Snowdrops traditionally herald the end of winter and provide welcome assurance that the brighter days of spring are on their way.
For that first glimpse of spring in Sussex and Hampshire from late January to early March, beautiful displays of snowdrops start to appear at Nymans, Petworth House and Park, Mottisfont, Hinton Ampner and The Vyne.
These delicate white flowers are always popular with visitors, particularly children, who love the miniature plants.
Stephen Herrington, head gardener at Nymans: “It’s always a joy when the first snowdrops break through the frozen ground.
“Along with aconites and primroses, they are the harbingers of spring. They are best seen in half-light and, of course, amidst the winter snow; on mild, late winter days, they are beloved by honey bees.”
Here are the special National Trust places in Sussex and Hampshire to enjoy snowdrops:
Nymans, Handcross, West Sussex
This twentieth-century garden is famed for its amazing collection of rare and important plants. At the start of spring, spot wonderful displays of snowdrops as well as camellias and magnolias underplanted with a host of daffodils and grape hyacinths.
The bulb meadow in the walled garden is full of snowdrops and early narcissus and there are rare hellebores all around the garden.
By Valentine’s Day, over 150 different types of plant are flowering at Nymans and the snowdrop clusters offer cool contrasts to fiery witch hazel oranges and the rich red stems of the dogwoods.
Nymans winter interest walk with the Head Gardener, 30 January, 11am – 12pm
Take in the seasonal highlights of the garden and Arboretum with an exclusive guided tour with the Head Gardener at Nymans.
Find out what is at its best in winter and what to look forward to in the following months. Hear about the garden projects and practises and have your gardening questions answered. After exploring the grounds, finish off your walk with a warming beverage in the cafe.
Price: £5 (normal admission fee applies)
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nymans or call 01444 405250.
Petworth House and Park, West Sussex
This glorious country estate, with its 700 acre deer park and far-reaching views across the South Downs, makes a great setting for a winter walk.
The parkland’s many gnarled and twisted ancient trees are a wonderful focal point, but if you walk into the Pleasure Grounds surrounding the house you’ll discover drifts of tiny single and double-petalled snowdrops beneath the woodland canopy.
Thousands of wild yellow primroses are also on view, sometimes intermingled with the snowdrops.
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house or call 01798 342207.
Note: the house is only open to those visiting the Mr. Turner exhibition (running until 11 March). Entry is by pre-booked ticket. For more information please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworthturner or telephone 0844 249 1895.
Mottisfont, near Romsey, Hampshire
Drifts of snowdrops appear along the banks of the Font stream of this ancient former priory, where the warmer water creates its own microclimate. Elsewhere, the open acres of the river garden are magically transformed by drifts of purest white.
In February, you can enjoy a guided walk through the grounds of Mottisfont and witness the beauty of its wild snowdrops.
Guided snowdrop walks at Mottisfont: 7, 8, 14, 15 February, 10.30am, 12.30pm & 2pm, free upon normal admission charge, no booking required.
Mottisfont also contains the National Trust’s newest winter garden, exploring the potential of plants that are at their most beautiful and interesting when most are in hibernation. The garden blends a number of unusual varieties that are rich in colour and scent. Gullies of foliage plants appear to wind through the banks of willow and spill into the stream. As winter creeps in, the garden becomes a refuge for late flowering shrubs such as mahonia, bright-stemmed cornus and silvery rubus, sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle and daphne.
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont or call 01794 340757.
Hinton Ampner, near Alresford, Hampshire
You’ll find hundreds of delicate snowdrops dotted across the lawn beside the house at Hinton Ampner, which is full of scent and colour even in the depths of winter.
Hinton’s previous owner, Ralph Dutton, designed the East Lawn of this garden around the tiny parish church in the grounds. He knew that even in the colder months, the church’s congregation would gather on the grass after the Sunday service, so he planted the lawn with fragrant winter flowers such as daphnes, which have a zingy lime scent and tiny pink flowers. The church border is hedged with sweet box Sarococcas, which fills the air with a heady honey scent. You’ll also discover delicate winter aconites and colourful crocuses.
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner or call 01962 771305.
The Vyne, near Basingstoke, Hampshire
One of the first sights to meet visitors in early February is a pretty ribbon of pearly white snowdrops that appears at the entrance to these gardens. Further snowdrop displays can be found in the Wild Garden, mingling with yellow-petalled winter aconites.
Look out also for floral gems such as yellow winter aconites and candy-pink viburnum, and if you peer upwards into the trees you’ll see great clusters of mistletoe covered with pearly berries. Winter is also a great time to indulge the olfactory senses – seek out the delicious fragrance of flowering daphne and mahonia.
For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/vyne or call 01256 883858
n To plan a family day out with the National Trust visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast. Tea rooms and shops are open at all the properties listed above in February, but house opening dates and times vary. Please check these before you visit.
Report and picture contributed by the National Trust.