Snowdrop days

It’s that time of year when we go a leeetle bit snowdrop mad. Granted, we start earlier than most people as we want to get the most out of every moment of snowdrop time for our visitors. The gardens are open 11.00 -4.00 every day from February 14th -22nd for snowdrops, talks, winter walks and hot soup or cake and we need to start the planning early.

Snowdrops week at Easton Walled Gardens

For many years, we have been working on extending the drifts of bulbs on the snowdrop banks, bulking up the hellebores in the woodland walk and generally improving access and interpretation for visitors to our snowdrop days. But, excitingly, for the last year or so, we have been able to concentrate on the detail.  This means more winter irises, Cyclamen coum, yellow aconites, Crocus tommasinianus, (known as ‘tommies’,) and winter flowering cherries. New to us this year is Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ which I found at RHS Rosemoor by chasing its heavenly scent.

We- the gardening team at Easton- have also been working on building up our stocks of unusual snowdrops to use with other flowers. We don’t consider ourselves galanthophiles in the true sense (we just haven’t got the dedication to tour the country looking at 100s of varieties) but we do love variation when it allows us to try out new planting combinations.

If you are planning your display there is still time to buy bargain crocuses and other small bulbs online. Nearly all the big bulb companies are throwing huge sales. They may flower later from a late planting but they will flower at the right time the following year. Some bulb companies will sell dormant snowdrop bulbs in the Autumn but we still prefer to buy ‘in the green’ in early Spring so we know what we are getting.

One form I  am particularly fond of is Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant.’  I have been bulking up this beauty from a single bulb given to us by Louth Antiquary Society over 10 years ago. As snowdrops go, this one is a monster. It flowers slightly earlier than the common snowdrops; Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus flore pleno. This helps extend our season and means it will flower with Iris reticulata and similar hybrids. For now, it is nestled under a red dogwood. I will divide it again in late Spring to use with new combinations. You can find a few bulbs for sale in our online shop.

 

Freds-Giant.jpg

Today it is cold and dark, what Beth Chatto calls a ‘dustbin lid’ day. Brilliant analogy, it does feel like there is a rather unloved metal dustbin lid hovering above. A good day to check on health and safety and maintenance. A walk around the garden shows traces of new snowdrop growth and occasionally there are a few blisteringly lovely autumn colours to lift the scene.  Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ is on fire today.

autumn plans and cotinus More snowdrop news will be posted here as the season progresses and you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more updates.

With best wishes

Ursula Cholmeley and the gardening team at Easton Walled Gardens.

 

Snowdrops, snowdrops everywhere….

February is associated with this beautiful flower and we have them in abundance. The name ‘snowdrop’ does not refer to the powdery stuff but to the long pearl drop earrings worn by women in the late 16th and 17th centuries. (as in ’The girl with the Pearl Earring ‘by Vermeer) Once you know this, it is easy to see the comparison, as snowdrops hang on a long thin green pedicel and move in the wind.

Daffodils are starting to show. ‘Spring Dawn’ is the earliest and is a pale colour that complements the snowdrops. For some years we have been trying to establish crocuses and this year looks like we may have succeeded with a few bulbs. If the mice find the bulbs in their first year of planting they will get eaten, every single one. After that, however, it seems that the bulbs dig down deeper or maybe their roots put the mice off and they are left alone. All along the borders of the cottage garden there are delicate spikes of purple,blue and yellow. Some are crocuses but others are the early and very beautiful irises Harmony, George and danfordiae.

In some ways, February is my favourite gardening month. The grass hasn’t started to make big calls on our time, the light illuminates the spring bulbs pushing up across the close cropped turf and everything looks tidy and manageable. There is time to appreciate the small things like the first bee of the year or buds breaking on cold branches. Even the young seedlings in the greenhouse say ‘Carry on, we’re in no hurry to move.’ A warm week in March will change all that.

Snowdrop Week runs daily from 15th February until 23rd February 11.00-4.00 Jackies talks on the snowdrop are included in the admission price and last about 20 minutes and have some seating. 12.30 and 2.30 daily.

We have a good selection of unusual snowdrops and hellebores for sale.

The gardens open for the season from Sunday March 2nd until end of October. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

 

First published www.alantitchmarsh.com (2010)

Naturalising Snowdrops

Freds Giant

 

In spite of the weather, the main snowdrop season is coming to an end. Now is a good time to make sure you have a fabulous display next year.

To give your snowdrops the best chance of increasing to form patches or drifts it helps if you understand their lifecycle.

In the Summer, a snowdrop bulb is dormant. That is, there is no sign of life, just a bulb. However, inside, the flower and all the information the plant needs for the next year is already formed. (If you want to see this for real, try slicing through a bulb)  Throughout the  Spring the leaves and roots have been drawing up nutrients to achieve this. This means that its main time for stocking up for next year comes just after it has flowered in February. Logically you don’t want to interfere with this process by breaking roots and damaging leaves. Should you leave the plants and let them die right back before lifting the bulbs and replanting? Sounds a better idea you say, but then summer comes and all is forgotten, you can’t find the bulbs and nothing happens. Anytime between now and June you can still see where your snowdrops are, using their green and yellowing leaves as a guide.  So, if you are a perfectionist mark your bulb’s position now, and dig and split them from June onwards. If you are more like me, do it when you can and when you remember. Galanthus ‘Freds Giant’ shown has had this treatment and is increasing strongly every year.

Either way, make sure you replant immediately. Snowdrops are very forgiving as long as they don’t dry out.

Carefully lift a clump of snowdrops from the ground. You will need a long fork for this job as the bulbs will be much deeper than you think and if you try and do it with a trowel you will end up slicing off the foliage. You will find they are tightly packed together. Gently prise them apart keeping as much of the roots in tact as possible. Dig some deep small holes and put one bulb in per hole spaced about 8” apart. Put a few bulbs back in the hole that they came from. Each bulb will develop small offsets so a single plant has the potential to become a clump. If you want to start a new colony, position your snowdrops in areas under shrubs and trees that get some moisture but are shaded on very hot days.