Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 6 February 2015

Snowdrops on Tour

Picture of various snowdrops in the back of my car
Snowdrops on loan from Evolution Plants - now even NAH understands there are galanthophiles in this world
and he can see the differences in the species, forms and characteristics of this selection of snowdrops. 

I've just come back from an enjoyable week dedicated to all things snowdrop. As you can see this involved the unusual step of taking some snowdrops on tour as well as visiting several key gardens.

It's all Naomi's fault: I'd agreed to help her with her talk at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the first in a series resulting from her book. Tom at Evolution Plants agreed to lend her some snowdrops and so I found myself there in the polytunnel on a windy Wednesday making a selection of 10 distinctive ones. These were to serve as a live and scented illustration alongside her slides.

Naomi Slade tells the story of the Greatorex Double snowdrops at the National Botanic Garden of wales

Thank goodness we went there a day early. It allowed the AV facilities to get sorted and for us to recce the snowdrop walk Naomi was going to lead after her talk. She was able to spot some of the more choice varieties in the garden's collection and weave in their stories along the way, such as the Greatorex Doubles. Here she's showing us the finer points of snowdrop identification - kudos to Naomi and the 18 or so hardy souls who came on the walk, it was snowing for much of it!

Now I must admit to a bit of a rush of blood to the head. As well as helping Naomi, I was invited to a press and blogger day to see the famous snowdrops at Hodsock Priory on Tuesday and somehow the thought of a 3 hour drive after a weekend in West Wales didn't seem quite as bad as it did last year. Besides, I worked at Hodsock Farm as a student and here was the perfect excuse to revisit the area.

"I need a little holiday to help cheer up February", I told myself and so I accepted my invitation...

... and then a cunning plan began to form for my snowdrop break. Easton Walled Gardens isn't that far from Hodsock Priory and has a set of snowdrop days which start on Valentine's Day this year (until Feb 22nd). It would be great to see both gardens if I could. Thank goodness Ursula Cholmeley agreed and kindly allowed me in for a sneak preview on Monday, where we played Spot the dog amongst the massed snowdrops.

The blooms have yet to gain their full height, but that doesn't stop the effectiveness of this sunny woodland scene.

Naomi's talk included a couple of small demonstration pots for suggested planting combinations. I was rather taken by this large urn at Easton which lifted the snowdrops to my eye level and made it easy to detect their honeyed scent. There were plenty of other pots awaiting this treatment ready to delight visitors in a week or so's time.

Tuesday dawned clear, bitingly cold and with a sprinkling of snow. I was glad I didn't have to face a long drive thanks to George and Kat Buchanan's generous hospitality at Hodsock Priory. It also meant Barbara and I had time to explore the winter garden with the snow at its best. How often do we dream of visiting a garden decorated in this way, yet are disappointed to find it so rarely happens?

I'll return to the subject of winter gardens in a later post, so let's move on to the snowdrops in the meantime...

Just like at Easton, most of the snowdrops await your discovery in the woodlands at Hodsock Priory. The low, slanting sunlight helped to pick out the blooms from their light dusting of snow.There are reputed to be around 4 million of them, though I suspect George and the team don't count theirs like I do mine ;)

The large drifts you find at Hodsock and other gardens famed for their snowdrops usually consist of Galanthus nivalis, plus some G. 'Flore pleno' added for good measure. I don't mind there aren't any of the named snowdrop treasures there; for me the magic is in having them as far as the eye can see.

Galanthus 'S. Arnott'
Closer to the house there are some labelled snowdrop treasures awaiting discovery, planted in isolated pockets to stop them interbreeding and losing their individual characteristics. There are also details of a special snowdrop connection: Joseph Mallender, Hodsock's Head Gardener for 40 years left the Priory in 1908 to garden for Samuel Arnott, of Galanthus 'S. Arnott' fame.

As I've decided to use plants in my garden which connect to friends, family or gardens visited, I've decided the pictured example of G. 'S. Arnott' I collected from Evolution Plants will be staying with me.

The Buchanan family at Hodsock Priory

We were also invited to help the Buchanan family celebrate their 250th year at the Priory. Here are George and Kat (centre) with Sir Andrew and Lady Buchanan about to cut the official ribbon to start proceedings. I can remember Sir Andrew from when I worked at Hodsock Farm, even though I worked for a completely different family there.

Sir Andrew's grandmother was Lady Beatrix Stanley, who along with her daughter was instrumental in the design of Hodsock's winter garden and forming the massed plantings found in the snowdrop walk plus establishing the collection closer to the house. It seemed churlish not to keep her snowdrop namesake as souvenir.

The whole family are passionate about Hodsock Priory as both a special place and a family home. It's obvious they're proud of what they do and are keen to make the time each visitor spends there an enjoyable and comfortable one.

The gardens are open for snowdrop viewing until March 1st 2015, 10am to 4pm. If you can't make the season this year (or any other February), you'll have to wangle yourself an invitation to a swanky wedding! My thanks to George and Kat for a wonderful day and going out of their way - along with Helen Leach - to make my visit happen.

You may also like:

Alison at The Blackberry Garden has her version of the day's events. It was great to meet up with her again, plus her friend Karen. She has more details of Hodsock's history and lots of different photos from our walk.

It was good to meet Cathy and The Golfer from Rambling in the Garden for the first time, whose blog post about the day can be found here.

Tune in next week for more about Hodsock Priory's other winter garden features.


After my grand tour, I couldn't resist a visit to my local snowdrops at Lacock Abbey yesterday, where I found this rare example of a Galanthus humungus at their Frozen World exhibition.

Galanthus sculpture at Lacock Abbey


  1. That looks like a lovely day, and the perfect weather for admiring snow drops. I must have a look in our local churchyard and see if their snowdrops are in bloom yet. Lacock is a wonderful place isn't it, I haven't been for ages, I must visit again soon. CJ xx

    1. I'm lucky that Lacock is so near CJ. There's a fab outdoor sculpture exhibition at the moment - ends this weekend though...

  2. I was wondering whether you had braved the elements to cross the border and to then venture on to Hodsock as well. So glad to hear that you did. It sounds as if you really enjoyed your snowdrop fest. Lady B and Sam A are fabulous 'drops to have bought home with you. I don't think that you would have fitted 'galanthus humungus' in your car somehow.

    1. Anna, having tried some 'drop photography since bringing these home, I'm in awe of your skill :)

  3. What a wonderful time you must have had, I wish I could have been with you. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

    1. That would have been great Pauline - so glad you could 'accompany' me on my tour in a virtual way :)

  4. I love to see snowdrops en masse like that - lucky you.

    1. How far away is Hodsock from you Sue? Could be worth a day trip... or now that snowdrop expert John Grimshaw is up your way, he may start planting up the arboretum!

    2. I've looked it up and it's about an hour's drive so we'll see how we are fixed

    3. Fingers crossed you get there Sue.

      I've also found this listing of snowdrop gardens which may be useful:

  5. It was a great day and good to catch up with you again too.

    1. And again at the Garden Press Event Alison!


I love reading your comments and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Help me to help you: If you're having problems leaving comments, contact me using the Contact Form at the foot of this page, or via vegplotting at gmail dot com, or @malvernmeet if a quick tweet is more convenient for you. That way I can get things sorted.

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

Sorry - anonymous comments are disabled currently owing to continued problems with spammers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...