The A17 is an intensely horticultural road; the flat fenland fields are of sprouts and cabbages. Last Sunday driving to a garden in Lincolnshire, many of the fields were yellowing not with wintering vegetables but rows of daffodils and pickers bent over double. As I turned off left onto the A52, the level landscape soon changed to gentle undulations with the road lined by thick hedgerows, recently cut.
Today The Garden Gate is Open in the small village of Hacconby. The scent of winter honeysuckle lonicera fragrantissima combined with that great stalwart, winter box sarcococca confusa greeted our arrival. On the gravel foreground is an assortment of stone containers growing alpines.
This was once a working farmyard where, before becoming a galanthophile the owner kept pigs. One day his barn developed a hole so he temporarily patched it up with an old metal advertisement sign. I don’t know if more holes appeared over the years but it has now become a delightful collection; an amusing back drop to a very neat yard.
The sun was reluctant to shine today but it did not matter. A cheerful lady, possibly a neighbour was skilled in her welcome, pointing out the loo and handing me the Lincolnshire NGS booklet!
A nearby archway beckons you up the garden path directly behind the house. The borders seem to be packed with plants. The owners are clearly knowledgeable as well as being snowdrop experts. In younger days they used to open the garden frequently and a visitor tells me how after many years of coming to the garden she has been able to learn so much. Each week she says there was something new to discover.
Roses are pruned ready to climb up and over another wooden arch. These structures not only add height, but also help to divide the garden into areas while maintaining a look of transparency.
In a sheltered corner this young chap bestows a little charm, holding his collar up; perhaps he is feeling the effects of the wind.
A water trough is attractively incorporated into the flower bed surrounded by the first colours of Spring.
An old and majestic apple tree provides a pleasant area to sit.
All sorts of items are incorporated into this garden including a set of weighing scales! Placed by the lavender they are eye-catching and maybe a perfect platform for something.
Clumps of Snowdrops and colourful hellebores are in abundance.
The birds must love this garden yet I am surprised to see there are still berries on this variegated Holly in February.
A tall yew gives a gentle touch of evergreen and provides further structure by another archway.
The cleanly clipped yew hedge smoothly separates the flower garden from the drive. The old apple tree has dictated the height and shape.
The garden owner’s daughter Sharon apologises for the lack of design but I feel that this garden has been carefully thought out.
Across the yard tiny alpines inhabit the collection of stone troughs .
An area which once housed pigs has become a nursery bed and plants are for sale in a lovely old wooden barrow.
Whilst another barrow, more modern and metal becomes an interesting planter and is filled with even more alpines.
The variety of shrubs have a good underplanting and there is much promise of plenty to come.
On closer inspection it is Cardamine quinquefolia, no relation to the spice, which spreads triumphantly through the spring flowers. Happy in shade it will die down soon to let summer plants push through.
Sharon tells me that her father was one of the first to open his garden for snowdrops some 25 years ago. So popular are they now, the NGS has turned it into a national festival.
I cannot begin to list the number of varieties that grow here but Galanthus Global Glory looks pretty impressive.
At last the blossom is emerging and here it is on a wild plum.
You would not know that this is a bed for raspberry canes. Taken over by the Spring flora, they will remain dormant for awhile yet.
A Cornus mas grows brightly at the edge of the lawn.
Close by, a neat path invites you into the vegetable garden.
I find enthusiasm and great discussions being held over a bed entirely devoted to snowdrops. Hundreds of varieties all carefully labelled have been inherited by Sharon from a friend. There are still more for her to collect and I wonder whether this vegetable patch will eventually be taken over entirely.
Crocus are also invading.
There are still some vegetables but I am not sure that they are winning.
Cyclamen find their feet along the path behind apple trees and under the hedge.
This glorious crocus is called Margot, recently found it is not yet on the market.
On my way out I pass the plant sales again. I ponder on buying yet more snowdrops but instead weaken to some hellebores. Well you can’t have enough.
By the front door there is a collection of pots: on the left Ophiogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ surrounds is a quirky Privet. In the middle, Hellebore Penny’s Pink looks stunning but is sadly not for sale. On the right, a new plant to me, is the intriguing and rare Scoliopus bigelowii; A member of the lily family it is native to North America and also goes by the name of Footed Adder’s Tongue! Which ever name you choose, it looks happy enough here in Lincolnshire!
It has been a charming garden sprinkled with curiosities and early Spring colour even though it is hardly March. There is so much to interest the intrepid snowdrop enthusiast.
As I slip out through the gate those early signs of Spring have followed, spilling through the hedge onto the edge of the pavement.