Crowds of Valentine blooms herald the beginning of spring with 32% more plants in flower than the same time last year

  • Gardens in Cornwall have seen an increase of 33% more blooms than last year and Devon have gone up by 31%
  • Saltram closely followed by Knightshayes in Devon both have the most blooms out in any National Trust garden in the South West.

We all want to be individual and stand out from the crowd but in the garden world not all the flowers associated with spring are big individual show-offs, sometimes it’s about teaming up with your neighbours.

Snowdrops, daffodils, aconites, crocus, cyclamen …they may not be much to look as isolated individuals but they can be truly breath-taking and awe inspiring on mass.

National Trust garden teams have once again been out and about counting blooms for the annual Valentine’s Day Flower Count and are heralding the very beginnings of spring.

2,287 plants are blooming in this year’s 13th annual Valentine’s Flower cunt, 32% up on last year’s figure of 1,737, although numbers are down on 2016 where the south west saw 2,644 blooms. Both Cornwall and Devon have seen an increase this year with 33% & 31% more blooms despite the recent cold snap.

For the third year running, Saltram had the highest number of flowers recorded with 214 blooms up from 176 blooms in 2017 and Knightshayes had the second highest amount of flowers in bloom with 154 plants recorded, up from 101 in 2017.

Despite the increase in plants in bloom, this year it feels like there has been a little rebalancing and some of the flowers we have seen pushing seasonal boundaries and flowering ever earlier in previous years, are this year still tightly wrapped in their buds, and who can blame them with the recent cold snap.

Snowdrops are making good use of the lack of competition and have put on a real dazzling display…at Kingston lacy the team have estimated there are more than 5 million snowdrops in flower that’s a flower for every National Trust Member in the country!

The daffodil has been voted the most loved spring flower in a survey run with National Trust supporters on social media with the snowdrop being the top choice for the previous four years. 59% of people who took part in the survey have daffodils already in bloom in their gardens.  National Trust gardens at Killerton, Lanhydrock, Stourhead and Trelissick have also been voted the most popular places to visit to see spring blooms.


The Annual National Trust Valentine’s Day Flower Count – Andy Bramwell pictured with Snowdrops at KIllerton House Devon

The more normal approach of spring, with flowers blooming generally when they should be more so 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. Later flowering plants are very much on hold for warmer sunnier conditions, just as they should be.

Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor in the South West said: ‘A longer cool spell this winter followed by the recent cold snap has slowed down the progress of flowering…the more tender blooms are still fairly well wrapped up in their buds, protected from the very worst of weather..
We are happy to be a bit more patient until the amber light turns to green and spring truly gets off the starting blocks

In recent year’s we seen all sorts of flowers bursting into bloom at this time of year but this year I’m glad to say it seems a bit more normal. That’s not to say normal is dull, it’s anything but dull in our gardens with the flowers that have bloomed when they should providing a stunning backdrop to bright and cold frosty mornings.

Our gardens really are full of buds ready to burst into flower, but spring isn’t here quite yet, but when it does get here it will be a good one and pretty bountiful at that.’

Sally Whitfield, Buckland Abbey Head Gardener who is this year celebrating her 31st and final year at Buckland Abbey before she retires, has taken part in the flower count every year with her volunteer team, said: the beautiful and fragrant daphne – bholua  ‘Jacqueline Postill’ as you enter the Cider House garden is particularly lovely to see alongside the strongly scented Sarcococca confuse, a sweet box. We’ve also got a good selection of crocus and the daffodils are not far behind as well as lots of snowdrops everywhere really.  Winter hellibores are also putting on a flowery show as well as lots of camellias coming into flower.


Snowdrops growing in the garden at Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster, Dorset (c) National Trust Images/ James Dobson


‘Although not often thought of as a garden visit, since acquiring the Cider House in 2011 with its garden and walled kitchen garden, Buckland now has a wonderful horticultural gem at the centre of the estate for visitors to enjoy, she added.

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 more plants in bloom than last year in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with two thirds of National Trust gardens in the South West seeing an increase in the amount of varieties in bloom.

Figures from the Met Office confirm that 2016 was one of the warmest years on record. Changes like this to our weather if it becomes more the norm could 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 34 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 and this year is no different with 33% more blooms but generally we are seeing plants in flower that should be at this time of year.

In Cornwall 793 blooms were counted compared to 595 in 2017 and 897 in 2016. In Devon there were 932 blooms counted compared to 707 in 2017 and 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.

Many National Trust gardens are already open in the South West.  For more information and opening times see


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