I remember visiting England during the memorably snowy winter of ’79, when I was a young child. I showed my mother the small white flowers poking through the snow in our front garden. What were they? Why were they flowering in the snow? “They’re snowdrops,” she told me. Plants that bloom in snow – what a beautiful and unexpected delight, especially for a child growing up in hot, dry Australia.
Fast forward a few decades, and in our first winter at Neats Home Garden, coping with a tiny baby and a dying father, my spirits were lifted when I discovered masses of snowdrops in the Wild Garden. Many were hidden under geraniums, Viburnum, and ivy, but they still made a memorable display. I have slowly begun clearing parts of these areas of ivy and shrubby saplings so that I can plant masses of Galanthus, Cyclamen, Leujocum, and Narcissus.
To this end, I went to my first Snowdrop Sale at Myddelton House Gardens last Saturday. We arrived an hour early, and took our places behind visitors from Holland and Belgium, as well as enthusiasts from Kent and Essex, who’d been queuing since dawn. Head gardener and event organiser Andrew Turvey built momentum with a stagey countdown; the gates opened; the hoards sprang forward! I’d been warned that it would be a scrum. Although a few did jump the queue and push forwards, most people were in fact perfectly well behaved.
Some stands were so crowded it was impossible to gawk over peoples' shoulders, let along squeeze in to buy a bulb. Another - manned by no less an expert than Matt Bishop - was relatively free of customers. I made my first purchase, thanking Matt as I handed over £15 for “Yaffle.” Onwards, as I debated other purchases. Should I really pay £20 for “Little Dorrit”, or £40 for “Eucosson D'Or”? Had I gone mad?
Next up: visits to Welford Park, Colesbourne Park, and the Shaftsbury Show. If you are new to snowdrops, then here are a few places that I’d recommend visiting:
Colesbourne Park – an historic collection dating back to the late nineteenth century, improved under the direction of Sir Henry and Lady Elwes, and their previous head gardener John Grimshaw
Kingston Bagpuize House – local to me. An Oxfordshire classic.
Welford Park, near Newbury. A stunning display in a Beech wood.
The Cambo Estate in Scotland. National Collection Holders. Worth a weekend trip with a willing friend or partner.