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Rococo opens a new era

Painswick Rococo Garden opens its gates this week for the 2016 season with a bigger display and a new garden director.

Dominic Hamilton takes over from Paul Moir, who stepped down last week after 27 years running the historic garden.

“They are big shoes to fill,” admits Dominic. “My ambition is to continue the good work Paul and the team have done because it works.”

Dominic Hamilton
Dominic Hamilton looking forward to the challenge

That task includes the slow process of restoring the eye-catching follies and fundraising for a new entrance building when the lease on the current one comes to an end in 2022. He is also keen to get local people more involved in the garden by tapping into the skills available in Painswick.

“It’s just a question of finding the right person and inspiring them to do things and this place has the capacity to do that.”

Dominic comes from another iconic Gloucestershire garden, Snowshill Manor, and says it’s the quirky nature of the Rococo that attracted him.

“It’s part of the appeal for me. It’s got to be interesting for me to want to do it. There’s nowhere quite like this place, which is why I like it.”

Although he was buildings manager at Snowshill, gardening is something he enjoys.

“I had an allotment until I had children,” he says. “I do love being outside gardening.”

While the Rococo is best known for its follies, such as the Exedra and Red House, when it comes to plants it’s snowdrops that steal the show.

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Huge drifts of snowdrops are a winter highlight in February

The 10-acre garden is home to one of the biggest displays in the county with thousands of blooms turning the Rococo white during February. Most are the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, in both its single and double form, although there are some named varieties including G. Atkinsii, ‘Magnet’ and ‘James Backhouse’.

When the garden first started opening for the snowdrop season back in the 1980s, the display lasted for about a fortnight. Today it spans around six weeks, depending on the weather.

“It’s not because we are necessarily using different varieties,” explains head gardener Steve Quinton, “We just think about where we plant them in the garden. Changing the aspect and different soil alters the flowering time.”

This autumn, Steve and his team have been ensuring the display lasts long after the snowdrops fade with the continuation of a five-year plan to plant 10,000 bulbs in the nature walk. Funded by the Friends of the garden, they include crocus and narcissi. The bluebell show has also been improved with 6,000 more planted.

“We’ve put them in an area that has not been open to the public before. It’s at the top of the garden and has a nice view through of the Exedra and Kitchen Garden,” says Steve.

Hundreds of hellebores have also been added to sit alongside the already good show of cyclamen.

“We’re trying to make it a spring garden. It should look pretty.”

Painswick Rococo Garden opens at 11am on Sunday January 10. For admission prices and information on the expected flowering time of the snowdrop display, visit www.rococogarden.co.uk

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