Column: Spring is coming

Snowdrops at Bennington Lordship Gardens

Snowdrops at Bennington Lordship Gardens - Credit: Archant

THE spring is coming! After the grey of the winter months, and now that the snow has finally melted, I can start to get excited about the spring, which I have been looking forward to since the autumn!

With every passing week, and even every passing day, there are new things to look at in the garden, and amongst the gardening community on Twitter there seems to be a real buzz as people find the odd hour of good weather where they get a chance to get out in the garden.

The splashes of colour here and there, are becoming more prolific and although it is still very cold most of the time, there have been a few times in recent days when the sun has burst through the clouds and there is a real smell of spring in the air.

This week I went to see the snowdrops at Benington Lordship, near to Stevenage.

The day trip started very badly – I stupidly didn’t look up the directions before I left, as I felt sure that I knew where it was, and found that I didn’t. After completely running out of petrol, and then losing all battery on my mobile, I found the place. To say that it was worth the effort would be an understatement; as soon as I arrived I felt calmed – there is something very special about snowdrops, there is something very peaceful about them, and whilst walking through the grounds surrounding the remains of the Norman castle, I found myself smiling.

The snowdrops there are just coming into their own, I would imagine that within the next week or so they will be even more lovely. I spotted some different types of snowdrop, some of which were quite different to the standard ones that we are more used to seeing.

It’s sometimes quite difficult to tell the difference between them unless you really get down to earth to see them.

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It is definitely worth making the effort to get down and look at the snowdrops closely as they have such subtle differences and even though they give the impression of being a very simplistic flower, they have subtle nuances of beauty which in their very essence are the thing which cause galanthophiles up and down the country to go mad for them!

Snowdrops have always been special to me. They are the favourite flower of many gardeners – almost certainly largely due to the fact that they herald the start of spring. They are so cheerful, so full of hope.

For me, they are special because they remind me of my mother. She adores them, just as I do, and when I was at university, she would post me a margarine tub – I would collect it from the pigeon-hole where our mail was collected, and take it back to my room, hoping that it would be something edible, recognising the handwriting of my mum.

Although it turned out that she hadn’t sent me anything to eat – she had carefully wrapped in damp tissue paper a few delicate snowdrops from the garden at home.

She did the same thing every year, and when living in the inner city in Liverpool, it was a lovely reminder of home, and a lovely way to link me to the countryside which I yearned for so terribly.

Nowadays, I am lucky enough to have my own garden and with it, my own snowdrops to pick and have in the house, but I prefer to see them outside in clumps. The way that they settle themselves in little groups, they look like a gaggle of women chatting on market day.

The most special thing about them to my mind is that they can often be found in places where you don’t expect to find them. In my garden they can be found under shrubs, under trees, or just about anywhere that I could find room to plant them!

Of course, snowdrops aren’t the only flower that can be seen in the garden at the moment, and if the wait for colour is proving too long for you, there are plenty of primroses in garden centres which you can add to the borders whilst you wait for the daffodils and tulips to come up.

n I shall be going to the RHS London show in the middle of February, where I hope to see more varieties of snowdrop, and a chance to look at new flowers that I don’t yet know.

That’s the thing that I love most about gardening – no matter how many flowers and plants you get to know, there will always be new varieties or types to learn about.

In my column next month I shall be considering the British flower growing industry, and finding out how easy it would be to ‘buy British’ when we buy cut flowers, or more importantly, whether it is possible to use British flowers for occasions when we would normally automatically use imported flowers – weddings, Mothering Sunday, Valentine’s Day...

I wonder how many people will be sending British roses this Valentine’s Day? In a time when people are so concerned with buying and eating British food, I want to look at whether people are as aware of the flower miles that are clocked up by a lot of the bouquets that we see in most of the shops.