large drift of leucojum

March Magic

Spring officially arrived on March 20 but I’ve been seeing signs of life in the garden for quite a while now, long before the calendar marked the arrival of a new season. Extending bloom time into the winter season is great fun, soul soothing, and easier than you might think.

In the Philadelphia area, Winterthur does an amazing job highlighting early spring bloomers and even has an area behind the mansion called the March Bank. H. F. du Pont started the March Bank in 1902 and it now features huge drifts of Galanthus (snowdrops), Leucojum (snowflakes), Crocus, Eranthus (Winter aconite), Chinodoxa (Glory-of-the-Snow), and Adonis among other bulbs.

I had the opportunity to visit Winterthur’s March Bank this year and was so impressed with the display I have already added some bulbs to my wish list for fall planting this year.

Galanthus are available in many different sizes and often have unique attributes that require close inspection. Who doesn’t love a plant that requires you to get on your hands and knees to admire and examine it? Eranthus emerge early and provide a little sunshine in flower form. These charmers are easy to grow and will seed around or can be moved to different parts of the garden.

A Galanthus (Snowdrop) surrounded by Eranthus (Winter Aconite).
A Galanthus with unique green markings


A Galanthus with hints of yellow – a very desirable trait.

Leucojum really make a statement in the garden. Their blooms are larger than Galanthus and they create a white carpet when planted in mass. Even when planted individually, Leucojum will cause a garden visitor to stop and view the amazing flowers.

A field of Leucojum (Snowflake) on the March Bank at Winterthur
Leucojum in the foreground and the Winterthur Mansion in the background.
A Leucojum flower up close

Crocus plants are available in a variety of colors and will self-seed and pop up in different locations. While this might annoy some, to me this is part of their charm. Most Crocus plants are also resistant to destruction by deer, squirrels and other critters. Glory of the snow bulbs are one of the first blooming plants to appear in spring. Members of the Lily family, these cuties produce beautiful snow kissed blooms. Winterthur uses Crocus and Chinodoxa (Glory of the Snow) in combination with a beautiful result.

Crocus and Chinodoxa (Glory of the Snow) planted together in drifts at Winterthur

Named after the Greek God of vegetation, Adonis plants sport feathery foliage and lovely yellow flowers. These plants are superb additions to any woodland setting. While sometimes difficult to find, they are worth seeking out.

A yellow flower surrounded by lacy green foliage
A gorgeous Adonis bloom surrounded by lovely, feathery green foliage

I hope you’ll consider adding some early bloomers to your garden this year. If you do, I’m confident you’ll enjoy years of pleasure when spring arrives early in your garden.


Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Winter walks

Most people don’t think of February as a month for garden tours, but I encourage you to change your mindset. Winter is a perfect time to experience gardens when you can see their bones, notice what creates interest and enjoy smaller crowds. Peace comes with touring gardens in the quiet of the off-season.

In the Philadelphia area we are lucky to live in America’s Garden Capital. With over 30 public gardens within 3o miles of the city, we have many gardens to choose from. A number of these gardens are open in the winter and waiting for your visit. I recently visited two area arboretums and was enthralled with their meandering paths, extensive plantings and winter wonder.

The Morris Arboretum was first on the list. Located in Chestnut Hill, the site includes tens of thousands of plants including many collected by plantsman John Morris and his sister Lydia who lived on the property when it was a private home. Some of Delaware Valley’s oldest specimen trees grow at the Morris. During our visit we took note of these features as well as the use of evergreens to frame views, spent seed heads, plants in flower and texture created by plant material.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) needles provide amazing texture in the winter garden
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Spent roses cascade over a bed of lavender and rosemary
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Corylus fargesii catkins offer interest in the winter
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Metasequoia buttresses contrast beautifully with the blooming Witch Hazel
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Snowdrops (Galanthus) bloom happily in the winter garden
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Mahonia x Winter Sun flowers are beautiful golden rays in February
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Evergreens are especially noticeable when they perfectly frame a view like this waterfall

In addition to the outdoor spaces, a number of Philadelphia’s public gardens have greenhouses or conservatories that provide a break from the cold and access to flowering non-hardy plants. Who doesn’t love being immersed in a sea of lush foliage or fragrant blooms in the middle of winter?

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Inside the fernery we were warm and enveloped in humidity

The second garden I had the opportunity to see this winter was the Tyler arboretum located in Media. Tyler spans over five hundred acres and includes seventeen miles of hiking trails and extensive plant collections. Tyler is one of the oldest arboretums in the region dating back to 1681. The property that makes up the arboretum today was purchased by Thomas Minshall from William Penn. Like the Morris, Tyler is home to some magnificent trees including those deemed ‘champions’ because they are the largest individual specimens of a particular species. We particularly enjoyed the Witch Hazel collection during our visit.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
One of many blooming Witch Hazels at Tyler
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
A fragrant wintersweet bloom (Chimonanthus praecox var. Luteus) soothes the soul
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Croton alabamensis shows off some lingering fall color and awaiting spring flowers
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
The structure of Sweetgum ‘Corky’ (Liquidambar styraciflua) was mesmerizing
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Bark might go unnoticed during the growing season, but not in the winter.

Clearly I was inspired by my tours to two Philadelphia’s area gardens this winter. I encourage you to seek out some you would like to see and make a plan to visit. I’m confident that in addition to many ideas for your own landscape, you will leave with a calm mind and warm heart.