I have one or two clumps of snowdrops starting to flower in my own garden and as much as I am charmed by their appearance, they cannot compete with the sight of carpets of snowdrops that will grace many gardens over the next month or so.
I am lucky enough to be within visiting distance of two of the most famous snowdrop displays in the UK, Painswick Rococo Gardens and Colesbourne and nothing can beat the spectacular sight of thousands of snowdrop flowers en masse.
Galanthophiles, otherwise known as snowdrop lovers, flock every February to Colesbourne in Gloucestershire, once the home of one of the most famous galanthophiles, Henry John Elwes. There are now 250 varieties at Colesbourne, the first named Galanthus elwesii was brought back from Turkey by Henry in 1874. His family still live at Colesbourne and the present owners have done much to build the collection.
Snowdrops for some reason seem to appeal to the collector. I have to admit that I find it difficult to see the difference between some of the varieties and yet there are those who will pay up to £25 for a pot of Galanthus ‘Lapwing’. I do, however understand why they are such a loved plant. They are one of the first flowers to appear and are hardy little things often poking up through the snow and frost. They signal a change in the seasons, with a much longed for spring on it’s way.
Colesbourne isn’t just about snowdrops though. Other spring bulbs feature such as cyclamen, crocus, daffodils and muscari, along with an excellent range of hellebores. When we visited last year I was particularly impressed with the number of winter flowering honeysuckle plants dotted around the garden, their scent was sublime. If you fancy taking a plant away with you there is a good selection and plenty that don’t cost £25. Interestingly, they dig up their bulbs when they are dormant and pot them up ready for you to plant when you get home. They believe they do better this way as there is less root damage than transplanting them when they are in the green.
Painswick is another place worth a visit to see snowdrops. The garden was designed in the 1740s in what became known as a ‘rococo style’ but by 1970 it had become an overgrown jungle. Garden historians became interested in Painswick and the owner set in place a restoration project using a painting of the gardens from 1748. It is thought that John Atkins, a retired nurseryman living in an estate cottage was the first to introduce snowdrops to Painswick. It now has one of the largest naturalistic plantings of the bulb.
I love visiting gardens and by January I am always starting to feel withdrawal symptoms, so it is great that there are places that celebrate late winter and early spring and give us gardeners, who have been cooped up all winter, an opportunity to get out and be inspired.
I unfortunately remembered when trying to find the photos for Colesbourne that the battery on our camera died that day, which was and still is very annoying. Oh well, I guess it’s a good excuse for a return visit.