Snowdrops in Kent
PUBLISHED: 11:06 16 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:22 16 January 2016
The first sign that spring is on its way has to be the mass of bright white snowdrops as their nodding heads begin to carpet the garden. A galanthophile or not, these dainty beauties charm us all
Floral accents are to be savoured as the garden stirs from winter to the promise of spring. As the days begin to lengthen, stimulating the plant hormones, another season begins to slowly unfold.
By late winter a large variety of bulbs, shrubs and trees are ready to burst into a succession of blooms. Bulbs are definitely the stars, with snowdrops leading the way, and by selecting a succession of different snowdrop varieties the display can last from January to March.
Whether in drifts under trees, in beds or in containers, snowdrops make an impact in the garden. Accompany them with other early bulbs, at the base of winter stems or popping up through clumps of nodding hellebores.
Whether you are a true galanthophile or just wanting inspiration at this time of the year, here are two gardens not to miss this month.
Broadview Gardens, near Tonbridge, a unique garden designed as a teaching resource for the students of Hadlow College, holds a National Collection of hellebores and celebrates this time of the year with special snowdrop and hellebore days in February.
Wide borders are planted with many varieties of snowdrops and hellebores, forming a carpet of interest under the polished bark of prunus and offset by fiery cornus stems. The low winter sunlight adds a gleaming sheen to the scene as it catches on the translucent hellebore petals or highlights the rich stems and bark.
The eight acres of garden are open all year with some permanent areas and others that change to showcase students’ work. A 100-metre long double border, backed with clipped yew hedges, forms a central axis from which grass avenues lead to a series of enclosed garden rooms. The students have created both large and small, contemporary and traditional gardens, including The Grasses Garden, The Oriental Garden, The Subtropical Garden and The Italian Garden. A mix of both familiar and unusual plants has been used and there is something of interest throughout the year. Along with the plantings there is a focus on hard landscaping, sculpture, seating and innovative ideas that will stimulate ideas for your own garden.
Find out more
Hadlow College, Hadlow TN11 0AL
Open all year round
Hellebore Tours Saturday 27, Sundays 21 and 28, Thursday 25 February, Saturday 5, Sunday 6 March
Hoath House, near Chiddingstone Hoath is a lovely country garden that has been home to the Streatfeild family since 1910 and at this time of the year the snowdrops are a highlight.
The garden is open through the National Gardens Scheme on selected days in February and March to view the carpets of snowdrops and winter structure, and at other times by arrangement.
Single Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrops) sweep across the lawns, along with clumps of some more unusual varieties, including Atkinsii, Viridapice and Sam Arnott, and the drive is edged with a collection of special double varieties.
Over the years Jane Streatfeild has increased the stock by each February moving plants ‘in the green’ (after flowering and before the leaves die down) and establishing drifts. A tip she suggests is to plant in aquatic baskets sunk into the ground with labels of the variety.
“I love it when the snowdrops are putting their snouts above the ground and you have the certainty of the progress and pleasure in the garden,” she says.
“I enjoy walking and seeing the drifts and thinking of my grandmother and mother who planted some of them. It’s like a scrapbook remembering the people who have recommended them; flowers have all those associations and are part of my pleasure.”
Jane adds: “It’s a bit of a fever adding to the collection. Some of my rare favourites include Diggory, Daphne’s Scissors and Wasp, which really does have petals that look like wasp wings.
“You can pay silly prices, so it’s good to look at the RHS and Hardy Plant shows and open gardens such as Spring Platt and Copton Ash, make friends with someone who knows about snowdrops, and if you are really keen join the Galanthus Group.
“You can also order from specialist nurseries, such as Marchants in Sussex and Avon Bulbs in Somerset.”
Find out more
Hoath House, Chiddingstone Hoath TN8 7DB
Monday 8, Tuesday 9 February (11am-4pm)
Daily Monday 7 to Thursday 10 March (11am-4pm)
Home-made teas and soups
Admission £5, children free
Snowdrops on sale from How Green Nursery
Hoath House is also available for weddings, functions and accommodation.
Get the look – tips for snowdrops (Galanthus)
• Flower January to March
• Very hardy
• The colder the weather, the longer the flowers last
• Plant bulbs September to October
• Always plant bulbs as soon as you buy them
• Moist, slightly heavy, limy soil, in light shade
• Plant 10cm deep and 10cm apart
• Lift and divide congested clumps, every few years, while leaves still green and replant immediately
• Specialist nurseries supply them ‘in the green’ with leaves and wrapped to preserve to moisture
• Let foliage die down naturally before mowing the area
• Single snowdrops fertile
• Named forms don’t have identical offspring so divide to keep pure
• Can be propagated by chipping – cutting bulb into as many as 32 pieces
• Top 5 varieties
- Galanthus S. Arnott - large scented flowers, vigorous
- G Atkinsii - early, tall
- G. Ophelia - double flowers
- G. Viridapice - tall, green
- G. Magnet - long, bowed flowers
• Mix of other plants that will grow over the top when dormant, eg geraniums, nepetas and peonies
• Look great in drifts through border, under deciduous trees and shrubs in a woodland setting and semi-naturalised with aconites
• Distinguished from snowflakes (Leucojum) by the three inner green-tipped petals and three outer white ones
Plant of the month
Mimosa, silver wattle
• Yellow puffs of flowers
• Feathery silver leaves
• Evergreen tree
• Sheltered warm spot
• Full sun, well-drained soil
• Will survive a couple of frosts up to -10C
• New growth more susceptible than old growth, so protect for the first two years
• Neutral to acid soil
• Fast growing
• Height 8-12m, spread 2.5-4m
• In frost prone areas grow in container and move them to frost-free spot in winter
• Can be grown in the conservatory but water sparingly in winter
• Plant in the spring
Jobs to be done
• February can be the bleakest month in the garden. Brush off heavy snow from trees and shrubs to prevent branches breaking
• Put cloches over tender plants. Add leaf or bark mulch around the bases of evergreens for extra protection
• You can plant new hedges, trees or shrubs, such as camellias, azaleas and conifers
• Provide fresh water for visiting wildlife. You may hear birdsong increase as spring slowly arrives and birds start delineating territory
• Prune roses towards end of month
• Lightly trim heathers once finished flowering
• Sow broad beans and early peas