The recent cold snap has come as a shock to the West Country, which had been getting used to milder and earlier springs. Now, National Trust gardeners are racing against time to be ready for their spring openings. The Trust’s annual flower count in the area is 60% down on last year after the coldest winter for 11 years.

Cornish gardens, with their tender southern hemisphere Mediterranean species, have been hit particularly hard by severe frost. At Glendurgan, near Falmouth, gardeners report that up to a third of its tender plants have been lost or damaged.

In Devon, where there were heavy snowfalls, Knightshayes, near Tiverton, which is well known for its topiary and rare specimen trees, has had 60% of the garden  damaged due to weight of snow, and a magnolia tree has been split in half.

However, the Trust’s gardens advisor for the area, Ian Wright, commented: ‘It’s not all doom and gloom. Our gardens are already beginning to recover – nature recovers very quickly – and the good news is that many of the traditional spring flowers such as camellias, magnolias, snowdrops and daffodils are doing fine. We expect that this year spring is just going to come to our gardens a little bit later than it has done over the last few years.

‘As the climate continues to change we’re likely to experience warmer and wetter winters, but we will occasionally be hit by an extremely cold snap like the one we’ve just had and we will need to do the best we can to prepare for these heavy frosts and snow.’