THERE IS a chance to explore and enjoy a garden containing swathes of very special snowdrops over the coming month, as The Garden House welcomes visitors to its annual Snowdrop Festival.

The garden in Buckland Monachorum has long been famous for its snowdrops, established by former head gardener Matt Bishop in his time at The Garden House from 2003 to 2012.

The collection of more than 200 cultivars are a galanthophile’s delight, shedding some early joy in the most frosty time of the year in large swatches of naturalised blooms through the garden. And this year, the collection is bigger and better than ever, with more than 350 different cultivars.

It now contains the collection of another renowned galathophile — snowdrop collector — the late Colin Mason, who bequeathed his collection to The Garden House when he passed away a few years ago.

Current Garden House head gardener Nick Haworth was involved in the careful work of digging up the snowdrops from Colin’s garden in Kenilworth, Worcestershire in early 2020.

Nick explained: ‘We acquired the Colin Mason collection because Matt Bishop was the executor of Colin’s ”plant will”. Colin’s garden was absolutely chocka with snowdrops. He ran the Fieldgate nursery from there and the snowdrops are named Fieldgate, including one named after his daughter.

‘We went after flowering time, which is the right time to dig up the bulbs, and so we didn’t necessarily know what we were getting and back here at The Garden House we are still working through what we might have.’

Snowdrops might all look the same to the untrained eye, but there are in fact hundreds of different ones, some hoopskirted, others doubles, some featuring delicate patterns and other washed with the palest green.

Not all the visitors will be able to spot the often subtle differences but can appreciate their delicate beauty nonetheless.

‘The keen people will visit repeatedly to see what comes out during the season,’ said Nick. ‘And the snowdrops are not the only thing we have. The garden has bright red stem cornus and we have got early camellias. There will be some hardcore snowdrop people there. Your average person, when they visit a specialist nursery, they are shocked at the prices, which can be as much as £50 a bulb. We have potted up our S Arnott, grown here, which are much more affordable bulbs, a pot of them costs £8.’

‘We’ve also got three nurseries coming along, Avon Bulbs which is very famous for snowdrops in this country, and we have got Elmworthy Plants and Millwood Plants. They carry snowdrops but they also do spring bulbs.’

The festival runs until February 27, with the garden open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday from 10.30am to 3.30pm (last entry 3pm).

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