Leucojum aestivum summer snowflake

February 24th, 2009
Leucojum Aestivum

I inherited the summer snowflakes with my garden and they’ve grown very dependably these last 15 years without any effort on my part. Unlike many bulbs they don’t mind “wet feet”. With central Texas currently the most drought-stricken spot in these United States that might not seem like much to recommend it to the Austin grower but what “wet feet” means in garden speak is that summer snowflakes won’t rot in clay soils with poor drainage.

Mine are just the plain summer snowflakes with little flowers the size of thimbles. Last fall I planted the selected ‘Gravetye Giant’ summer snowflakes. I got them in a bit late and they’re just now coming up.

Summer snowflakes are always blooming in February in my Austin garden, this year opening on Feb 9th (with supplemental water). The earliest I’ve had them is Jan 29th and the latest Feb 22. They won’t last long this year though. They melted last Wednesday (2/18) when the temperature hit 80. It was 83°F today and will stay in the 80s the rest of the week.

In his Garden Bulbs for the South, Scott Ogden says, “In their homes around the Mediterranean these bulbs grow in mucky soils along streams. In such a situation they prosper on a surplus of spring moisture an a long summer baking. This prepares the flowers for the heavy cotton soils of the South.” However, from Louise Beebe Wilder’s description, in Adventures with Hardy Bulbs, I’d never have guessed they’d do so well in Austin. “[Summer snowflakes require] well-drained soil, not too dry and devoid of fresh manure…[They] should be set where the soil is never bone-dry and where it receives only the morning sun, on springy, half-shaded banks, in low woodland, in fern borders, or naturalized by the waterside. It thrives well even in heavy shade.”

I’ll have to agree with my neighbor, Scott, on this one.