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Snowdrops at Colesbourne Park

Took a trip out of London to see snowdrops. The venue is Colesbourne Park in Gloucestershire and for 3 weekends a year, they throw open the turnstiles and you can wander amongst acres of carpets of galanthi (the Latin name for showdrop is galathus) with a fair sprinkling of snowflakes (looks a bit like a snowdrop), hellebores, crocus and cyclamen thrown in for good measure.

A real Victorian garden extravaganza if ever there was one and all thanks to man by the name of Henry Elwes, an all-round naturalist during the 1800s who took advantage of the ever-increasing fashion for travelling at the time.

On one of his many trips found himself in Turkey in 1864 where he chanced upon a new form of snowdrop which he decided to name Galanthus elwesii after himself (and why not). Thus began a love affair with this most delicate harbinger of the onset of Spring so that today with over 2500 varieties to choose from, we have such a fantastic on display for these few weeks of late winter.

Collectors, known as Galanthophiles, can go absolutely bonkers for these beautiful little blooms, and by the end of my trip had fully immersed myself in varieties such as Trym, Blewbury Tart, Priscilla Bacon, and the more exotic (and expensive) Primrose Warburg & Spindlestone Surprise.

I notice that the pricier ones were grown in their own pots, a nifty trick which means they are more easily removed and looked after once they have bloomed. And these babies can be expensive, with elusive varieties that have flashes of yellow trading for £290 a pop! In fact, the most expensive one ever bought was £1250 for a single bulb.

Snowdrops thrive at Colesbourne thanks to the ideal growing conditions. They are particularly prone to drying out so require a partly-shadowed environment with moist, but well-drained soil which is found in abundance here. The gardens themselves are also quite wonderful and I particularly loved the man-made lake created in 1922 and known as the blue lake thanks to the unique colour of the water caused by colloidal clay.

Lets hope I can recreate my own little bit of this ‘Galanthium field’ back here in my London garden, although with the one solitary bloom I purchased, it may be a wee while before I get the full effect of the Colbesbourne magic.

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