrix took to propagating bulbous plants, particularly snowdrops, hence Galanthus ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’, which was named after her in 1981. There is an equally lovely, Cambridge blue form of Iris histrioides that also carries her name.
G. nivalis 'Backhouse Spectacles'
Galanthus 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
Crocus chrysanthus 'Romance'
Crocus genberally don't do well in the open ground here but this cultivar is a welcome exception, always early and always covered in flowers.
Hellebores are also late appearing this year and I show the slowly opening flowers of a nice pale yellow form of H. x hybridus to illustrate this, The fallen flowers of Rhododendron dauricum 'Midwinter' form a nice litter that somehow sets off the hellebore flowes.
Arum italicum 'Pictum'
Feww things are as lovely here at this time of year as the pristine and glorious foliage of this spendid plant. I have to say that although I have seen it several times in the wild it was never as impressive as this superior selected form.
Bergenia 'Baby Doll'
I am not a great fan of bergenias, most of which are too 'cabbagey' for my taste, but 'Baby Doll' ( the name alone would encourage me to try it!) is good by virtue of its very long flowering period, including most of the winter here. The foliage would be too large and dull (plain palish green), to make it worthwhle if it were not for its prolific flowering - 'horses for courses' - as they say.
Hamamelis 'Arnold's Promise'
This extremely floriferous and richly scented cultivar should have a place in every largish garden. It shines in the weak winter sun It, likes its kin is utterly reliable in any good garden soil but needs full sun to flower well.
Camellia japonica 'Little Bit'
This very early flowerer must be among the most compact of all camellias, the bush shown which is 15 years old being no more than 1.5 m high by 1 m wide. The fowers are equally diminuitive, only 5-7 cm wide, and so double as to be almost globose. If you dislike double flowers you will detest this one! But its compactness and early flowering bright scarlet 'wake-up' call in the garden raise it to a high point in my affection.
Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer' has been the stand-out plant in the garden for 6 weeks now and still looks good, it is one of the plants I would never wish to be without. The flowers are much more resistant to frost damage than most and if some do get spoiled there are always more to come.