Green Tips: Magical snowdrops

Half-term is on the horizon and the days are starting to get slightly longer. The light is beneficial for snowdrops, and they’re coming out across the estate at Hever Castle & Gardens. And, with over 140,000 snowdrops planted at Hever over the years, there’s much to see in February.

Snowdrops come in all shapes and sizes, some common, some extremely rare. These delicate plants exert a powerful pull in the horticultural world and bring the plant hunters out of hibernation this month.  

We are lucky enough in Kent to be the home of snowdrop enthusiasts and experts. It’s possible not just to come and see them planted in huge swathes at Hever Castle, but you can also purchase them from us, or visit the smaller nurseries or snowdrop gardens that open for one-day sales in February.  

Over the years, I’ve been allowed to invest in snowdrops at these wonderfully quirky sales and have brought some unusual varieties to Hever Castle. Galanthus ‘Diggory’, a beautiful snowdrop whose pure white bowl-shaped flowers hide green-flushed inner segments, is a favourite that I picked up a few years ago. Diggory enjoys growing on banks and slopes and is good for underplanting roses or shrubs.

The 'Grumpy' variety of snowdrop

I also purchased ‘Grumpy’ from Joe Sharman: not one of Disney’s famous dwarfs but a beautiful snowdrop named by Joe in 1990 for its markings that resemble a grumpy face.  

Joe is known to many in the snowdrop world as ‘King of the Snowdrops’, for his extraordinary ability to breed new and interesting snowdrops. 

Legendary garden writer and galanthophile Val Bourne has been a friend to Hever Castle & Gardens over the years, and has given me lots of advice on the best snowdrops to buy, as well as warning me that these plants can spark some wild and wacky behaviour. With prices ranging from £5 to £1,500 for a single plant, they can also empty your wallet! Perhaps the feverishness they inspire comes from the fact that gardeners are pretty desperate come February to see swathes of flowers in bloom! 

It’s true that these delicate flowers really can pack a punch at Hever, when they’re planted in drifts through woodland, along borders and beneath winter shrubs and alongside water (currently, we have a lovely drift beside the Outer Moat).

If you want to plant snowdrops then you’re not too late; in fact February is the perfect month for planting in ‘the green’ as mature plants.  Come and see our snowdrops at Hever and if you find a member of the gardening team in the Winter Garden, ask them for their recommendations.

Snowdrops prefer cool, moist conditions and can suffer surprisingly dry summers if they’re in shady spots. If you are planting, make sure you dig a deep, yet narrow, hole of 10-15cm, firm the plant in and water the soil. Don’t forget to label your snowdrops!

Self-guided snowdrop walks at Hever Castle & Gardens will begin on 7 February and run from 10:30 – 15:00 daily (last exit 4.30PM). Snowdrop Walk is included in the garden ticket entry price.

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