Snowdrop Festival is a must for flower fans

Welford Park, the setting for the Great British Bake off, is famed for its snowdrop display. Picture: Julie Skelton.
Welford Park, the setting for the Great British Bake off, is famed for its snowdrop display. Picture: Julie Skelton.

A flowery sign of spring is beginning to pop up all over Britain.

After a rain-soaked winter, snowdrops are beginning to poke their heads above ground in anticipation of warmer and longer days.

George Plumptre, chief executive officer of the National Garden Scheme. Picture: Julie Skelton.

George Plumptre, chief executive officer of the National Garden Scheme. Picture: Julie Skelton.

The flower holds a special place in our hearts and it is celebrated annually in the National Garden Scheme’s (NGS) Snowdrop Festival.

Snowdrops will be on view at more than 100 NGS gardens throughout England and Wales during late January, February and March.

And thousands of people are expected to flock to a series of events to marvel at the popular white flower. Snowdrop enthusiasts even have their own name, ‘Galanthophiles’, which refers to the scientific name for the snowdrop.

George Plumptre, chief executive of the National Garden Scheme, said: “Over the last few years the National Garden Scheme’s Snowdrop Festival has attracted tens of thousands of visitors to gardens. But garden visiting at this time of year isn’t just for Galanthophiles who are looking to discover a rare variety of snowdrop in gardens they may never otherwise find.

A portrait-shaped picture of snowdrops by Leigh Clapp.

A portrait-shaped picture of snowdrops by Leigh Clapp.

“Snowdrops are the perfect antidote to the winter blues and spending the afternoon at one of our Snowdrop Festival gardens is the ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy some spectacular scenes at an otherwise gloomy time of year.”

Among the gardens that will be opening is Welford Park in Berkshire where they film the Great British Bake Off. The large gardens are renowned for having one of the finest natural snowdrop woodlands in the country.

The garden, which will showcase its display from late January until March 1, will hold a special day for the NGS on Wednesday, February 5 from 11am to 4pm.

Graham O’Connell, an NGS volunteer in Berkshire, said: “Nature provides every season with a beauty of its own and out of the bleakness of winter shines one little gem in particular: the snowdrop.

Val Corbett's picture of snowdrops in the snow.

Val Corbett's picture of snowdrops in the snow.

“Originating in Europe, the first recorded cultivation of snowdrops in England is in the 16th Century, though many believe they were first brought over much earlier by Norman monks.

“They were grown in churchyards for Candlemas Day, February 2, and in Abbeys as a medical plant for the treatment of ‘Mal au Tete’, problems of the head. Interestingly a chemical found in snowdrops, Galanthamine, is now used to treat Alzheimer’s.”

Another highlight of this year’s festival is a guided snowdrop walk and talk at Raveningham Hall in Norwich. The February 18 event will be led by the owner, Sir Nicholas Bacon, who is also the president of the RHS (The Royal Horticultural Society).

Other events include the unique chalk gardens at Highdown Gardens in Worthing, West Sussex on February 2. And Bridge Farm House in Selby, Yorkshire will be shining a spotlight on more than 150 named snowdrops on February 16.

Front cover of the Garden Visitor's Handbook 2020, detailing the National Garden Scheme's open gardens.

Front cover of the Garden Visitor's Handbook 2020, detailing the National Garden Scheme's open gardens.

Enthusiast Mr O’Connell added: “You will no doubt come back inspired to grow some snowdrops of your own, so you will be pleased to hear that for the most part they are pretty easy little plants.

“You will need a shady, moist spot though they will tolerate some dryness in the summer which is their dormant period. A small area will do as long as you have a good handful of bulbs.

“With over 1,000 varieties to choose from it helps to narrow that choice down. For starting out I’d recommend Galanthus Nivalis, the common snowdrop, or Galanthus Plicatus which is also very easy to grow and free-flowering. For real impact choose Galanthus Elwesii with its larger flower and honey-scented blooms. Be warned though, if you get hooked and become a Galanthophile then it could prove to become an expensive hobby as some rarer varieties can go for over £1,000 a bulb!”

Snowdrop Festival fact file:

The main festival runs between February 1 and 28, however a few gardens are open for snowdrops in late January and early March too.

115 gardens are opening for the National Garden Scheme snowdrop festival in 2020.

Many of the gardens feature gallanthus, hellbores and other early spring flowers.

40 of the snowdrop gardens also open by arrangement for groups.

A few of the open gardens are owned by snowdrop experts including: Higher Cherubeer, Devon which has 400 snowdrop varieties; Knowle Hill Farm, Kent; and Pembury House, East Sussex.

The now annual flower festival was originally launched in 2016 to mark the Year of the English Garden. The National Garden Scheme has been championing the Snowdrop Festival ever since.

A list of all snowdrop gardens is available via www.ngs.org.uk/snowdrops.

Reader Offer: National Garden Scheme Visitor’s Handbook 2020

We’re offering all our readers the opportunity to save £3 on the RRP of the 2020 Garden Visitor’s Handbook (normal price £13.99). This yellow book is the essential county by county guide to more than 3,700 fabulous gardens across England and Wales, many of which are not normally open to the public. Your visits not only provide an inspirational glimpse of some of the best gardens but also help support an array of good causes. The scheme has helped raised a total of £58 million for nursing and health charities since its inception in 1927.

You can order your NGS handbook for £10.99 (including postage and packing to UK addresses) via www.ngs.org.uk/shop using the code JPI2020.