In February Colesbourne Park will open up its renowned gardens for its annual snowdrop display. And with the collection of snowdrops (galanthus) now totalling 250 cultivars, there is sure to be something to please everyone.
COLESBOURNE Park enjoys an enviable position in the Churn valley in the heart of the Cotswolds, situated between Cirencester and Cheltenham.
Its winter gardens, packed full of snowdrops, hellebores, and cyclamen, are being prepared in readiness for the annual five weekend opening to the public on Saturday, February 2.
Each year the 10 acre gardens, with woodland and lakeside paths, welcome around 8,000 visitors. For gardeners the snowdrop garden offers welcome relief at this time of year from the bare earth of winter.
Colesbourne Park has been home to the Elwes family since 1789. Current owners Sir Henry and Lady Caroline Elwes first opened up the gardens to the public in 1997. Sir Henry’s great grandfather Henry John Elwes started the snowdrop collection in 1874 with the discovery of the new Galanthus elwesii in western Turkey.
And over the years the collection has been added to and expanded, with the Elwes’s snowdrop swapping bulbs with enthusiasts across the United Kingdom and Europe to ensure the display is up-to-date and vibrant.
“My wife and I are both very keen on the gardens and snowdrops. This is our hobby. But it is also about perpetuating my great grandfather’s legacy,” said Sir Henry.
Visitors this year will notice much more than just snowdrops. “We are getting better and better at mixing snowdrops with other winter plants,” explained Sir Henry. “With cyclamens, helebores and yellow aconites this is now looking like a really lovely winter garden.”
Last year’s wet weather has not put a dampener on the show. Sir Henry said: “The bulbs are in good condition. They died back well and there was no sign of rotting. There will be plenty for visitors to see.”
• Colesbourne Park, Colesbourne, Nr Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 9NP. Go to colesbournegardens.org.uk or call 01242 870264 for more details.
• The gardens are open on the weekends of 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24 February and 2-3 March.
• Gates open 1pm. Last entry 4.30pm. Adults £7, children under 16 free.
Tips for growing snowdrops the Colesbourne way:
• Snowdrops are lifted and moved in late April or May, as the foliage yellows, or when dormant in June and July (rather than the traditional method of ‘in the green’ during spring).
• Split the clumps into their component bulbs and replant as soon as possible. They can be stored for a few weeks in a cool dry shed but do not allow to become dessicated by exposure to strong sunshine or heat.
• If lifted in growth the roots are damaged so it essential that the replanted snowdrops are given extra water to compensate.
• Snowdrops should be lifted and divided every three to fours years.