Cotswold Snowdrop Gardens 2017

Snowdrop gardens are universally popular when it comes to garden visiting. From the passionate collectors – galanthophiles – to people who don’t garden themselves, everyone welcomes the chance to shake off the winter blues and get outside.

In the Cotswolds, there are several notable snowdrop gardens and many more with smaller displays.

Some of these are opening as part of the National Gardens Scheme Snowdrop Festival. More than 80 of the scheme’s members across the country will open during February to show off their snowdrop collections or spring displays of snowdrops, hellebores and other early flowers.

snowdrop gardens
Snowdrops are a welcome sign of spring approaching

Launched last year as an addition to the regular charity openings, the festival proved very popular.

“During our first Snowdrop Festival in 2016 many of our garden owners were overwhelmed by the number of visitors that attended their openings,” says NGS chief executive George Plumptre.

So, whether you’re an enthusiast wanting to see unusual varieties or someone who loves the spectacle of a mass planting, there are many snowdrop gardens you can visit. Here’s what happening in the Cotswolds this year.

With all the gardens, it is advisable to check they are still open in the event of severe weather.

Colesbourne Park

One of the best-known specialist displays is at Colesbourne Park, which has around 300 different varieties, one of the largest collections in the country.

snowdrop gardens
Colesbourne Park has a large collection of snowdrops

Once the home of Victorian plant hunter Henry John Elwes, who introduced Galanthus elwesii, it has unusual varieties around the house and mass plantings through woodland and beside the unusual blue lake.

The garden, between Cheltenham and Cirencester, is open every Saturday and Sunday from Saturday February 4 until Sunday March 5. Gates open at 1pm with the last entry at 4.30pm. Admission is £8, children under 16 enter free.

Rodmarton Manor

Rodmarton Manor is another of the snowdrop gardens that appeals to collectors, with around 150 different varieties, including many that are rare.

Although the display begins in October, it is at its peak during January and February.

snowdrop gardens
Rodmarton Manor has many named varieties

The garden, between Cirencester and Tetbury, also has many crocus, hellebores, cyclamen and aconites.

It is open on February 5, 12, 16, and 19 from 1.30pm with group bookings possible on other days.

Cotswold Farm Gardens

The snowdrop collection at this Arts and Crafts garden at Duntisbourne Abbots was started in the 1930s and has been developed since then by generations of the Birchall family.

snowdrop gardens
Snowdrops are found all over Cotswold Farm

Today, it numbers 62 different varieties, including ‘Cotswold Farm’. There are labelled clumps in the main flower borders and areas of naturalised snowdrops through woodland.

There is a ‘Winter Step Garden’ with a focus on scent and texture and the garden also has many hellebores, aconites, cyclamen and crocus.

It is open on Saturday and Sunday February 11 and 12 from 11-3pm in aid of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Entry is £5.

Cotswold Farm Gardens are also open on Mondays February 13, 20 and 27, from 11-3pm with entrance £5.

Cerney House Gardens

Cerney House is another private garden with a mix of named varieties of snowdrops and a naturalised display of the common snowdrop.

snowdrop gardens
Cerney House has an informal snowdrop display around the main garden

Special snowdrops are found around the house with more informal plantings in woodland around the central walled garden.

Aconites, cyclamen and borders full of hellebores add to the show in this garden at North Cerney between Cheltenham and Cirencester.

Cerney House Gardens are open daily from 10-5pm until the end of November. Admission is £5 for adults and £1 for children.

Painswick Rococo Garden

When it comes to a mass display, Painswick Rococo is one of the best snowdrop gardens.

Thousands of mainly Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop, put on a spectacular display through woodland with more naturalised in grass and teamed with other spring flowers in the borders.

snowdrop gardens
Winter sun on the Eagle House at Painswick Rococo Garden

There are some named varieties but it is sheer scale that makes this garden stand out.

Winter is also a great time to see the appreciate the structure of this idiosyncratic valley garden with its striking folly buildings.

Painswick Rococo Garden is open daily until October 31 from 10.30-5pm with a snowdrop talk every day at noon during February. Admission is £7.20 adults, children five to 16 £3.30 and the website includes updates on the snowdrops.

Batsford Arboretum

Batsford may be best known for its trees with beautiful spring blossom and stunning autumn colour but it also has many drifts of snowdrops.

snowdrop gardens
Hellebores are another late winter highlight at Batsford Arboretum

Set alongside the privately owned Batsford Park, once the home of the Mitford sisters, the arboretum has a garden-like atmosphere with trees grouped for effect rather than by genus.

Snowdrops, hellebores, cyclamen and aconites make it a great place to visit in the winter with long views over the Cotswold countryside.

Batsford, near Moreton-in-Marsh, is open daily from 9-5pm and 10-5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Admission is £7.95 adults, children aged four to 15 £3.50 (prices include voluntary 10% donation to the arboretum’s conservation work).

Newark Park

Newark Park is one of the snowdrop gardens where the appeal is the size of the display rather than the rarity of the flowers.

snowdrop gardens
Snowdrops are naturalised around the old hunting lodge at Newark Park

The snowdrops are naturalised around the old hunting lodge and through woodland on the estate. There are also long-reaching views thanks to the sloping site.

The National Trust property at Ozleworth is opening for a special snowdrop weekend on February 4 and 5 from 11am-4pm. Admission is £9 adults and £4.50 for children.

The NGS Snowdrop Festival

Four Gloucestershire gardens are opening for the National Gardens Scheme’s Snowdrop Festival.

Home Farm, Huntley, has lovely views and spring flowers along a one-mile walk through woodland and fields. It is open for the Snowdrop Festival on Sunday February 12 from 11-3pm. Admission is £3, free for children.

Lindors Country House, near Lydney, covers nine acres with woodland, streams and formal gardens. It is open for the festival on Saturday and Sunday February 25 and 26. Admission is £3.50, children enter free.

snowdrop gardens
The NGS is holding its second Snowdrop Festival

The Old Rectory at Avening has naturalised snowdrops, woodland and an Italianate terrace. It’s snowdrop opening is on Sunday February 19 from 11.30-4pm. Admission is £3.50, children’s entry free.

Trench Hill at Sheepscombe is well known for its spring display of snowdrops, aconites, hellebores and crocus. It has a woodland walk and good views over the Cotswold countryside. It’s open for the festival on Sundays February 12 and 19 from 11-5pm. Admission is 4, children enter free.

For more details on the Snowdrop Festival and for the gardens’ other opening dates, visit the NGS website.

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Saving the Bramley apple

Batsford Arboretum, long known for its tree preservation role, is helping to safeguard a piece of British culinary history – the Bramley apple.

The arboretum near Moreton-in-Marsh has just been given a Bramley tree, propagated from the original, which is dying from an incurable fungal infection.

The Bramley was sown in Southwell Nottinghamshire in 1809 and was growing in the garden of Matthew Bramley when he agreed to sell cuttings from it to nurseryman Henry Merryweather in 1856 with the apples sold under the Bramley name.

bramley apple
Matthew Hall with the Bramley apple tree

Scientists from Nottingham University, who have been studying the tree for some years, have used grafts to create clones to preserve the iconic cooking apple for future generations.

Batsford has been given one of these trees thanks to Nick Dunn, a trustee of the arboretum and owner of tree firm Frank P. Matthews, based in Tenbury Wells. Mr Dunn had a piece of graft wood and when he realised the original tree was under threat, he donated one of the clones he had raised.

Matthew Hall, head gardener at Batsford, which is run by the Batsford Trust charity, was delighted with the latest addition to the collection.

“It’s really important that such an iconic tree – such as the Bramley original – is planted by arboretums and gardens like us, as well as by the general public, to ensure the tree’s future is secured for many years to come,” he said.

He will be choosing a suitable location in the 60-acre arboretum and planting the Bramley apple in the autumn.

Protecting endangered trees

It’s not the first time that Batsford, which was first established in the late 1800s by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, has been involved in tree preservation.

It is part of the International Conifer Conservation Project, run by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, which safeguards trees that under threat in their native countries.

Several endangered species, including monkey puzzles from Chile and the golden Vietnamese cyprus, are grown at the arboretum to safeguard them.

For more information about Batsford Arboretum, visit www.batsarb.co.uk

Want to know more about Batsford? Read my feature on the arboretum here

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Countryfile visits Batsford

Conservation work at Batsford Arboretum will be featured on BBC Countryfile this weekend.

Presenter Matt Baker visited the Cotswold arboretum near Moreton-in-Marsh to find out how a form of X-ray, known at Tomographing, can be used to detect decay in trees and decide whether they need to be felled.

Mat Baker
Matt Baker helps to X-ray the tree

Head Gardener Matthew Hall and a team from Oxford Brookes University tested an ailing 100-year-old purple beech. The tree was found to be beyond salvage and was cut down.

Matt Baker then helped plant a Serbian Spruce, which is under threat, as part of Batsford’s contribution to the International Conifer Conservation Project, based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Batsford is one of a number of sites throughout the UK that hosts rare and endangered species in a bid to safeguard them for the future. The first trees in the scheme to be planted at the arboretum were Chilean conifers and there have also been species from China, Japan and Vietnam.

Batsford will feature on Countryfile on Sunday January 17 at 6.30pm on BBC1.

Please, Santa, can I have . . .

Unlike some of my nearest and dearest, gardening friends and family are easy when it comes to buying presents. Newcomers to the joys of growing can be given starter kits of forks, trowels and fool-proof seeds while there are unusual plants and top quality tools for seasoned campaigners. And everyone loves a book.

But what of the professionals for whom gardening is not a hobby but a way of life? I’ve been talking to the head gardeners at some of the Cotswolds’ best known plots and asking them to share their letters to Santa.

At Barnsley House, home of the late Rosemary Verey, head gardener Richard Gatenby is hoping for new tools, but not just any old fork and spade. He has his eye on some traditionally made items from Holland.

“Dutch tools do it for me,” he explains. “I’d love the DeWit planting spade. It has a beautiful curve to the shaft and not too big a blade. But I’d need boot protectors!”

Richard Gatenby
Richard Gatenby at Barnsley House

Richard, who worked with Mrs Verey on the world famous garden, is also hoping for a Great Dixter Tickling Fork. Designed by another horticultural giant, the late Christopher Lloyd, and made by Sneeboer, it is ideal for working the soil in tightly planted beds.

“I like the sound of it and again it just looks perfect.”

At Batsford Arboretum, head gardener Matthew Hall is in charge of 56 acres of woodland and garden that include the National Collection of Japanese flowering cherries. The wide-ranging arboretum has around 1,300 different trees, shrubs and bamboo, and more than 2,850 labelled specimens.

Matthew Hall
Matthew Hall wants help keeping track of the trees

Unsurprisingly, top of his Christmas list is something to make keeping a track of everything a little easier.

“If someone was to hand me a GPS system to map the arboretum and catalogue the plant collection, I would be very happy!” he says.

Sezincote
The Indian Garden at Sezincote

It’s not trees but vegetables that are on Greg Power’s mind this Christmas with a wish list that encompasses something that’s practical and beautiful.

Greg Power
Greg Power

Greg, who took over as head gardener at Sezincote earlier this year is hoping to see some forcing pots under the tree.

“I’d like some that are a modern design and some old 19th century ones,” he says. “I want them for my sea kale.”

One of the Cotswolds’ newest head gardeners is Vicky Cody, who took over as Gardener in Charge at Snowshill Manor in April. She’s hoping for an old-fashioned scythe to use in Snowshill’s orchard, a quieter alternative to a flail mower and strimmer.

Snowshill Manor
Snowshill Manor

“I also think it’s good to keep old techniques and practices alive,” says Vicky, “and it’s much more in the spirit of Snowshill and would be kinder to the environment to boot.

“If Poldark happened to come along with the scythe – even better!” she adds.

Vicky Cody
Vicky and Cookie, who is looking for a coat

And after a wet autumn, she has also looking for a fleecy, lined, waterproof jacket for her spaniel, Cookie.

Meanwhile, Vicky’s former boss Glyn Jones at Hidcote Manor Garden is after beauty and creature comforts.

Top of his list are some mohair socks, such as those sold by former TV presenter Selina Scott.

Glyn Jones
Glyn is hoping for a ready to flower wisteria

“I already have one pair and they are so toasty,” explains Glyn, who is Garden and Countryside Manager at Hidcote. “Having spent many years with cold feet these are simply fantastic.”

Plants are also welcome, particularly a dark blue wisteria – “Grafted as I don’t want to wait ten-plus years to see its first flower” – and a pink clematis, such as C. x vedrariensis ‘Hidcote’, to climb through it.

“It’s a classic pink and blue combination and would screen a fence in my back garden at home.

“So, something to warm the heart and something to warm the toes!” adds Glyn.

At Colesbourne Park, home of Sir Henry and Lady Elwes, head gardener Chris Horsfall has his eye on a set of grading riddles for sorting seed.

Chris Horsfall
Chris Horsfall selling snowdrops at Colesbourne Park

“It’s loads of fun and pretty important when planting a garden,” he explains, “but seeds vary so much that one riddle simply won’t do.”

A new Silky Fox pruning saw is another request: “They’re one of the best saws, so convenient and sharp. They are as necessary as your secateurs when you’re out and about in the garden.”

Finally, he wants something to combat the cold in this garden famous for its snowdrops: “Above all, I would love a wood-burning stove for the potting shed. It’s a long winter and autumn, and spring can be challenging too. A wood-burner turns a damp shed into salvation. Yes please, Santa!”