King’s Arms Garden
Small woodland garden of about 1½ acres. ‘Our most attractive features, among the many spring flowers on this date last year, were snowdrops, pulmonaria, aconites and daffodils. Tea and coffee will be available and plants will be on sale,’ says Bryden Keenan, of the Friends of the King’s Arms Garden.
Ampthill, MK45 2PP (01525 755648; firstname.lastname@example.org). Eight miles south of Bedford, in the centre of Ampthill. Open Sunday, January 31, 2pm-4pm
‘The snowdrops are varied, and planted throughout the garden,’ says Alan Ford. ‘Subject to weather, we have a large number of hellebores that may just be coming into flower. Magnolia House is only 100 yards from where the old “Fawlty Towers House” used to be (now demolished). On last year’s NGS opening, some 300 people viewed our 10,000 snowdrops and we were able to offer soup and rolls to 100.’
Grange Drive, Wooburn Green, HP10 0QD (01628 525818). Three miles north of Maidenhead. Open February 21, 12 noon-3pm. Also by appointment for small groups
‘Quainton is a small village, lying at the foot of low grassy hills with magnificent views over the Vale of Aylesbury, bounded to the east by the Chiltern hills. There is a 14th-century parish church and a working windmill,’ says David Campbell of The Vine. At Capricorner, Church Street: Cyclamen coum and other early bulbs. Mill View, Upper Street: insectivores and orchids in a greenhouse and many other distinctive plants. And at The Vine, Upper Street: a narrow garden leads up to the Quainton hills and is bounded by a small stream running down to a pond. Trees and shrubs from the Himalayas, China and Japan. Early daffodils (Rijnveldt’s Early Sensation) should just be coming into flower. Mulled wine is to be served at Capricorner, hot soup at the parish church. Plants and seeds for sale. Mill open and flour for sale, ground by the mill from local wheat.
Quainton, HP22 4BW. Seven miles north-west of Aylesbury. Open Sunday, February 28, 12pm-4pm
‘I like to have a plant stall where visitors can buy some of the interesting and uncommon plants they see in the garden,’ says Mike Stephens. ‘Coombegate is a one-acre garden full of winter colour and scent. Whereas most gardeners plant for the spring and summer, and perhaps add a few things for the quieter months, I’ve planted the other way round! Plants include witch hazels, daphnes, early rhododendrons, hellebores, Iris lazica, Ypsilandra thibetica and many other seasonal plants I’ve collected. There are well-established drifts of snowdrops. The garden is on a steeply sloping site with steps.’
St Ive, near Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 3LZ (01579 383520; email@example.com). Four miles east of Liskeard. Open Saturday, February 6, 11am-4pm, Sunday, February 14 and 28, 1pm-4pm; check opening status if weather is poor
‘Snowdrops and scented winter-flowering shrubs are a feature, with distant views over the city,’ says Margaret Lloyd. Grassy slopes connect different areas of the garden. Wheelchair access is very limited.
145 Pennsylvania Road, Exeter, EX4 6DZ. One mile north of the city centre. Open January 31, and February 7, 14 and 21, 12 noon-3.30pm
‘There are more than 150 named varieties of snowdrop, including yellows, doubles and oddities, as well as drifts of some of the larger varieties, such as S. Arnott, Magnet and Dionysius ,’ says Jo Hynes. ‘Plus there’s the National Collection of Hardy Cyclamen (some 22 species), of which some eight species and many varieties should be in flower, with the rest in leaf, displayed in an alpine house and also in the garden. The three Cherubeer gardens have plenty of winter-flowering interest, including hellebores, primroses, pulmonarias, narcissi, daphnes and a good range of colourful stemmed basketry-willows. Snowdrops and cyclamens will be for sale, together with refreshments.’
Dolton EX19 8PP. Eight miles south-east of Great Torrington. Open Sundays, January 31 and February 7, 1pm-4pm, weather permitting
Set in 19 acres of bluebell woods (with hilly access), the six-acre garden includes herbs, scree, winter-flowering shrubs and snowdrops. ‘It’s a beautiful, peaceful location,’ says Bridget Carver, ‘with a nature trail, treehouses and art workshop. Homemade soups and cream teas will be served.’
Madford, Hemyock, EX15 3QZ (01823 680345). Seven miles north of Honiton. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 12-14 and 19-21, 1pm-5pm
Garden of 15 acres over two steep, wooded valleys. Wild and naturalised flowers, especially daffodils; extensive collections of magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons, berberis, heathers and much more.
Newton St Cyres, Exeter EX5 5BT. Two miles south-east of Crediton. Open Sundays until February 28, 2pm-5pm
‘Although the snowdrops are impressive, the highlight in February is the huge number of shrubs not to be missed for their scent-daphnes, viburnums, chimonanthus, loniceras, hamamelis,
all in many varieties, as well as the bulbs and earliest of the camellias and hellebores. There are always homemade teas when the gardens are open. Plus wildlife photography by Robert Macdonald and an exhibition of garden designs in the tearoom,’ says Fiona Edmond.
Park Road, Ardleigh CO7 7SP (01206 230455). Three miles north-east of Colchester. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from February 1 to November 31, 10am-5pm
‘The house is set in an elevated position, with spectacular views across the Vale of Gloucester up to the Cotswold escarpment. The snowdrops are followed by wild daffodils, then primroses, wood anemones, and much else when spring unfolds. The walk is approximately one mile across a field, then through woods. Stout footwear is recommended,’ says Torill Freeman.
Huntley, GL19 3HQ (01452 830210). Four miles south of Newent. Open January 31, February 14, March 14, 2pm-5pm. Also groups by arrangement
‘The garden covers nearly three hillside acres within a wood. The views of Painswick and beyond are outstanding, and can be quite magical in winter light,’ says Celia Hargraves. ‘The overriding philosophy here is respect and care for the environment. The whole garden, managed organically, is linked by pathways, with seating areas that enjoy a particular focus or vista. Foliage, bulbs, seed heads and barks feature, as well as a vast array of shrubs.
Sheepscombe, GL6 6TZ. 1½ miles east of Painswick. Open February 7 and 14, 11am-4pm
‘We’ve got a very big collection of snowdrops, although they’re not labelled and are somewhat muddled together; also, very good spreads of winter aconites and Crocus tommasinianus,’ says Victoria Wakefield. ‘The five acres include a number of nice trees and shrubs and an acre of kitchen garden. It’s very much a chalk garden, with associated plants that grow well on it, and people who come here are usually quite amused by the big, bumpy box hedging.’
Bramdean, SO24 0JU. Four miles south of Alresford. Open February 14, 2pm-5pm
The Down House
The two-acre garden is laid out in rooms overlooking the Itchen Valley, adjoining the Pilgrim’s Way. ‘The main winter interest is from a large display of snowdrops and crocus, with beds of coloured-stem shrubs and trees,’ says Mark Porter. Homemade teas and cakes.
Itchen Abbas, SO21 1AX. Six miles east of Winchester. Open Sunday, February 7, 12 noon-4pm
‘This three-acre garden appeals to all ages,’ says Patricia Elkington. ‘It is on gently rising ground leading to a panor-amic view over Hampshire downland. Under the ancient apple orchard, thousands of scented Crocus tommasinianus have naturalised-an unforgettable spectacle in February. A short woodland walk carpeted with snowdrops leads to the Tree House. It has a house, two staircases and a secret stair, and is safe and fun for all ages.’
Crawley, near Winchester, SO21 2PU. Five miles north-west of Winchester. Open February 21, 22, 23, March 28, 30, 2pm-dusk. Also by appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org)
‘Snowdrops are what it’s all about,’ says Roger Norman. ‘We started more than 20 years ago, saying we’d get 12 that were obviously different; now we’ve 150-plus varieties. The rest of the garden is not without interest, with witch hazels, willows, cornus, crocus, cyclamen and hellebores.’ Plants for sale.
Ivington Green, Leominster HR6 0JN (01568 720344). Three miles south-west of Leominster. Open Thursdays in February, 9am-4pm. Other days by appointment
‘We have woodland walks with snowdrops in February, and other features include the lake, which has been here since the house was built in 1780; we encourage our visitors to walk round it to see different views across it,’ says Andrew Wells. ‘The garden is fairly open with a lot of lawn, broken up by borders and shrubberies in a fairly informal pattern. My wife, Tessa, produces wonderful homemade teas.’
Mereworth, ME18 5NB. Seven miles east of Tonbridge. Open Sunday, February 14, 2pm-5pm
21 Chapel Street
‘Ours is a cottage garden overflowing with plants, but the February openings are for hellebores and our very large collection of snowdrops, and there are plenty of alpines in troughs, likely also to be in flower,’ says Cliff Curtis.
Hacconby, Bourne, PE10 0UL (01778 570314). Three miles north of Bourne. Open February 27 and 28, 11am-5pm, and by prior appointment
‘We have glorious displays of snow-drops and winter aconite in both the rock garden and Japanese garden. There are also fine views around the parkland and lakes,’ says heritage officer Glyn Sherratt. ‘Tea, cake and soup will be available in Gatton Hall on the day, as well as some plants for sale. We also offer free snowdrop-themed activities for children on both days.’
Rocky Lane, Merstham RH2 0TW (01737 649068; www.gattonpark.com). Three miles north-east of Reigate, grounds of the Royal Alexandra & Albert School. Open Sunday, February 14, 12 noon-4pm and Wednesday, February 17, 1pm-4pm
In a lovely downland location, a 1½-acre garden with unusual trees and shrubs growing in dry gravel-although briefly wet most years when the winterbourne rises and flows through the garden. Coloured stems, catkins, drifts of snowdrops and crocuses. Small formal kitchen garden, free-range bantams, wellies advisable. Local crafts for sale. ‘I sell a small variety of snowdrop bulbs,’ says Sue Edden. ‘And I have many winter-flowering plants: alders, coronilla, daphnes and a lot of hellebores.’
Stoughton, Chichester PO18 9JW (023-9263 1456). Five miles north-west of Chichester. Open Sunday, February 7 and 14, also Thursday, February 11, all 11am-4pm. Also open to pre-booked groups in January and February
Two acres of garden designed for all-year interest, but with an ever-increasing number of snowdrops and hellebores. Views of the South Downs and three windmills (Jack and Jill, plus Oldlands Mill) and three churches. ‘Homemade refreshments will be on sale,’ says Jane Baker, ‘as well as my jams, chutney and marmalade, my husband’s snowdrops, and hellebores grown by a local hybridiser.’
Ditchling Road, Clayton, near Hassocks, BN6 9PH (01273 842805). Six miles north of Brighton. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, February 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 11am-4pm
The Manor of Dean
A traditional English garden of about three acres, with snowdrops and grass walks. ‘We look onto the South Downs and the garden surrounds a recently restored Jacobean Manor house dated 1615,’ says Emma Mitford. The garden is particularly good in spring, with lots of bulbs and early flowers. There are also plenty of small areas, together with a woodland walk and a productive walled kitchen garden.’
Pitshill, Tillington GU28 9AP (07887 992 349). Three miles west of Petworth. Open Sunday, February 7, 2pm-5pm; Saturday and Sunday, March 20 and 21, 2pm-5pm
Great Chalfield Manor
Seven acres of grounds surround a fine 15th-century moated manor (not open) and adjoining parish church. The gardens were laid out in 1905-12 to Arts-and-Crafts designs by Alfred Parsons and others, and include remarkable topiary houses, borders, terraces, gazebo and orchard. In winter, snowdrops and aconites enhance the moat walk. ‘And our beautiful church will also be open,’ says Patsy Floyd. Tea, coffee and cakes; plants for sale.
Melksham, SN12 8NH (01225 782239). Three miles south-west of Melksham. Open Sunday, January 31, 2pm-4.30pm
Lacock Abbey Gardens
‘Lacock Abbey is well known for its snowdrops, which start to appear by the end of December and are at their peak usually in late January or early February,’ says head gardener Sue Carter. ‘But its real treasure is the carpet of Crocus vernus, naturalised from a few bulbs planted by William Henry Fox Talbot, pioneer photographer and Lacock’s most famous owner. The magnificent trees
of the woodland garden make a beautiful setting for these jewels of purple and white, and delicious scents of lemon sherbet waft from winter-flowering shrubs such as Lonicera x purpusii.’
Chippenham, SN15 2LG (01249 730459). Three miles south of Chippenham. Open regularly, but NGS weekends are February 13 and 14; 20 and 21; 11am-4pm, when there will be plants for sale
by The Mead Nursery, and the botanic garden greenhouses will be open to visitors
Ragley Hall Gardens
‘The Winter Garden blazes in the low-angled sunshine, contrasting vividly with the dark greens of holly and yew,’ says head gardener Ross Barbour. ‘The dogwoods and willows have coloured stems, texture is provided by Rubus thibetanus Silver Fern, Pittosporum tenufolium Tom Thumb and winter
jasmine, and Lonicera x purpusii Winter Beauty and Sarcococca confusa bring a rich heady scent on a milder day. Plenty of snowdrops and hellebores, including a nice spread of the species Helleborus foetidus.’
Alcester, B49 5NJ. Two miles south-west of Alcester. Open Sunday, February 7, 11am-3pm
A spectacularly sited early-19th-century castle on the site of a medieval fortified manor, its spacious grounds include a Victorian walled garden, fine trees and shrubs, carpets of snowdrops and magnificent views. Tea room will be open.
Bangor, LL57 4HN (01248 353084). Three miles east of Bangor. Open for snowdrops, February 13 and 14 and February 20-21, 11am-3pm
Experience the grandeur of one of Britain’s widest trees and a good display of snowdrops. ‘It’s a wonderful, wild, woodland garden overlooking the scenic Strathtay valley,’ says Wendy Mattingley. ‘The garden is also “unofficially” open all winter, when we don’t charge, but ask visitors to leave a donation towards squirrel and bird food, as they’re incredibly hungry and active, especially in the mornings.’
Aberfeldy, PH15 2JT (01887 820795; www.clunyhousegardens.com). Two miles north-east
of Aberfeldy. Open for the SGS from February 20 to October 31, daily, 10am-6pm
Acres of superb snowdrops on Mons Hill. ‘We don’t set the date for Snowdrop Day until two weeks before,’ says the administrator, Linda Edgar. ‘It all depends on when the snowdrops come through, and we monitor the hill daily from the beginning of February. There isn’t anything else to see that day except the park itself, but we do refreshments in our tearoom.’
South Queensferry, EH30 9TQ (0131-331 1888; www.dalmeny.co.uk). Eight miles west of Edinburgh. For opening times, telephone or visit the website
16, Kevock Road
‘Snowdrops, early bulbs, daphnes, hellebores and other winter-flowering plants in variety,’ says Stella Rankin. ‘There’s a wonderful view over the North Esk Valley. A specialist plant stall will be
provided by Kevock Garden Plants-you can order online at www.kevockgarden.co.uk for collection at the garden opening, when soup and rolls will also be available.’
Lasswade, EH18 1HT. Five miles south of Edinburgh. Open February 28, 12 noon-3pm
For further information, detailed directions, and other dates of openings later in the year, visit www.ngs.org.uk and www.gardensofscotland.org or see the ‘Yellow Book’ directories. Visitors travelling any distance are advised to confirm opening times first, if weather conditions are bad. Visit the NGS/SGS websites for latest updates. Most of the gardens listed are also open at other times of year, but for reasons of space and topicality, only their winter opening times are noted here. At properties belonging to the National Trust, admission charges apply to Trust members on their NGS charity open days