Snowy maids

Kent Life - - Kent Wildlife Trust - WORDS: Leigh Clapp PHO­TOS: Leigh Clapp

The first sign that spring is on its way has to be the mass of bright white snow­drops

be­gin­ning to car­pet the gar­den

Flo­ral ac­cents are to be savoured as the gar­den stirs from win­ter to the prom­ise of spring. As the days be­gin to lengthen, stim­u­lat­ing the plant hor­mones, an­other sea­son be­gins to slowly stir. By late win­ter a large va­ri­ety of bulbs, shrubs and trees are ready to burst into a suc­ces­sion of blooms.

Through­out Fe­bru­ary, dainty white galan­thus (snow­drops) are cel­e­brated in the Na­tional Gar­den Scheme’s Snowdrop Fes­ti­val across the coun­try. Here in Kent we have some won­der­ful gar­dens to visit where you can join in the ad­mi­ra­tion, whether you are a true galan­thophile, keen col­lec­tor, or would just like to get out­side and en­joy the start of the open gar­den sea­son.

Even af­ter be­ing frozen solid overnight these hardy lit­tle blooms pick up as soon as the ice melts in their stems. Whether

in drifts un­der trees, in beds or con­tain­ers, snow­drops make an im­pact in the gar­den.

Snow­drops are hardy and it’s lovely to mix them with helle­bores and aconites; plant in nat­u­ralised drifts on lawns, against con­trast­ing coloured win­ter stems or in troughs.

They are best bought and planted ‘in the green’ as dried bulbs are more dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish. Dap­pled shade and soil im­proved with leaf mould or com­post are ideal and keep them wa­tered un­til es­tab­lished.

Here are some sug­ges­tions for gar­dens to in­spire: have been planted over the past few years, in­clud­ing mixes of sin­gles, dou­bles and more un­usual va­ri­eties such as the yel­low-tipped ‘Wendy’s Gold’, green-tipped ‘Viri­dapice’, gi­ant ‘Colos­sus’ and ‘Warham’ which was orig­i­nally grown from a bulb brought back from the Crimean trenches, hev­er­cas­tle.co.uk

and love of plants, de­vel­oped on 1.5 acres and set out in in­for­mal is­land beds.

The wide col­lec­tion in­cludes many rare plants grown from seed, along with a spe­cial in­ter­est in spring flow­er­ing trees, wood­land flow­ers, helle­bores and snow­drops.

Tim thinks there are around 100 to 150 snowdrop va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing the aptly named G. ‘Hun­ton Gi­ant’, G. el­we­sii ‘Comet’ with grey-green leaves and award-win­ning G. ‘Atkin­sii’.

As well as great ad­vice there will be many af­ford­able ones for sale at your visit. Open for the Na­tional Gar­den Scheme fes­ti­val on Sun­days 10 and 17 Fe­bru­ary.

Knowle Hill Farm, Ul­combe ME17 1ES is an­other treat not to be missed, with two acres spread over a slop­ing site and spec­tac­u­lar views of the North Downs. The sea­sons ebb and flow beau­ti­fully, from early spring bulbs through roses, laven­der hum­ming with bees, to salvias

Sun­light sets them aglow

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