The National Garden Scheme’s third Snowdrop Festival takes place this month. I’ve been out to see The Garden House, one of the Cotswolds’ new participants.
It’s not difficult to have a garden that looks good in February but it does take planning. At the height of summer, even an average plot can impress but in cold winter light something a little more special is needed.
That The Garden House managed to sparkle even on the wet day I visited is hardly surprising. Formerly the retirement home of Sibylle Kreutzberger and the late Pamela Schwerdt, joint head gardeners at Sissinghurst for 31 years, it has obviously been planted with a keen horticultural eye.
Coloured stems, winter flowers and numerous named snowdrops ensure there is plenty of colour, while careful design makes the most of the third-of-an acre plot; the path doesn’t follow the most obvious route to the door and the long vista from the house is narrower at one end to create an impression of greater length.
The Garden House was bought just over a year ago by Nick and Jacky Mahony who spent the first 12 months just watching the garden.
“We would go around every evening and register the new plants that had come up, many of which I had never seen before and couldn’t identify,” says Nick, who works as a self-employed gardener.
Luckily, Sibylle supplied a planting list that identified, among others, the 30 varieties of snowdrop in the garden, which include Galanthus caucasicus, ‘Remember Remember’, and ‘Mighty Atom’.
These are set against the red stems of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ and the pale trunk of Betula ermanii ‘Grayswood Hill’, or teamed with dark purple, white and pink hellebores.
Many of the snowdrop clumps are against the outer stone walls at the back of borders and Nick is planning to have cut flowers in vases so that visitors will be able to see them close up.
More colour comes from cyclamen that add spots of pink, white and cerise. There are dainty Iris reticulata, including the pale blue ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ and dark purple ‘George’, early narcissi and the first scillas, while near the house, Ribes laurifolium ‘Mrs Amy Doncaster’ is covered in pale green flowers.
Pamela and Sibylle were RHS trials judges and Nick describes The Garden House as a “collector’s garden”, informed by their specialist knowledge.
“Apart from what I’ve planted, every plant in the garden is the best of its kind.”
Taking on a garden created by noted horticulturalists carries with it a sense of responsibility.
“It’s daunting because of their reputation and because you don’t want to ruin 28 years of what they’ve achieved,” says Nick. “It’s also exciting, especially in that first year.”
• The Garden House, Condicote, is open for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday February 18, 2018 from 2-5pm. Admission is £3, children’s admission is free. There will be homemade teas in Condicote Village Hall.
• For details of more new gardens in the Gloucestershire NGS, see here.
• Details about the NGS Snowdrop Festival are on the website.