by National Gardens Scheme
Opening this February for the National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival are two very special gardens, with snowdrop displays to warm the hearts of galanthophiles and casual visitors alike.
Soil varieties make these two veteran openers fascinating gardens to visit. Pembury House boasts a vast snowdrop display that thrives in the heavy wet clay of the garden, now open by arrangement throughout February and March it is stunning during the winter months. Also opening is Highdown Gardens near Goring, a magical public garden that has been opening for the NGS since its very first year in 1927 and is home to a collection of rare plants that tolerate chalky soil.
Pembury House has raised over £100,000 for the National Garden Scheme over 25 years and has an impressive display of snowdrops and other early spring flowers, which has been growing each year. Jane Baker – owner of Pembury House with her husband Nick – has been sharing her snowdrop collection with visitors for years.
Jane comments, “when we moved to Pembury House from Brighton over thirty years ago the garden had been neglected and all the nastiest of weeds had taken over. Just before our first Christmas here we noticed that some ordinary snowdrops were pushing through the mud in desperation to put on a bit of a show. A year later we planted lots of young trees and within ten years they had grown so well that the grass would no longer grow. We had to think of an alternative! It was at that point we realised that we could start to cover the ground with snowdrops and other woodland plants and bulbs and bit by bit we learned more about snowdrops and the different varieties. The soil is a heavy wet clay so it is always interesting to see which snowdrop varieties make it through the winter and escape the attentions of the creatures that like to dig up the snowdrops and eat them.”
Visitors are advised to bring wellies, macs and winter woollies to enjoy the two acres of garden and stunning views out to the South Downs. The snowdrop display is nestled under a woodland, creating an enchanting walk for visitors, with lots of benches to enjoy the views. There are two paths for visitors to choose between, both of which lead back to the double garage where tea and cake is served as a well-deserved treat after a wintry walk!
Pembury House is a garden for all seasons and in particular for the winter. During the two months the garden is open by arrangement and visitors can expect to see a rolling display of Edgeworthia, Daphnes, various Camellias, shrubby honeysuckles and viburnums. Likewise Prunus subhirtella gives a wonderful addition of pink to the winter colours that fill the garden, provided by incisa, Sarcococcas, witch hazels, Cornus mas and viburnums, all blooming sporadically throughout February and March. Garden visitors can spot hellebores (a late winter favourite), erythroniums, primroses, Tulipa sylvestris, various clematis, Frittillaria meleagris and wild daffodils as they walk along beautiful winding paths, a testament to Nick and Jane’s hard work on the garden over the 34 years they have lived there. Don’t miss the opportunity to arrange a visit to this stunning garden, full of delights, surprises and a carpet of snowdrops that will enchant any visitor.
Highdown Garden, created by the distinguished botanist Sir Frederick Stern, has long been renowned for its plant collection. But this is the first year the garden will open for the National Garden Scheme as part of its Snowdrop Festival on Sunday 18th February. Highdown offers 8.5 acres of stunning informal gardens on chalk downland overlooking the sea, and has a unique collection of rare plants and trees which tolerate alkaline soil, with many originally brought from China by great collectors like Wilson, Farrer and Kingdon-Ward, and raised from seed.
A colourful succession of bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus, and anemones will be on display during February, and for the more inquisitive garden visitor there are spring bulb tours available on the day, conducted by the Head Gardener and team. With so many distinct areas of the garden to explore Highdown makes for a delightful winter walk with lots to discover.
Both gardens are open as part of the National Garden Scheme Snowdrop Festival, visit www.ngs.org.uk/snowdrops to find out more.