Signs of spring at Broadview Gardens
PUBLISHED: 14:15 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:16 20 February 2017
Dainty snowdrops and stunning hellebores grace the gardens at Broadview each February, a sight not to be missed and an enticement to add these tiny beauties to your own garden
When there’s not much yet in the garden, snowdrops and hellebores are invaluable and add gentle beauty to the scene.
Even after being frozen solid overnight these hardy little blooms pick up as soon as the ice melts in their stems. The massed snowy white maids and pretty hellebores asking to be upturned to admire their sweet little faces, entice you outside for closer inspection and signal spring is on its way.
Looking in gardens and nurseries you will discover all the different types of hellebore flowers, both singles and doubles in a colour range of pink, purple, white, green, yellow, cream and even slatey blue, while you will also see how many different varieties there are of snowdrops, Galanthus, in size, shape and markings.
A great place to learn more is Broadview Gardens at Hadlow College where they have a National Collection of hellebores, with both named Helleborus orientalis hybridus and un-named seedlings, as well as a wide range of snowdrops, displayed against fiery cornus stems and the polished bark of stately prunus.
With special viewing days each February these tiny stars are sure to enchant and if you take one of the guided tours you can gain an added bonus of expert advice.
Whether you want to start your own collection or just grow a few, you can then pop into the Broadview Garden Centre where many varieties are on sale through February.
For your own garden
Hellebores are extremely hardy and thrive in a range of situations, making it possible to grow them in nearly every garden, in beds or containers. You can buy named varieties with fancy names such as ‘Onyx Odyssey’ or just descriptive ones such as primrose-coloured, double purple or apricot streaked.
The array on offer is vast and as well as garden centres it’s worth looking online for mail order through nurseries such as Ashwood Nurseries for their garden hybrids and Beth Chatto Gardens.
They do best in good well-drained soil in part or dappled shade and it’s helpful to remember that the sunnier the spot, the more moisture-retentive the soil needs to be.
Easiest to grow are the Lenten rose, Helleborous orientalis, and once established will reward you with flowers year upon year with little attention. Plant en masse under deciduous trees, to line paths, mixed with other spring interest or grouped in containers.
As the flowers can get hidden by the foliage, cut back old leaves as flower buds emerge, exposing the flowers for you to enjoy and also make it easier for pollinators.
Snowdrops are hardy and it’s lovely to mix them with hellebores and aconites, plant in naturalised drifts on lawns, against contrasting coloured winter stems or in troughs. They are best bought and planted ‘in the green’ as dried bulbs are more difficult to establish. Dappled shade and soil improved with leaf mould or compost are ideal, and keep them watered until established.
Whether you are a true galanthophile or just want to add a pot of snowdrops by the door, take a look at the National Gardens Scheme’s early openers, Hever Castle’s Snowdrop Trail and don’t miss the Snowdrop Sensation plant fair at Great Comp garden in Platt on 19 February.
Find out more
Hadlow College, TN11 0AL
Open year round
For Hellebore Tours dates visit www.broadviewgardens.co.uk; booking recommended
Get the look
•Growing tips snowdrops: plant in the green in light dappled shade, not full sun, incorporate mushroom compost or leaf mould, don’t let them dry out and split clumps every three or four years
•Start with ones that will multiply readily, the differences are so minute, you can get a good patch more cheaply with common varieties
•By selecting a succession of different varieties you can have a display that can last from January to March
•Lift and divide congested clumps, every few years, while leaves still green and replant immediately
•Let foliage die down naturally
•Look great semi-naturalised with aconites
•Mix with hellebores, crocuses and primroses
•They look wonderful carpeting banks in drifts or set against the rich red stems of cornus.
•Ones to try:
Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ – stately and robust
G. plicatus – wider leaves
G. elwesii – honey scented flowers
Did you know?
•The snowdrop is the symbol of hope and purity
•An old rhyme: ‘The snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas day’
•Snowdrops were once called Candlemas bells
•For a rare treat go to a Candlemas Service at St Pancras Church, Coldred, CT15 5AQ, 7.30pm, 2 February, with snowdrops lining the path, candlelit evensong and the church decorated with snowdrops
Plant of the month
Ribes laurifolium (laurel-leaved currant)
•Leathery dark green leaves
•Pale creamy green flowers late winter, early spring
•Male plants have largest flowers, the females also have berries
•Need a male and a female plant, or an hermaphrodite to produce berries
•Easy to grow
•Not vigorous, tends to spread sideways
•Sun to part shade
•Moist but well-drained soil
•Propagate by semi-hardwood cuttings in summer
Jobs to be done
•Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses and perennials that have been left for winter interest. Take care not to damage any new growth
•Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering. Mulch and feed at the same time
•Wash out pots and trays ready for spring planting. Add some disinfectant to hot water, then rinse in clean water. Use brush to remove dirt and old compost that could harbour diseases
•Dig over beds and borders, adding organic matter
•Pot up some lily bulbs for flamboyant summer flowers in slightly moist compost and keep them somewhere light and frost free. Only water if the compost dries out or you see shoots pop up
•Growing tips hellebores: don’t let them dry out in summer, don’t plant them in all-day sunshine, mulch them in autumn and remove old leaves in January to get the best show of the flowers
•Also called Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose
•They are wonderful to brighten up and add interest in shady areas with their elegant flowers and architectural foliage
•You can have different varieties that flower from early January through to March
•They are long-lived evergreens
•Drought tolerant once established
•Resistant to deer
•Take care when handling, wear gloves, as can cause skin burns
•Keep an eye out for snails and slugs
•Ones to try – pale pink ‘Party Dress’, deep burgundy ‘Best Black’, clear pink ‘Walberton’s Rosemary’