Healthy numbers of flowering plants and bulbs in bloom indicate that many gardens across the country will experience a bumper and longer blooming spring despite the recent cold snap, says the National Trust.
Gardeners at over 50 National Trust properties across the country have taken part in the annual Valentine’s Day flower count which has been conducted by gardeners and volunteers in Devon andCornwalleach February since 2006.
Many properties, particularly across the South West experienced a spring ‘preview’, prior to the recent frost which destroyed many of the very early blooms. However, there are a plethora of buds ready to open once the temperatures rise, indicating spring is just around the corner.
Due to the unseasonable warm winter spring had arrived early in some parts of the country with daffodils blooming in December at Dunham Massey inCheshireand Knightshayes in Devon and Lanhydrock inCornwallrecorded its earliest flowering magnolia on New Year’s Day.
But, recent sub-zero temperatures despite slowing things down slightly, appears to have had little affect with many gardens set to burst into life, particularly in the South West which escaped the worst of the recent harsh weather. All the indications are that our true spring is still to come and when it does it will be a longer blooming one.
The Trust’s annual flower count has been conducted by National Trust gardeners and volunteers in Devon & Cornwall each February since 2006 to provide an annual snapshot of the heralding of spring 
1972 plants were recorded in flower this year across 26 gardens in the South West. 1745 plants were recorded in flower this year across 18 gardens in Devon and Cornwall this year compared to 1395 plants last year and 1,115 the previous year and 3,335 in 2008, when the highest count was recorded, giving a 75% increase in plants in bloom.
The highest number of flowers recorded in Devon this year was at Saltram with 133 blooms (down from 163 last year) and at Lanhydrock inCornwallwith 248 (up from 142 recorded last year) and Kingston Lacy with 44 plants in bloom. Cotehele inCornwallsaw the biggest increase in blooms, 228 (up from 45 in 2011). This leap in numbers is largely due to its location in a mild Cornish valley which helps drain cold air out to sea allowing the upper slopes to warm up quickly, promoting earlier flowering.
Ian Wright, National Trust South West Gardens Advisor said: ‘Our annual flower count is a simple and fun way of recording how our garden plants react and adapt to changes in weather patterns, a kind ‘floral barometer’, its not a scientific exercise but it is a simple indicator of the weather we have experienced and the season ahead. This fun and slightly competitive count is something you can try in your own garden. Our gardens are just beginning to burst into life; unfortunately many of them have suffered from the recent frost but luckily for us that almost means we are getting two springs, what could be better than that?”
“InCornwallwe have noted many out of sync flowering before the cold snap with Agapanthus, which usually flowers in June, out already at Trengwainton. The great snowdrop spectaculars at many of our gardens are also well underway. Many plants were continuing to grow until last week, including Hydrangeas and it remains to be seen if they have survived this cold weather unscathed.
“Spring was a little too fast of the starting blocks, but nature is a great healer so we hope many plants and bulbs affected by the cold snap will go on to flower when the temperatures start to rise”.
“Last year was particularly good for rhododendrons, and this year should hopefully be a good year for camellias and other plants which have tighter buds that would have stood a better chance of surviving the cold snap”, he added.