Five stunning gardens in Essex are opening during February, each offering its own slant on the wonders of this quiet but important season

Great British Life: Snowdrops and petticoat daffodils at Ulting WickSnowdrops and petticoat daffodils at Ulting Wick (Image: NGS)

Ulting Wick

Creating a collection of rare snowdrop varieties became an obsession for garden owner Philippa Burrough during lockdown – currently 200 varieties have been planted and now she feels ready to share them. Drifts in the woodland areas are becoming greater due to diligent dividing; beds which can be seen from the house are filling with the delightful white flowers. These are joined by early flowering narcissus and increasingly by larger swathes of daffodils which cover the banks around the lake.

These open days will take the form of a group walk and talk with Philippa and offer a special opportunity to hear first-hand how the gardens are designed and managed.

Crouchmans Farm Road, Ulting, Maldon, CM9 6QX. Friday 16 Feb and Wednesday 27 March (11.30am to 2pm). Admission £15. Pre-booking essential, please visit for information and booking. Homemade soup and rolls will be offered as well as homemade cakes. Visits also by arrangement 12 Feb to 1 Oct for groups of 15 to 50.


Great British Life: Crocus at BrookfieldCrocus at Brookfield (Image: NGS)

Brookfield, Boreham

Another garden which has traditionally opened for the Scheme during the summer months but made its winter debut last year with a pop-up snowdrop opening is Brookfield in Boreham. Visitors who are used to seeing the three and a half acres of garden and meadow covered in summer perennials, roses and wild flowers will find a much quieter but no less impressive covering of snowdrops, aconites and crocus.

Bob and Linda Taylor have created this garden from the field it was when they arrived more than 50 years ago. Their display of snowdrops covers the east side of the woodland area to the bottom of the field.

Church Road, Boreham, CM3 3EB. Sunday 25 February, (11am to 4pm). Admission for adults £5, children free. Homemade tea and cake will be served in the conservatory with views across the garden.


Great British Life: Cyclamen at Dragons, Boyton CrossCyclamen at Dragons, Boyton Cross (Image: Alan Gamblin)

Dragons, Boyton Cross

The February opening at Dragons in Boyton Cross is always eagerly anticipated and sees visitors returning year after year. This can be attributed to the skill and flair with which the beds are prepared. The front garden is beautifully manicured, with hellebores politely creating space for snowdrops, each enhancing the other. Around to the rear garden the planting becomes slightly less formal and is a true celebration of all that this time of year has to offer. Expect to see fascinating leaves of heucheras, cyclamen and celandine, vibrant berries and striking bark on trees such as the Acer griseum.

Another draw to this garden opening is the sale of plants including some of the rarer varieties of snowdrops that can be found in the garden along with hellebores.

Boyton Cross, Chelmsford, CM1 4LS. Opening Wednesday 14 February (11am to 3pm). Admission for adults £5, children free. Refreshments available. Visits also by arrangement 7 February to 15 October for groups of 10 +.


Great British Life: Avenue of winter aconites at Grove LodgeAvenue of winter aconites at Grove Lodge (Image: Chris Shennan)

Grove Lodge, Saffron Walden

Garden owner, Chris Shennan, has been encouraging the spread of snowdrops and winter aconites over the last few years, sometimes by dividing but often leaving the job to nature. Self-seeded plants have happily increased the stock and naturally fill the available space.

Sweet smelling sarcococca and daphne are planted strategically along the path which takes you around the garden offering heavenly wafts of perfume so unexpected and especially welcome at this time of year. Ponds and berries ensure a constant stream of visiting birds. Chris offers a warm welcome to his garden and enjoys sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with his visitors.

3 Chater's Hill, Saffron Walden, CB10 2AB. Sunday 18 February and Sunday 25 February (2 to 5pm). Admission for adults £6, children free. Homemade teas served in the conservatory. Group visits also by arrangement from 2 January to 20 December. Groups of any size are welcome throughout the year.


Great British Life: Part of the Winter Walk at Horkesley HallPart of the Winter Walk at Horkesley Hall (Image: Caroline Cassell)

Horkesley Hall

The Winter Walk at Horkesley Hall is something of a tradition, allowing visitors to stroll around the eight acres of magical parkland at their leisure, taking in the developing snowdrop collection, views across the lake and important collection of mature trees revealing their bare winter structure.

The owner of the garden, Polly Eddis, clearly adores this time of year and takes delight in each of the different varieties of snowdrop, amazed at their delicacy, charming beauty and characterful names. Snowdrop specialist Chris Wiley of Sow Successful will be giving a talk on snowdrops before the garden opens and then selling plants from his well-stocked stall.

Vinesse Road, Little Horkesley, Colchester, CO6 4DB. Saturday 17 February (1.30 to 4.30pm). Admission for adults £6, children free.

Talk on snowdrops at 11.30am, tickets £5. Light refreshments of soups, home-made cakes, sausage rolls and hot drinks are served in St Peter and St Paul’s Church. Visits also by arrangement for groups of 10 to 20.

After a record breaking 2023, the National Garden Scheme was able to distribute £3.4 million to its beneficiaries which include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and Parkinson’s UK. In addition, funding is given to charities which support gardeners and to garden and health charities. More than £168,000 of the total came from gardens in Essex. Thanks to the generosity of those who open their gardens and those who visit, the snowdrop season makes a cracking start to fund raising for nursing and health charities in 2024.