In 2001, we began to clear the gardens of brash and brambles. In patches we could see snowdrops hanging on in the undergrowth. As the light was allowed back in, the snowdrops began to recover. We have encouraged them by dividing and top dressing the bulbs. Now they spread across two banks alongside the river and release wafts of honey scented perfume on sunny days.
Around these naturalized plantings we have added hellebores, crocuses, daffodils and blue chionodoxa. Throughout the upper gardens you can see pretty groupings of early flowering perennials and small bulbs.
Every year the gardens are open for a full week of snowdrops in February. The Gardens are open daily from 11.00-4.00 and we welcome 1,000s of visitors and groups.
Visiting during snowdrops
Your visit begins in the courtyard where you will also find the shop, plants sales and toilets. Once under the old gatehouse you can take in the top half of the garden with its drifts of snowdrops and hellebores in the woodland walk. If you look carefully you will see wild violets shyly looking out from their foliage. Turn the flower of our hellebores up to face you and you will see anemone-flowered, speckled, dark or picotee varieties.
Further along the winding path you arrive at the Cedar Meadow. This is specifically planted to be at its best during spring, whether you come for crocuses and snowdrops or daffodils and tulips.
The views across the valley, ornamental bridge and gardens are particularly good here.
Descending to the lower gardens (which has handrails but is tricky for wheelchair access) you will find massed drifts of snowdrops in a beautiful setting overlooking parkland and the river.
We like to keep a natural look to the big drifts so have avoided filling them with other bulbs. But as you make your way back towards the tearoom, you pass small beds where we have added cyclamen, pulmonarias, aconites, crocuses, early daffodils and irises in carefully considered colourways. Rare and unusual snowdrops can be found near the tearoom in purpose built beds.
Every year is different. Some years the aconites and irises hang on until March while the hellebores are barely out. In other years the earliest flowers go over quickly and hellebores and crocuses provide plenty of colour amongst the snowdrops.
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