‘Get down and dirty to experience a Valentine’s bloom this year’


The Snowdrop has been voted the top spring flower in the South West, with the gardens at Cotehele, Lanhydrock, Trelissick and Kingston Lacy being the most popular places to see spring blooms

It may come as a big surprise, but the recent unprecedented wet weather seems to have had very little affect on our gardens. In some cases things are a little behind; but the milder conditions, albeit very wet, have not had huge affects on our blooms.  Many flowers, however, are still holding back for drier and brighter conditions.

The recent extended wet and windy weather has had mixed affects on our gardens and plants this year, but our gardens and our gardeners are a resilient bunch and the annual spring spectacular is already starting.

On the positive side, it’s been mild with only three ground frosts in some places; but on the negative side, light levels have been low and the ground is saturated. 

A result of our wet weather or not, a rarity has been discovered in Cornwall this year with the flowering of Trelissick’s Rhododendron Magnificum plant. It’s flowering for only the second time in 30 years! This enigmatic plant was discovered growing in the remote, rain drenched Adung Gorge in Northern Burma in 1931 by Frank Kingdon Ward (the only location in which it is known to grow in the wild). One of the rarest Rhododendrons in cultivation, it’s very tender and difficult to grow and is only found in a few of the mildest gardens.

‘Elsewhere, snowdrops and cyclamen seem a little later than usual, but are now flowering their hearts out despite the wet weather. So to appreciate the spring blooms you might need to get down on your knees and get dirty as the smaller flowers often are the brightest lights in natures annual spring flower show’, says Ian Wright, South West National Trust Gardens Advisor.

‘The usual show stoppers are showing promising signs; there is a profusion of buds on Camellias in particular, which are just beginning to open. Magnolias are also showing promising signs for a spectacular, if slightly later than normal, show. So let’s keep our fingers crossed for a frost free finish to winter,’ he added.

Gardeners at 23 National Trust properties across the South West [1] 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 and, this year, thanks to the mild weather and very few hard frosts are very slightly up on last year.  There are some encouraging signs of spring with bountiful displays of snowdrops at Kingston Lacy and masses of cyclamen and spring bulbs at Killerton.

Ian Wright said: ‘The Met Office has said its been the wettest winter since records began;, however, despite some rather wet and windy weather, our annual flower count has shown that spring is very much starting to peep its head through the rather soggy ground and all thanks to the current very mild conditions.

‘Our gardens in the South West are already a profusion of blooms at ground level with masses of snowdrops and crocuses.  When you look up you can see bountiful blooms from Camellia’s, and soon the Rhododendrons and Magnolia’s.  Our gardens are very much open for business this half term’, he added.

This year we’ve also been asking our supporters what their favourite spring flower is, with the snowdrop coming out as the most popular; and the top three spring flower gardens in the South West are Cotehele, Lanhydrock and Trelissick.

In Cornwall 554 blooms were counted compared to 546 in 2013. In Devon there were 651 blooms this year compared to 632 in 2013. There were also a few surprises such as an Aloe which is succulent plant on St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall which is in full bloom.

‘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.

This year 1205 plants were recorded in 18 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,178 in 18 gardens in 2013.  In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded, marking the earliest spring so far recorded. 1464 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West this year compared 1,455 in 2013.

The highest numbers of flowers recorded in the South West were recorded at Saltram with 153 blooms, while Lanhydrock saw the biggest drop in numbers of blooms from 136 in 2013 to 89 this year. ‘The season at Lanhydrock is much later than previous years and I’ve recorded rainfall every day for the last 63 days but we have plenty of buds waiting to flower when the weather eventually improves. said Tommy Teagle, Head Gardener at Lanhydrock.

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