As snowdrop’s emerge from their winter dormancy, Hannah Stephenson looks at the best places to see swathes of them.
It’s always a sign of optimism when we see the first snowdrops appear, their dainty blooms emerging from the cold ground, creating white carpets which illuminate gardens.
Some of the best displays can be seen in the many gardens taking part in the National Garden Scheme’s 2022 Snowdrop Festival during January, February and March.
If you visit at least one garden awash with these pint-sized white gems, you should find innovative ways to display your own snowdrops, and may even discover some unusual species you’d like to plant.
1. Bruckhills Croft, Aberdeenshire (open by arrangement Jan 25-Mar 11 for snowdrops and winter walks. Details at scotlandsgardens.org)
If you struggle to grow snowdrops, you’ll find a planting idea or a cultivar in this three-quarter-acre country cottage garden, set in the heart of rural Aberdeenshire, which became home to a Plant Heritage National Collection of Galanthus (snowdrops) in 2021.
It houses nearly 500 varieties of snowdrop arranged in small groups among the herbaceous borders, shrubs, raised beds and an alpine greenhouse, with complementary plantings of scented witch hazels, winter jasmine and colourful dogwoods, plus thousands of common snowdrops in the wildflower meadow.
2. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire (check opening times at english-heritage.org.uk)
The site’s half a million snowdrops and 200,000 aconites cast a haze of white and yellow across the lawns and throughout the woodland floors, while winter is also the ideal time to take a stroll around the formal garden, with its sharp lines and sweeping curves.
3. East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Somerset (open from Feb I for the Festival of Snowdrops (eastlambrook.com)
Celebrated plantswoman and gardening writer Margery Fish turned a derelict farmyard and orchards into this quintessential English cottage garden between 1938 and her death in 1969. With noted collections of snowdrops and hellebores, it’s an ideal spot to gain inspiration from contemporary and old-fashioned plants, grown in a relaxed manner to create this beautiful outdoor space.
The garden, which is renowned worldwide as the premier example of the English cottage garden style, celebrates its festival of snowdrops in February, featuring around 140 species and named cultivars.
4. Welford Park, Newbury, Berkshire (Snowdrops at Welford Park, open Feb 2-Mar 6 (welfordpark.co.uk)
Famed for being the gorgeous setting for the Great British Bake Off from 2014-19, there’s always great anticipation around the first snowdrop blooms, which create a spectacular, delicately-perfumed carpet in the beech wood at Welford Park each year.
One of the finest natural snowdrop woodlands in the country, this well-established garden houses four acres of snowdrops, which light up the landscape in February, as part of the celebrated snowdrop festival.
5. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland (for opening times, visit english-heritage.org.uk)
Wrap up warm and enjoy the delights of Belsay Hall and its garden highlights, which at this time of year, include snowdrops. In the early 18th century, Lady Anne Middleton began the tradition of the women of the house planting snowdrops in the grounds together. Now, each February, vast white carpets of the plants can be admired in the garden, fields and woodland surrounding the hall.
6. The Old Rectory, Fawkham, Longfield, Kent (visits by arrangement in Feb, ngs.org.uk)
A sea of naturalised snowdrops and aconites is among the winter highlights of this one-and-a-half-acre garden, which has been developed around the snowdrops by the current owners for more than 35 years. It’s also home to 100 named snowdrops that have been added more recently. Other highlights include pulmonarias, hellebores and other early bulbs and flowers, foliage perennials, shrubs and trees, and a natural woodland.
Wherever you wander, you will see them – naturalised in the grass, throughout borders, the mixtures of single and double-flowered types creating a white tapestry throughout the garden.
7. Timber Hill, Chobham, Surrey (open selected days through Jan, Feb and Mar; ngs.org.uk)
Visitors to this 16 acre garden – bookable through the National Garden Scheme – will find swathes of snowdrops, crocuses and aconites, as well as witch hazel, camellias a little later, and a woodland area which offers fabulous views of the North Downs.
8. Westview, Great Glen, Leicestershire (open Feb 19 and 20, pre-booking available, ngs.org.uk)
If you’re interested in rare and unusual plants, this small walled cottage garden is one to put on your list, particularly the garden’s collection of snowdrops, which make a terrific February display.
Along with a formal box parterre herb garden, courtyard garden, herbaceous borders, woodland garden, small wildlife pond, greenhouse, vegetable and fruit garden, the garden’s collection of galanthus make a beautiful display in February. Recycled materials are used to create quirky garden ornaments that inspire many visitors.
9. Gelli Uchaf, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire (for arrangements for groups, visit ngs.org.uk)
Hundreds of thousands of snowdrops, including more than 200 cultivars and a unique Welsh Snowdrop Collection, daffodils, cyclamen and crocus are planted in this stunning 1.5-acre garden, set in an 11-acre smallholding 800ft above sea level, as well as copious woodland shrubs, roses, clematis and hydrangeas.
The garden has been created to complement the restored Welsh longhouse and the setting, and features much native planting.
10. Billy Old Rectory, Bushmills, County Antrim (open Feb 12 and 13, pre-booking available through ngs.org.uk)
This spot is perfect for a winter walk, to admire the swathes of snowdrops situated within the three-acre garden around a Georgian rectory. To the front is a large lawn, mature trees and a peaceful woodland. To the back, there’s another lawn – where in the summer you’ll find a riot of colour with borders of scented roses and shrubs, a pond area and a fruitful kitchen garden.