National Garden Scheme Update December 23/January 24
Snowdrop Garden Openings 2024
Over 100 glorious snowdrop gardens are to open in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this February, with Warwickshire offering three memorable events as an uplifting start to the visiting season.
Clearly bitten by the galanthus bug, dedicated plantsman Neil Higginson is looking forward to opening his 2-acre garden that’s been 30 years in the making. An intensely practical man, now retired from a successful career supplying fishing tackle to trade, he even keeps a potting bench in his home office.
“Fishing tackle and the gardening season used to go hand in hand,” Neil told us. “Once the snowdrops started to come out, I’d think we're not a million miles from the tackle trade starting up again. Trade relies on good weather, and you feel you've turned that corner once the snowdrops start to appear. This year, I’m opening for the NGS as I want to give back a little bit wherever I can, after a successful career.”
The resulting 300 different snowdrop cultivars can be enjoyed by visitors to Neil’s Woolscott garden which also features an impressive variety of fern, followed by over 40 different wood anemone in April, and 80 different geraniums in the summer months. Some plants are sourced at specialist events.
“If you take a couple of hundred quid and spend it wisely, you'll get some hellishly good deals, whereas you can spend £200 on a single bulb on some websites,” says Neil who acknowledges invaluable advice from snowdrop expert Andrew Thorp.
“Propagation is the interesting bit,” explains Neil. “One monstrous-sized plant called Mrs Macnamara starts flowering in December. I began with 6 bulbs five years ago and must already have 300 snowdrops from those originals!”
Clearly, there is alchemy involved in raising these appealing flowers which hail from the same amaryllidaceae family as daffodils.
“I also try to grow from seed as well but that's a slow old process taking about 4 years. Andrew Thorp showed me how to twin-scale them, where you slice them up, then keep your fingers crossed. I've turned a single one into 20 or 30 bulbs, but I've also had failures.”
“Once I’ve planted the seeds, I put them outside and they just accept whatever Nature throws at them. As long as the seed is fresh you can eventually get a nice steady supply of things coming through 6 or 7 years on from planting”.
Seventeen miles further south in Kenilworth, Liz Watson is a seasoned garden opener and snowdrop enthusiast.
“In lockdown, once we cleared compost bins and an old shed from under our 250 year old beech tree, my husband Bob and I were able to create a small woodland garden,” reveals Liz who is also the National Garden Scheme Warwickshire County Organiser.
“This was then planted with over 1,000 ordinary snowdrops, spring bulbs and shade lovers. We were also lucky enough to be allowed to take snowdrops from the garden of the late Colin Mason, a breeder who lived on Fieldgate Lane. So, I have several unusual snowdrops, but I don’t know their names, some being very like the ‘Fieldgate’ series which Colin bred.”
Warwick’s own Hill Close Gardens will also open to display over 100 snowdrop cultivars for the NGS.
Please check for all details by visiting ngs.org.uk.
Warwickshire Snowdrop Openings
Saturday 17th February 2024 - Hill Close Gardens, Warwick - £6 entry from 11am – 4pm.
Sunday 18th February 2024 - Fieldgate & St Nicholas Avenue, Kenilworth, Joint Opening - £5 entry from 12pm – 4pm,
Neil Higginson, Woolscott Barn, CV23 8DB. Visits by arrangement only, please call 07836 511495.
© Lily Farrah
Photographs taken by Neil Higginson