Spring is on the way; you can smell it

National Trust garden teams have just conducted their annual flower count for Valentine’s Day and although this year spring seems to be on the way, just as we would normally expect, but what is noticeable is how many scented plants are out in flower at this early time of year.

National Trust gardeners reported 1,737 plants blooming in this year’s 12th annual Valentine’s Flower count, 34% down on last year’s figure of 2,644. Although numbers are down on 2016, they are still higher than the previous three years.

For the second year running, Saltram had the highest number of flowers recorded with 176 blooms (193 in 2016).

The snowdrop has been voted the top spring flower for the fourth year running in a survey run with National Trust supporters on social media. The gardens at Cotehele, Lanhydrock, Kingston Lacy and Saltram have been voted the most popular places to see spring blooms. 

The more normal and cautious approach of spring than in previous years does mean we can enjoy the early flowering plants for a bit longer as the cooler conditions will help extend the flowering season of the earlier blooms, this is reflected in the lower numbers in this year’s count. With later flowering plants on hold for warmer sunnier conditions.

Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor in the South West said: ‘Our gardens are full of buds ready to burst into flower, but spring isn’t here quite yet, but when it does it will be a good one.’

‘Alongside the usual signature plants of spring we are seeing such as Magnolias, Camellias and Rhododendrons, what is often over looked is the amount of plants that  have highly scented flowers at this early time of the year.  They’re all out there advertising their presence by pushing out scents like perfume counters in a department store trying to attract their insect customers, which are few and far between at this early time.

‘We have reports of Daphne, Mahonia, winter flowering honeysuckle, and Witch hazel to name but a few all of which give off sweet heady aromas and, are well out in flower at many of our gardens such as at Killerton, Knightshayes, Cotehele and Hidcote.  Some types of snowdrops and other early spring bulbs add to this annual attack on your senses producing subtle and beautiful scents.

Now is the perfect time to get outdoors await the arrival of spring and hunt out nature’s sweet perfume it doesn’t come in packages so is environmentally friendly and free what could be better on Valentine’s Day?’

National Trust Garden teams in the South West have recorded fewer flowers in bloom than last year in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing a decrease in the amount of varieties of plants in bloom.

Figures from the Met Office confirm that 2016 was one of the warmest two years on record. Such changes to our weather pose the single biggest conservation challenge to National Trust gardens and places. How we all garden whether in a National Trust garden or at home, what plants we grow and where may need to change.

In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall, marking the earliest spring so far recorded.

Gardeners at 31 National Trust properties across the South West took part in the annual Valentine’s Day flower count which first started in Devon and Cornwall in 2006.

Gardens in the South West are usually the furthest advanced in the UK with early spring blooms but this year numbers are down on last year which shows our spring maybe back to normal for this year at least with 907 less blooms.

In Cornwall 595 blooms were counted compared to 897 in 2016. In Devon there were 707 blooms this year compared to 1041 in 2016.

‘Comparing the number of plants across our gardens on a set day every year gives us a real insight into how our gardens respond to weather patterns, and is a useful ‘barometer’ for the season ahead’, said Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor.

This year 1,302 plants were recorded in 18 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,938 in 2016 and 1,345 in 18 gardens in 2015.  In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded, marking the earliest spring so far recorded in Devon and Cornwall.

Many National Trust gardens are already open in the South West.  For more information and opening times see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southwest

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