February is Snowdrop Season
One of the first harbingers of Spring: Galanthus (from the Greek ‘gala’ meaning milk, and ‘anthus’ meaning flower), is a bulbous perennial, commonly referred to as the Snowdrop. Naturally, we grow Snowdrops here, however, we do not exalt them as the pure, perfect and sweet gems they are.
My knowledge of ‘Snowdrop Weekends’ was happenchance. I was spending a leisurely morning ensconced in the warm, comfortable surroundings of our London hotel when I came across an article mentioning Snowdrop Weekends. Open for exploration, we rented a car and headed out. Our destination, Little Ponton Hall, a 2-hour car drive was a glimpse of an idyllic 18th century country manor with a crystal, clear stream. The house surrounded by gardens, woodland and open pastures was a natural partnership, flourishing with lush plantings of Snowdrops and an equally bold mix of yellow Aconites. Do not miss the listed Dovecote House. Eerie, standing in and looking up and around, seemingly you’ve entered another civilization.
This was our first experience of this rural phenomenon, which has now been elevated by many as ‘February Snowdrop Festivals’ across Britain.
Another destination we experienced was Bennington Lordship Gardens; set in a quintessential English village with a garden of ‘romantic disorder’. This place had heaps of charm, Norman castle ruins, a moat and a folly - all seamlessly melding with a Georgian Manor House. A highlight not to be missed is the coveted collection of 200 varieties of snowdrop kept in and around the walled Kitchen Garden.
Next up was Welford Park in Berkshire; built on the site of a monastery. It was then used a hunting lodge for King Henry VIII, the existing Manor House dates back from 1652. It only takes one thing to bring a lasting impression for life and this garden has it in spades. Standing on the bridge with its elevated vista, you can take in its bucolic river and formalized gardens around the house. Don’t miss the British tradition of afternoon tea, which is served in the old stable blocks, all homemade by villagers for charity. It's also the home of the Great British Bake Off!
The British bring their families and dogs along for these outings, so it seemed reasonable that they might enjoy walking through the avenue of grandeur and on to the woods some distance away. I decided to follow, ‘Nosey-parker’ that I am, they obviously knew something I did not. Five-acres of Snowdrops, some lush, some spotty but all proud and robust growing within these woods. The woods bordering the River Lambourn had produced perfect growing conditions and produced what looked like Snowdrops on steroids.
Admittedly, it did rain, however, we completely lucked out while visiting - the weather taking a break just for us. Why would any right-thinking American not seek sun and instead bother to cross the Atlantic in February of all months? Well, if you were a Galanthophile, it would be for the British Snowdrop Festivals!
UK Annual National Gardens Scheme Snowdrop Festival: