Enjoy spring buds at National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival

Snowdrops with Walkern Hall in the background

This winter woodland garden becomes a carpet of white - Credit: Richard Aggus

After the long, cold winter months, the sight of snowdrops blooming in February means that spring is not far away. Philippa Pearson discovers the NGS Snowdrop Festival is the perfect opportunity to enjoy these flowers around Hertfordshire.


There is something quite magical about snowdrops. They appear, whatever the weather, quite simply out of nowhere at a time of the year when our gardens are in a lean time in the calendar, giving all of us a delightful lift with their fascinating flowers.

Snowdrops have an addictive quality and a couple of hours on a sunny winter’s day are all they need to work their charm on you. The status of these fascinating bulbs has reached manic proportions in recent years, such is the interest in them amongst collectors, or galanthophiles as they are known, and some plants can command high prices at specialist auctions.

Take time to enjoy gardens open in Hertfordshire in February as part of the National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival, with many also featuring other early spring flowers.

The Festival was originally launched in 2016 to mark the Year of the English Garden, and the National Garden Scheme has been championing the Snowdrop Festival ever since, creating a wonderful taster for the garden visiting year to come. In 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hertfordshire held a well-received virtual Snowdrop Festival across its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

‘Over the last few years, the National Garden Scheme’s Snowdrop Festival has attracted tens of thousands of visitors to gardens,'  says National Garden Scheme CEO George Plumptre.

'Following the restrictions of 2020 and 2021 there has never been a greater need to start the new year with the beautiful freshness of the first blooms of spring.

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'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 and to boost your sense of wellbeing at an otherwise gloomy time of year.’

Snowdrops

See over 150 varieties of snowdrops including this one called Mother Goose in Bengeo - Credit: Daisy Roots

SNOWDROP GARDENS TO VISIT IN HERTFORDSHIRE

Gosselin Road, Bengeo, Hertford

This garden is owned by garden designer and owner of Daisy Roots nursery, who regularly exhibit at RHS shows including Chelsea (Gold Medal winners at RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court in 2017/18). Over 150 varieties of named snowdrops with accompanying cyclamen, iris and other winter interest to set them off. 

Details: Open Wednesday 2, Friday 4 and Wednesday 9 February, 1-3.30pm. Admission £5, children free.

Address: 8 Gosselin Road, Bengeo, Hertford SG14 3LG


Walkern Hall, Walkern, Stevenage

Set in eight acres, Walkern Hall is essentially a winter woodland garden with carpets of snowdrops and aconites in January and February. This medieval hunting park has established trees such as the tulip trees and a magnificent London plane tree which dominates the garden. Following on in March and April is a stunning display of daffodils and other spring bulbs. 

Details: Open Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 February, 12-4.00pm. Homemade teas, admission £5, children free.

Address: Walkern Hall, Walkern, Stevenage SG2 7JA

Website: walkernhall.co.uk

Snowdrops at Benington Lordship

See blankets of snowdrops at Benington Lordship - Credit: Kerrie Lloyd-Dawson


 

Benington, Stevenage 

This family garden of seven acres was made by the present owner's great grandmother at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was open for the National Gardens Scheme in 1927 and this has become an annual tradition. The garden is cleverly designed on the site of a Norman castle and across the side of a steep hill merging into the surrounding parkland and lakes. The chief features are the earthworks and ruined keep of the castle, a magnificent neo-Norman folly built by James Pulham in the 1830s and the Queen Anne manor house with an Edwardian addition and a large veranda. The garden is particularly noted for the display of snowdrops in February and the double herbaceous borders in summer. Recent restoration has taken place in the rose garden and walled garden with a more modern approach and low maintenance planting which is in tune with nature. A wildlife friendly policy is followed so there are plenty of areas of wild flowers and long grass and a healthy bird population flourishes. The garden is open for snowdrops at other times, see their website. 

Details: Open Tuesday 8 February, 11.00am-4.00pm with light refreshments. Admission £5, children free.

Address: Benington Lordship,Benington, Stevenage SG2 7BS

Website: beningtonlordship.co.uk

Snowdrops at Elia Cottage, Hertfordshire

Elia Cottage is planning a nature garden/wildlife area - Credit: Barbara Goult




Widford, Ware

A third of an acre garden reflecting the seasons. Early spring combines snowdrops, hellebores and crocus tommasinianus. Uneven garden with pond, cascade water features, stream with Monet-style bridge. Plenty of seats and two summerhouses. New for 2022 is a half-acre additional garden area with a large natural pond, plus on-going future project for nature garden/wildlife area. 


Details: Open Friday 18 and Sunday 20 February, 12.30-4.30pm. Light refreshments, admission £5, children free.

Address: 1 Elia Cottage, Nether Street, Widford, Ware SG12 8TH

Further information on all gardens open for the NGS Snowdrop Festival is available from their website ngs.org.uk

How to grow snowdrops

Snowdrop bulbs are very prone to drying out, so if sourcing bulbs from a nursery or garden centre is the only option, buy them as soon as they are available and plant immediately.

The best option is to buy Snowdrops ‘in the green’, that is just after flowering when the leaves are still green. You’ll find mail order nurseries offering these in bundles or pots from late January through to mid-March.

If you have snowdrops already in your garden, they will increase very easily if you lift and divide clumps when the foliage is just dying back in late spring. Plant the new clumps to same depth as before, and water well. 

Plant snowdrops in a partly-shaded position in a moist, but well-drained soil ideally with leaf mould or garden compost added in. It is important that the soil does not dry out in summer.

You can also grow plants from seed. Collect and sow seed as soon as the pods ripen. Germination should take place in spring when the temperatures start to rise after winter.