Driving down to West Sussex last Saturday I decided to make a detour and called in on a small garden open in Kent. Not having had time to read up about Spring Platt I guessed it would have snowdrops.
As I parked the car my heart began to sink as I spied, not a mass carpet as expected, but a small patch growing under some trees. Walking up the hillside towards the bungalow I wondered whether I should have stayed on the M25.
My fears were soon alleviated when the delightful daughter of the garden owner greeted me and began to show me her collection of snowdrops. Growing in specially built raised beds set by the side of the bungalow they were growing in pots plunged into gritty soil:
All clearly labeled too, something Julie insists on because it infuriates her when she goes to snowdrop collections and cannot find the label. The names are amusing and there are over 600.
The sun is beginning to shine. The knowledge is bursting forth and I am enthralled.
The season she explains begins at the end of October, with some varieties having already flowered. I am surprised but can see that ‘Peter Gatehouse’ is producing seed:
While others like ‘Upcher ‘are just appearing:
I admire ‘G F Handel’ who is playing nicely:
‘Big Bertha’ is looking great:
‘Hippolita’ is pretty special too.
While ‘Fenstead’ seems confused:
I could go on
and on ……….
Perhaps there is just one more, and that is the enchanting Lady Fairhaven:
And that is what it is like, hundreds of little gems.
It is not only the different markings on the flower petals that differentiate the species, but also the variety of the leaf in colour, form and size.
We walk up to behind the bungalow through an enclosed garden which has been designed for summer flowering plants and where no snowdrops are allowed. Following a skilfully laid path we arrive at the greenhouse and potting area.
Here we are joined by mum Carolyn. She gives a tour of the nursery area explaining the technique of chipping the bulbs, which she does from May onwards. The plants are lined out in various stages of growth, and checked regularly. It is a horticultural cottage industry and fascinating.
More raised beds are situated on the other side of the bungalow with yet more varieties:
I am introduced to a splendid golden form of ‘Ronald Mackenzie’:
and the rather special two headed chap called ‘One drop or Two’:
Naturally all this knowledge has made me hungry so I slip in doors where food is served from the kitchen. Just as a reminder that we are in the home of a galanthophile (such a hideous word) the table is festooned with books on the subject:
Enjoying my home-made soup and checking over the books, I am reminded of a sentence that often I recite in my talk on the NGS:
‘While Gardens opening in support of the scheme have changed in size and style, so too has what visitors are looking for. Education about plants, or ideas for design, often enriched by a conversation with the garden owner and a purchase of a plant cultivated in the garden.’
And this is exactly what it is. It has been quite an education.
Time to be on my way again. Relieved not to have taken up the offer from my husband of a little more cash for my journey, I am restricted to buying just a couple of snowdrops.These are special and they don’t come cheap. For him it is has to be ‘Fly Fishing’:
And for me ‘Roger’s Rough’, a locally bred snowdrop, a memento of a Kentish garden.
The sky has brightened and opened up the views over the Kent Weald which are stunning, even on a February day and my knowledge of snowdrops has grown immensely.
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