Snowdrops

Through all these cheerless covid months and ghastly weather, the snowdrops have been silently pushing up through the cold, sodden ground. Their delicate flowers, surely could not be more welcome. Restrictions have forced the abandonment of the National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival however, some gates of a smattering of gardens will be open across the country this February, for those visitors lucky enough to be local to them. However in the eastern region, deep snow has forced many closures. More details can be found at https://ngs.org.uk/february-openings-2021/.

Back in 2017 when travelling was unrestricted and I was able to visit some 90 gardens throughout the year in celebration of the 90th anniversary of The National Garden Scheme, the snowdrop gardens were memorable; and I would identify three different types of snowdrop landscape: The snowdrop walk such as at Welford Park in Berkshire where the sight of millions of these tiny flowers carpeting the woodland floor was a sheer delight.

Of course you cannot come away from any of these landscapes without buying some little temptation, and so I bought Galanthus ‘Brenda Troyle’ and in my blog which followed I airily asked the question who is Brenda Troyle and was delighted to receive a knowledgeable reply. https://thegardengateisopen.blog/2017/02/14/snowdrops-spike-and-baked-off-at-welford-park-8

The second type of landscape is the simple but lovely Snowdrop garden where you find clumps of snowdrop scattered beneath winter shrubs, and bringing life to dormant borders, such as here at Gable House near Beccles, where Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ is prolific.

Here amongst the plant sales I could not resist Galanthus elwesii ‘Brian Matthews’ who is now doing well in my own border.

The third type of landscape is quite different and fascinating; that of the The snowdrop specialist, such as at Spring Platt in Kent https://kentsnowdrops.com/#home. A snowdrop spectacle, where they are arranged in a display, individually potted, seemingly different and labelled, each with a beguiling name. You could say, and although I am not fond of the word, it was here that I experienced the first stirrings of becoming a ‘galanthophile’.

It was ‘Fly Fishing’ that was my purchase here, a must for any fisherman and so it grows just outside my husband’s office, a bending rod gently moving in the breeze.

Then things began to get expensive; at £40.00 per tiny bulb (and that is nothing in this world I can assure you ), I could not resist ‘Tilly’. She is spreading nicely so I am not feeling quite so bad about that reckless expenditure.

Then my first granddaughter was born, so in celebration I planted Galanthus plicatus ‘Florence Baker’ (please could someone please breed an Alfie), and my small collection began to expand, and all around the garden I have the names of friends and family growing gracefully, all different and doing their own thing. Last year I painstakingly labelled each one, only to be stumped by my dogs who thought this was a great idea and spent the summer months finding and helpfully retrieving them.

The names always intrigue me and I like to know their origin, so I bought, begged and borrowed books on the subject, the snowdrop ‘bible’ being the most elusive Snowdrops A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus by Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis and John Grimshaw, which I was fortunate to be lent and I notice that although currently unavailable on Amazon it is a mere £550 on ebay.

I also find this website invaluable and the photography sublime. https://www.judyssnowdrops.co.uk/Plant_Profiles/plant_profiles.htm. This is from the website and shows Galanthus ‘S Arnott’ a lovely tall snowdrop with a scent of almond and recommended by ‘The Land Gardeners’ http://www.thelandgardeners.com/home as a cut flower which however they suggest potting up and bringing indoors rather than picking.

Snowdrops do come in other guises; I loved this giant wicker snowdrop standing at fifteen feet high at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire,

and these metal ones either side standing guard at a gate in Welford Park.

My garden is deep in snow with not a single snowdrop in sight, just a metal sculpture, a reminder of what will be there when the thaw comes.

I have already made this year’s purchases, Galanthus plicatus ‘Three ships’ which should flower before next Christmas from friend, plantswoman and instagrammer Jane Anne Walton, and the other in aid of St John Ambulance Galanthus plicatus ‘Diggory’, a Norfolk boy, he is a beauty.

Luckily for me I have a Snowdrop Walk local to me and which will be open next Sunday 21st February in aid of the National Garden Scheme https://ngs.org.uk/view-garden/4388. If that path isn’t just the perfect place for a little exercise, then I don’t know what is.

There has never been a greater time than now for us to support the nursing and care sector and so if you are unable to take your exercise in a local snowdrop garden why not consider making a donation by visiting the just giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/norfolk-ngs

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Great Comp Garden, follies fun and salvias. (84)

Great Comp is near Sevenoaks in Kent. The seven acre garden was developed by Eric and Joyce Cameron who purchased the house back in 1957 and first opened for the NGS in 1968.

Now it is managed by a Trust, with the Curator William Dyson and a team of gardeners and volunteers. Dyson has been growing salvias for over 20 years and has built up a large collection; as you walk into Great Comp you are greeted with a fine selection displayed for sale.

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The nursery area is surrounded by borders of grasses and perennials allowing the visitor to slip seamlessly into the garden.

The apex of the Lion Summerhouse roof can just be seen above a delightful blend of shape and texture.

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This 17th century building was at one time the estate loo but now contains a more enchanting style of seat.

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The Camerons added a little architecture to the garden, not in the way of functionality but as a part of the design; ruins and follies are built from the stone and sand unearthed from digging the garden.

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There are plenty of sculptures too and this pensive chap may just be wondering where he has left his trowel.

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Despite being the end of October this border flows with colour; an assortment of salvias from pinks through red and purple to blue are complimented with tall ornamental grasses arranged at the back.

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It was Pliny the Elder who was the first to write of a plant described by the Romans as Salvia, most likely the Salvia officinalis, commonly known as sage which we use in our cooking. It is the largest genus of plants in the mint family Lamiaceae and is distributed throughout the Americas, Central and Eastern Asia and the Mediterranean. Dyson concentrates on the Salvias from the New World and has cultivated over 200 hybrids.  Such an intense blue,

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and it is not just the difference in colour but also in form and habit. These dark purple flower spikes look good with the autumn colours.

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The colours compliment and blend so effectively,

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or look good simply in a singular colour bursting out of a pot.

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Salvia Waverly is a tender variety so will be taken under cover before the first frosts.

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Another folly provides a seating area complete with bench and to the right a ‘tumbled down’ tower,

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from where we can view the crescent lawn and an explosion of grasses.

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Salvia is not the only plant providing flower colour today; a low growing geranium is almost as good as in early summer,

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and the evergreen Liriope muscari  so good in the shade and flowers from August to November.

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The low autumn sun highlights the whiteness of the miscanthus grass.

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There are many fine mature trees here, the perfect shape of a  Sequoa sempervirens ‘Cantab’ stands erect on the edge of the square lawn in front of the house.

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Further away is a fine specimen of a rowan, Sorbus hupenhsis laden with pink berries.

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We walk away from the house down the avenue known as the Sweep, the curving line of the lawn and swirling shapes of the shrubs and trees suggesting a design reminiscent of the swinging sixties and early seventies.

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We are joined in the garden by our young cousin Charlotte; bouncing with energy and enthusiasm she lifts our spirits on this chilly grey day. Rubbing her hands over the smoothly clipped box she asks if it takes long to grow. I don’t want to dampen any signs of horticultural interest and feel a touch guilty when I suggest it doesn’t.

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Swiftly moving down the Sweep we admire the deep red leaves of the Liquidamber,

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and head into the woodland. At the southeast corner there is a hydrangea glade which we walk through and follow along the leafy perimeter path,

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to the Chilstone temple that marks the furthest south western corner and where the yellow Mahonia is well into flower.

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Back out of the woods we seek out the Italian garden, passing under the canopy of Magnolia x soulangeana where the extraordinarily unreal seed heads contort above us,

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and through the archway there is a different mood.

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The Camerons combined their love of the classical with the theatre and in an eclectic mix of columns, fountain and ornament softened by dahlias, palm and tall rustling miscanthus they created a curious courtyard.

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Amongst the old stone are engineering bricks that serve to make walls and define the arches and although there is a very slight air of a forgotten institution there are plenty of little seating areas to enjoy the characterful ambience.

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It is time for Tea and we head off to the old dairy to sample the delicious cake just pausing for a moment to admire the lamp post with a turban top.

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Nearby, Brutus is stylishly swathed in moss and seems to look over towards the neighbouring

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goddess, a little less clothed she appears to be in heavenly bliss.

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Opposite, the flat leaves of the ancient gingko are gently turning to a soft yellow,

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Through the enchanting moon gate we can clearly see the herbaceous border across the neatly mown lawn.

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Growing by the house is a sizeable Magnolia grandiflora who holds its seed heads tightly.

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Passing by more seed heads,  these are Phlomis we pass through yet another folly.

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The garden, which is an RHS partner moves round to the northern side where the visitor before leaving can admire the front of the charming 17th Century house.

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Returning through the nursery it is difficult not to admire the longevity of this summer flowering fuchsia, curiously named “Lady in Black”,

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and wonder at a snowdrop in flower at the same time, the very early Galanthus ‘Peter Gatehouse’. I feel that I have nearly come full circle as it was not far from here at Spring Platt (A snowdrop of knowledge blog 5), that I became so acquainted with this enchanting flower. However, we still have a little way to go before the onset of the snowdrop season.

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