Old Roses has won the snowdrop race, but IBOY made a fine showing. Me? I won’t even start looking for snowdrops till February, but I’ll be lucky to find any before March. And what about the Southerners? How far south can one go and still grow snowdrops?
These snowdrops were blooming in the Secret Garden last year on March 28th. (If you want to learn a little more about them, you can read this essay which I wrote a few years ago, and maybe search this site for snowdrops using the Search box in the sidebar on the right.) Just as there are people who go ga-ga over the latest daylily or hosta, there are galanthophiles out there. (Galanthus is the snowdrop genus.) The February 2003 issue of Horticulture had a good article with photos of several cultivars (pp. 64-68) and the February 2002 issue of The Gardener (which is no longer published, unfortunately) has a black-and-white glossary of inner petal patterns. And while it wouldn’t surprise me if Martha Stewart Living had a similar article, I’m not aware of it. Lacking those magazines (or the ambition to unearth them from storage), browse through this British woman’s collection.
If the possibility of minute variations in snowdrops excites you, you should really write to Hitch Lyman, the proprietor of the Temple Nursery, at Box 591, Trumansburg, NY 14886 and request his $3 catalog. I wrote last year in early April, which was when my snowdrops were still blooming, but to my surprise, I was too late. Mr. Lyman responded in an elegant hand that the digging season was over, so he was returning my check but would still send me a catalog this year. He was true to his word, for his catalog arrived in today’s mail, and it is eye-popping and chin-dropping on several accounts. (You can click on the catalog for a closer look.)
First of all, this catalog comes in an envelope which is hand-addressed (both my address and his return address) in the same beautiful calligraphy as his note to me of last year. Secondly, the catalog appears to be hand-assembled. The photo on the front cardstock cover has been pasted on, though the word Snowdrops below seems to be printed. (And that’s exactly what his handwriting looks like.) Inside, there are two 8 1/2 by 11″ sheets of paper folded in half to make eight pages with, I’m guessing, 10-point type. I would suspect it had been written on a computer with a word processor and a laser printer, except for one thing: in our previous correspondence Mr. Lyman professed to be ignorant of what a website was. He has no website or email (at least none that he will admit to), and everything else seems to have been done with the least amount of technology possible. But it’s not typewritten, so perhaps he took it to a printshop. Most specialty nurseries with such a small selection would merely send two sheets of a photocopied pricelist and save themselves the extra work and postage. Mr. Lyman seems to put aesthetics over efficiency. Between the labor and the layout, each catalog probably costs him three bucks once you add in the postage. I wonder how many he sends out, if he has any help with the mailing, and if he has another source of income, for this is surely a labor of love.
Finally, the prices will knock your socks off. There are 35 kinds of snowdrops offered for sale. The least expensive is the common Galanthus nivalis “our own stock” going for 5/$10. The most expensive are $35 each. Yes, that’s for one snowdrop. And since the best way to transplant snowdrops is “in the green,” that is, while they’ve still got green leaves and haven’t gone dormant, that’s how Mr. Lyman ships them: “plants will be dug to order and sent express mail, bare root, in early April.” Okay, I expect overnight mail to be expensive, but even then the $18 shipping fee gave me pause.
The plant descriptions are brutally honest, with a sidedressing of humor. Regarding ‘Benhall Beauty,’ he states, “May flop in wind and frost.” His description of ‘Scharlockii’: “The spathe divides into two tall rabbit’s ears. Green patches on the outer segments and an eccentric long pedicel. Essential as well as charming.” He says of ‘Nellie Brinsley’s Double’: ” . . . almost identical with ‘Pusey Green Tips’. I am not sure why I keep this going.” And then, somewhat anachronistically, of ‘Auntie Flo’ he enthuses, “Lovely rounded flower, forming good clumps. Excellent, Dude.” (Dude? Really, Mr. Lyman!) Oh, I could go on, but why spoil your fun? Don’t you want to get your own catalog?
Meanwhile, the snowdrop race continues. Please post in the comments when your snowdrops bloom. Obviously you can’t be first (unless you’re a southerner and they’ve already bloomed), but it will give you a chance to make me envious, as I have a strong suspicion mine will be last.