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Flowers in the Snow

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  The point of putting evergreens around, this time of year, is to remind us of spring to come: that the snow and dark may put us into temporary dormancy, but life will renew itself. 

In more modern times, since we’ve had heated houses, greenhouses, and fast transportation, we’ve dreamed up more elaborate ways of showing ourselves that there is hope  of more expansive days to come: if we have enough money, we can pretty much have any flower we want, in any season. 

But hothouse flowers, while lush and beautiful, don’t give me the refreshment I get from those simple plants whose ancestors have been providing that little adrenaline rush to people for millenia. 

A lot of those flowers that last through snowy weather are bulbs, so of course I’m going to write about them. But the violets at the top of the page not only lasted through snow, but went on to bloom for weeks more (I’m pretty sure they’re a sport of an old variety I dug up at a friend’s house). And one of those durable bulbs I was so hopeful about, Fritillaria persica, looked as if it was doing well in the snow

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but future events showed differently. I was so disappointed. I have never gotten Fritillaria persica to flower yet.

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 On the other hand, some bulbs are designed for snow, as this daffodil (an anonymous daffodil from a big cheap bag at my hardward store, probably the ubiquitous ‘Dutch Master’).

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 While this modern daffodil is bigger than its ancestors, they share the deep tube that keeps its sexual parts safe and sheltered – so, should a pollinator be abroad on a snowy day, it will find shelter. You can see that even though this daffodil is tattered by weather, once the pollination has been carried out, the seeds can still develop in their cozy (relatively) little incubator-trumpet. 

 

These small Tulipa turkestanica are another plant that was made to take the snow. They come from the high mountain passes of  the Turkestan mountains, in Central Asia. I suspect, as in my own mountains, they get sudden dumps of spring snow.

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  One of the big problems with those spring frosts and snows is that they kill fruit tree flowers at a crucial time (fruit trees don’t have those nice protected pollinating spots that daffodils do; too bad). This flowering plum (which gives excellent, red, cherry-size plums in season) looks happy here. But we had snow after this picture was taken, and all our fruit was really expensive, because there wasn’t much of it.

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 You can always count on crocus, though, which originated in the same high mountains as Tulipa turkestanica.

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 Like the ‘Gypsy Girl’ crocus,  this iris x histrioides ‘Katherine Hodgkins’  might be unrecognizable to its ancestors, but it still keeps its resilience to snow. 

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 I’d be curious to know of other people’s favorite plants that flower in snow. 

 

13 comments

1 Bernieh { 12.13.10 at 5:56 pm }

We never see snow around here, so I can’t comment on any of my favourite plants that flower in snow. I will however comment on the ones you’ve chosen … I’m amazed at the strength and stamina of these beauties. They are all wonderful sights … but the flowering Plum and the Crocus take my breath away. Stunning flowers!

2 Garden Sense { 12.13.10 at 8:58 pm }

Snowdrops are a favorite – the first is always best. I love the look of those Katherine Hodgkins Iris!

3 Sylvia (England) { 12.14.10 at 2:21 am }

Hellebores flower in the snow for me but this year we have had very cold weather (for us) and snow in December! I am not sure what effect it will have on the plants. A few of my hellebores are flowering but most usually bloom in January. My Iris unguicularis hasn’t flowered yet, it usually starts flowering late November. Bulbs, well unless we get some mild weather over Christmas some of them are not going to flower this year as they haven’t been planted!

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

4 Gail { 12.14.10 at 6:02 am }

Isn’t Kathryn Hodgekins a beauty! I was too late in ordering and she was sold out. I’ve planted Tommies~Crocus tommasinianus~they bloom early and should tolerate the snow. Gail

5 lostlandscape (James) { 12.15.10 at 10:47 pm }

I’d never thought of daffodils trumpets as dens of iniquity before, but I guess most flowers are…

Even if you haven’t had the Fritillaria persica bloom for you, you’re definitely doing better with it than I am, with all my attempts rotting in the ground before seeing light of day.

Plants that bloom in the snow looks like a special niche. I’m sure the brave early insects are appreciative of having a place to dine of warm up.

6 Pomona Belvedere { 12.16.10 at 5:53 pm }

Yes, it’s true, I was so immersed in snow I forgot, there are places where people have none…maybe we should have a “taks summer heat” post.

If anyone would like to see Sylvia’s own take on winter flowers (including the evasive I. unguicularis), she was kind enough to guest-post some of it here. For snowdrops (I’ve never had luck with them, but I can understand why the promote such loyalty: http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com/?s=snowdrops. for I. unguicularis and others, http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com/bulbs/winter-flowers-sylvia/

I will be curious to know how your hellebores do, Sylvia, and also Northern Shade’s: they’ve been getting very serious weather there this week: there was a picture of an Erie lighthouse completely frosted over in ice, like a blind frozen sculpture.

Wow, James, your F. persica ROT? You’ve almost made me feel like a good gardener…bit of schadenfreude, there.

I keep meaning to get some tommies, they look so gorgeous, but somehow they have been crossed off my list every year. Thanks for the reminder!

7 Flowers in the Snow « Gardora.net { 12.25.10 at 9:28 am }

[...] Is your garden covered with snow? There are still flowers that will bloom in snow, especially bulbs: http://j.mp/guNOYn [...]

8 makarimi { 01.12.11 at 6:55 pm }

Dear Slyvia, your post so great. You captured very nice pictures and it’s really interesting especially the last pic.

9 lula { 02.03.11 at 1:15 am }

Hello, I just found your blog in Blotanical and this post I liked! I have an urban terrace in the last years, so not properly a gardener, but I live by botanical photography. I planted this year a soft pink calluna vulgaris and it did survive the snow in Nov-Dec in Brussels, and there was a lot! I like the tulipa turkestania. Lula

10 Den Mother { 02.19.11 at 1:49 pm }

Here in Portland, OR, the monsters and I love the violets and crocuses and daffodils.

One year we had success with the Fritillaria persica, but it got tinier and kept rotting in our wet summers.

I planted some snowdrops years ago, but only one came up and even years later I only have three! They spread incredibly slowly, apparently, and I can’t afford to buy hundreds of bulbs.

The most reliable (and cheap!) early spring thrill around here are the primroses from the grocery store! I always splurge on them for pots on the steps and then plant them out in early summer. They grow into little happy clumps, and every year there’s a bit more color at this time of year! (I also have some of the wild varieties—cowslips and some other species primroses I’ve gotten at plant sales.) Ahhh! Primroses…they satisfy!

11 Den Mother { 02.19.11 at 1:51 pm }

I love your description of daffodils. I agree with lostlandscape, I’ve never thought of them as dens of iniquity, but I will ever after!

12 Jennifer Patton { 03.26.11 at 7:00 am }

I am trying to find out if I need to cover my blooming hyacinths, daffodills, hostas, and daylillies for an upcoming snowfall of 1-3 inches. It is March 26, 2011. I’ve covered them to protect from frost the past 2 nights, but now they are predicting snow. Will they come back if they die now? What to do? Please help? Thanks

13 Orlando Garden Design { 11.13.12 at 3:57 pm }

I always feel like the poor plant in the snow is like a dog tied to a tree. I want to bring it in and feed it.

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