CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today CLICK HERE

Bursts of winter colour

PUBLISHED: 11:14 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:14 10 February 2014

Hellebores come in a profusion of shapes, colours and sizes

Hellebores come in a profusion of shapes, colours and sizes

Archant

Winter needn’t be without flowers. Philippa Pearson delights in the charms of delicate snowdrops in Benington and Walkern and sumptuous hellebores at Levens Green

Winter can be a bit of no-go time in the garden. Short days and unpredictable weather hardly tempt us to enjoy this gardening season, but some plants have a remarkable resilience to the cold weather and exude masses of charm in the borders when little else is worthy of a second look.

Snowdrops are the definitive winter flower and their exquisite flowers lift the spirits during the coldest months of the year, with varieties blooming from January to late March.

Benington Lordship near Stevenage is one of the most popular gardens in the UK to see massed planting of snowdrops. Set in seven acres, the garden at the Georgian manor house with the remains of a Norman castle and moat, is carpeted with snowdrops and opens every February to showcase this stunning display. The gardens originally began opening for ‘snowdrop Sundays’ more than 100 years ago and now opens daily throughout February.

Generations of the Bott family have planted snowdrops in the gardens but it is the area around the moat and old ruins that have the thickest carpets. Centuries ago, monks brought snowdrops from Europe and Turkey to the UK and planted them around their monasteries.

‘The moat was really overgrown with sycamore seedlings several years ago,’ says Susanna Bott, who now looks after the gardens with head gardener Richard Webb and other helpers.

‘Goats were used to clear away the overgrown moat and gradually the snowdrops started to bloom and spread.’

Throughout the gardens, new borders and other areas are being created to hold species snowdrops and Susanna is always looking for the chance to swap plants with other snowdrop fans. Plants are named in the gardens for enthusiasts and more than 100 different varieties can be found.

One of Susanna’s favourite snowdrops is ‘Mighty Atom’, notable for its huge flower heads up to two inches across. In the Spring Garden, borders have been planted with this dazzling snowdrop to create a generous display. ‘It is such a huge flower and looks stunning planted en masse,’ says Susanna, who adores the way snowdrops just creep around, happily spreading into borders and in all areas of the garden. ‘They are so delicate, so lovely,’ she enthuses, ‘the first flower of the year and once they are over then everything else starts to come alive in the garden. Wonderful.’

Snowdrops and winter flowers are also on display at Walkern Hall, two miles north of Benington, in the winter woodland garden. Set in eight acres, snowdrops and aconites carpet the woodland floor making it a spectacular sight in February. This medieval hunting park is known more for its established trees such as the tulip trees and a magnificent London plane tree, which dominates the garden, and opens in February for the National Gardens Scheme for a second year.

The Lenten Rose, helleborus x hybridus, pushes up flower buds from as early as mid-December and then blooms into May when shiny foliage continues the interest.

A heavy frost can level the flower stalks to the ground but, as the winter sunshine gently lifts the temperature, the stems miraculously recover.

Lorna Jones of Levens Green near Ware became interested in hellebores more than 20 years ago when her sister gave her a clump of plants from the cottage she was moving from and she soon became fascinated by them and started to breed new plants.

By focusing on details such as flower shape, size and intensity of colour, leaf characteristics, flowering period and disease resistance, Lorna is now acknowledged as one of the finest breeders of hellebores in the UK.

Each flower is different and unique with the best hellebores produced from seed strains rather than named varieties. Flowers are single or double blooms and colour ranges from pure white to pink, red, purple and blue-black. The splashes and markings add to their charm.

Growing hellebores from seed needs patience, as it takes three to four years for the plants to flower.

If all this seems too slow a process, luckily for us Lorna has an annual sale of plants at her nursery, Hertfordshire Hellebores, during February and March. Plants are three to four-years-old and in flower, so you can plant them instantly when you get home.

‘It’s often been said,’ laughs Lorna, ‘that hellebores are highly addictive things!’ If you haven’t discovered the winter charms of hellebores, the outstanding range Lorna grows at her nursery will surely tempt you to try some in your garden.

0 comments

More from Homes & Gardens

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Listed for its architectural and historical importance, this mansion is for sale through Strutt and Parker

Read more
November 2018
Monday, October 8, 2018

A 16th century farmhouse gave a father and daughter the chance to both fulfil childhood dreams

Read more
October 2018
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Nine bedroom Georgian country house for sale

Read more
September 2018
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ten years in the making, this remarkable home in the former orchard of St Albans Cathedral is as bespoke as a property can be. It had Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud reeling

Read more
September 2018
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How to tackle one of the most invasive plant species in the UK has resulted in innovative solutions, writes Charlotte Hussey of Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Read more
August 2018

Owned by the same family for generations on the historic Moor Place estate at Much Hadham, Yew Tree House and its current remarkable owner are full of stories

Read more
August 2018
Monday, July 30, 2018

Buy a raffle ticket and you could be the owner of your own manor house

Read more
August 2018

In an idyllic little world of its own, inspirational eco-home Thrift Cottage in Burnham Green shows that living with nature can come, well, naturally

Read more
July 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search