The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Guess That's Why They Call it "Glory of the Snow"

Cornus officinalis and Chionodoxa sardensis

Helleborus x hybrids Heronswood Slate looks praiseworthy with a dusting of snow

A welcome arrival: Five Cussonia paniculata plants

As I was sipping my wake-up cup of coffee and reading a post on one of my favorite blogs,
A Tidewater Gardener, about all the luscious bearded irises blooming in Les' Norfolk, Virginia garden, it began to snow. About half an hour later, the entire garden was white...again! It seemed appropriate that the Chionodoxa sardensis were in bloom.

Chionodoxa, also known as "glory of the snow", are my favorite late winter bulbs and they couldn't be easier. Use them to underplant any shrub, tree or woodland and wait for them to multiply and before you know it, you will have masses of clear blue star-like flowers carpeting your garden. We use a very similar species, Chionodoxa luciliae, to underplant shrubs and in the borders throughout the parks in Peterborough. Each year, as they naturalize, they make a bigger and bigger statement unifying these spaces throughout the downtown public gardens.

Fortunately, a hopeful harbinger of the summer garden arrived yesterday: Five Cussonia paniculata plants from Annie's Annuals. Cussonia paniculata, as described in the catalogue, is
"a wonderful specimen plant that looks straight out of Dr. Seuss, but is really from South Africa, “Mountain Cabbage Tree” makes a small tree, 9-12’ tall, with a curvy, corky, sturdy trunk topped by superb looking blue-gray leaves that are large and palmate -divided and subdivided into segments like a snowflake".

I had first was introduced to Cussonia paniculata at Wave Hill, the inspiring public garden in the Bronx, and finally got a plant about 8 years ago. After two seasons, it developed into a magnificent small tree that I overwintered in our walk-out basement. Sadly, I killed it two years ago. I am pleased to have it again. I am planning to let one mature in a pot to be used on my terrace. The remaining four plants will be used as textural components to the Pavilion Garden at Depot Park this summer. And yes, there will be summer this year!


  1. How pretty the helebores with a dusting of snow, like a holiday cake! Happy Easter, Michael!

  2. I don't think that snow is pretty! This spring has been crazy everywhere, not like last year when everything was 2 weeks early. My folks in MN are still getting INCHES of snow. Here in NE it's suddenly gray and damp every day after 3 months of bone dry conditions.

  3. Paul,
    Thanks for seeing the beauty in the end of winter. The dusting is now gone.
    Happy Easter to you.

  4. This weather is too awful for u all. Congratulations on staying positive.
    And trying the Cussonia again. I acn see why - its worth it.
    Gardeners are an incredible breed!

  5. Benjamin,
    I'm ready for the snow to be done with too. We are about 2 weeks behind this year although I think it was scary warm last year. I've read it is unseasonably balmy in England right now. Nice post about natives, by the way. Good to hear from you. Thanks.

  6. Robert,
    Cussonia is a very cool plant. I will show you it as it gets bigger. The corky bark is to die for. An incredible breed ... or maybe crazy! Probably both.
    Thanks for dropping by.



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