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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Gardens open by arrangement

Beautiful borders, unusual plants, design inspiration or maybe just the lure of cake, whatever the reason, the Gloucestershire National Gardens Scheme is thriving with hundreds of people visiting plots across the county every week. Yet there’s one group that’s often overlooked: gardens open by arrangement rather than on a set date.

It may, agrees county organiser Norman Jeffery, be a very British quirk, a fear of being a nuisance, of putting someone out, but visitors are often reluctant to approach these garden owners to organise a trip.

“It’s a shame because they are missing out on some really good gardens,” he says.

While these plots are not completely overlooked, they don’t generally fare as well as their set date counterparts.

gardens by arrangement
Ampney Brook House has seen extensive remodelling

Some gardens open by arrangement because a lack of parking means they could not cope with an influx of several hundred people – a problem that is common in some of the Cotswold’s tiny villages.

Others, explains Norman, like to have some idea of how many people are going to turn up; NGS open days can notoriously be a case of ‘feast or famine’ and numbers are hugely influenced by the weather.

“Being open by arrangement gives them some control over the numbers which makes the organisation of the day easier.”

gardens open by arrangement
Trench Hill has well-planted mixed borders and stunning views

Norman adds that it’s a system that also works in the visitors’ favour as they get a “more exclusive experience”, often with a guided tour of the garden by the owner.

“Garden owners enjoy the fact that they can give the personal touch a bit more.”

There may also be the chance for refreshments other than the traditional tea and cake with some gardens offering the opportunity for evening visits with wine.

Other Gloucestershire National Gardens Scheme members have both set dates and open by arrangement visits – a good way of still getting to see a plot if you missed the NGS day or the weather was bad.

gardens open by arrangement
The Old Rectory is the home of designer and writer Mary Keen

The numbers needed for a private visit vary from garden to garden with some setting an upper limit, others a minimum number required and many being open to any size of group.

Often these arrangements are used by gardening clubs or other societies but they are also an ideal way for a group of friends to have a day out.

“You get to see the gardens with friends and in a more exclusive setting,” says Norman.

It’s also a good way of keeping the garden visiting season going as the number of set days tails off during August and September.

Gardens with veg, flowers and views

gardens open by arrangement
Cotswold Farm is an Arts and Crafts terraced garden

In Gloucestershire there are several gardens open by arrangement only and lots more that allow private visits on top of their NGS days. Here are some that are open by arrangement from now until the autumn.

Ampney Brook House at Ampney Crucis is nearing the end of a five-year project to create a varied garden with herbaceous borders, woodland and vegetables.

Late summer colour is one of the strengths of The Meeting House at Flaxley. The two-acre plot also has a reed bed sewage system and an orchard with wild flowers.

Daglingworth House, Daglingworth, (pictured at top of page) is a garden that skilfully combines well-stocked borders, lovely views and humorous touches.

gardens open by arrangement
Brockworth Court has a pond with a thatched Fiji house and Monet-style bridge

Pasture Farm, Upper Oddington, has been developed over the past 30 years. It includes topiary, mixed borders and ducks.

Greenfields and Barn House, both at Brockweir Common, offer the possibility of arranging to see both gardens on the same day. Greenfields is a recently developed garden of different ‘rooms’ while Barn House has a large collection of grasses.

The unusual backdrop of a ruined castle makes Beverston Castle an atmospheric and romantic place to visit. It also has a large, walled kitchen garden and glasshouses.

At Hodges Barn, near Tetbury, the house includes a converted C15 dovecote while the garden is wide-ranging with mixed borders, water and woodland areas.

Designer and writer Mary Keen offers visits and a short talk to groups at her garden at The Old Rectory, Duntisbourne Rous. Dahlias are a late season feature in this garden that’s planted for year-round interest.

Another writer with an open garden is Victoria Summerley at Awkward Hill Cottage in Bibury. Described as a ‘work in progress’, her garden is being redesigned to encourage wildlife and includes both formal and informal planting.

Upton Wold, near Moreton-in-Marsh has wonderful views, wide-ranging planting and some unusual trees, including the National Collection of walnuts.

gardens open by arrangement
Hodges Barn is just as lovely later in the year as in spring here

Views are also a feature of Trench Hill at Sheepscombe whose three acres includes woodland, ponds, vegetables and mixed borders.

The Arts and Crafts garden at Cotswold Farm, Duntisbourne Abbots, has a Jewson-designed terrace, bog garden and allotments in a walled garden.

Brockworth Court blends many different styles from cottage to formal in a garden that includes a natural fish pond, kitchen garden and historic tithe barn.

Finally, there’s the chance to visit the well-known Barnsley House, former home of designer Rosemary Verey and now a hotel. Groups with a minimum of 10 people can see the famous potager, knot garden and mixed borders.

For details of dates, admission prices and numbers required at gardens open by arrangment, visit the NGS

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Snowdrops add sparkle to Cotswold Farm

Snowdrops’ obliging nature makes them ideal for most gardens. Happy to naturalise through grass or under trees, they can also be tucked under shrubs or hedges to add sparkle to the winter scene. At Cotswold Farm this versatility has been exploited to the full and come February every nook and cranny is tinged white.

The collection was begun in the 1930s when the house was enlarged in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir John and Lady Birchall. The sloping site was divided into ‘garden rooms’ with a terrace designed by Norman Jewson and long vistas out into the Cotswold countryside; the garden is 700ft above sea level and the ‘borrowed views’ are an important element.

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'
Galanthus ‘Hill Poe’

Snowdrops permeate every corner of the garden, now owned by Iona Birchall. The beech wood is gradually being colonised by drifts of the scented ‘S. Arnott’ and the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis; varieties including ‘Ransom’s Dwarf’ and ‘Anglesey Abbey’ are conveniently placed at eye-level in the rock border; even the Bog Garden has clumps of white.

Most of the ‘special’ snowdrops are found in the shrub borders and the range is wide from the rounded blooms of ‘Hill Poe’ and the double ‘Hippolyta’ to the dark green leaved ‘Woronowii’ and the yellow ‘Wendy’s Gold’.

Cotswold Farm
Galanthus ‘Hippolyta’

Some have connections to the garden: ‘Mary Biddolph’ is named for the woman behind another great Gloucestershire garden, Rodmarton Manor, who was originally a Birchall.

“She is flourishing here and doing very well indeed,” says Iona of the snowdrop that she refers to as ‘Aunt Mary’.

Galanthus 'Mary Biddulph'
Galanthus ‘Mary Biddulph’ is flourishing

Then there’s ‘Ruth Birchall’, called after one of the many women who have shaped the Cotswold Farm garden, ‘Daglingworth’, a tall, statuesque snowdrop, which was discovered in that Cotswold village by Ruth, and ‘Cotswold Farm’ itself.

Another tall variety, ‘Benhall Beauty’, is slowly spreading through the island beds on the terrace, part of a deliberate plan to enhance what is predominantly a summer display that includes lavender, penstemon and roses.

It’s not just snowdrops that are brightening the garden. On the cold winter day I visited, Cornus mas was in full flower, a yellow cloud above leafless shrubs, burnished red bark on a Prunus tibetica was set against the white and gold of snowdrops and aconites, and the Step Garden was glowing with red and orange-stemmed dogwoods.

Cornus mas
Cornus mas adds colour to the shrub borders

There are hellebores throughout: simple singles, frilly doubles, cool cream, pale pink and sultry purple. The paper-like blooms of Iris unguicularis nestle in beds of strappy foliage and the scent of daphne, sarcococca and winter honeysuckle are carried on the cool air.

hellebore
Hellebores are a big part of the display

The stripped back season also exposes the fine bones of this garden from hard landscaping, including old Cotswold stone walls and a gazebo in the Step Garden, to the living structures of clipped box and gnarled trees.

Cotswold Farm
Norman Jewson designed the main terrace

February belongs to the snowdrops though and their ability to lift the spirits in the depths of winter is eagerly awaited.

“They’ve been twinkling in the dark evenings and dark mornings,” says Iona. “It’s always special.”

Cotswold Farm at Duntisbourne Abbots, Cirencester, is open from 11am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday February 6 and 7 in aid of Cobalt. It is also open on Mondays February 8, 15, 22 and 29. Admission is from 11-3pm and costs £5, children under 16 enter free.

Details: http://www.cotswoldfarmgardens.org.uk/