Snowdrops and Romance
A few years ago I published a post following a February visit to Altamont gardens in Carlow when the snowdrops and hellebore were in bloom. If you’ve never seen carpets of snowdrops in February I’d recommend looking for a garden this year as the experience can be breathtaking. That late winter walk was my first of 2013 and it managed to pull me out of the winter doldrums and back into our own garden.
Research suggests that getting outside is fantastic for our mental health and it’s true, there’s nothing better for the mind than to be out in the fresh air. That said, I’m a real bear in the winter (hopefully a cuddly one and not a grisly). I like to hibernate in the warmth of my home, by the stove and usually with a bag of knitting. I have to really be in the zone to enjoy being out in the cold, wind, mist or rain. This year has been no exception.
For the past couple of months our entire garden has been a quagmire, so much so that even the dogs won’t venture beyond the stone drive.
During the high winds of storm Desmond our polytunnel ripped along the length of a middle hoop. As a result it’s looking like we’ll need to replace the polythene as it’s almost impossible to patch well there.
We’ve also unwittingly added a stream to our *features* that runs down the pathway from the chicken run, filling the front lawn that’s scruffy and overgrown thanks to the mild winter temperatures. I know things could be a lot worse, but when you live on the top of a hill you don’t expect your garden to flood! To add to the garden woes, I’m not sure if our bees have survived the winter with little food sources to call upon, so all in all, I’m not feeling the love for our garden right now.
As a result and weather permitting, I’m going to suggest to Mr G that we wrap up warm and have a Valentine’s Day out to one of several local gardens that are opening for snowdrop week. Perhaps I’ll be able to bend his arm and find lunch out somewhere nearby like the Forge restaurant who also have a local art exhibition or Duckett’s Grove tea rooms who are advertising a delightful sounding afternoon tea offer on Facebook at the moment.
There will be several gardens opening and celebrating snowdrop week from the 6th to the 14th February in and around county Carlow and it seems an ideal opportunity to take the camera’s and spend some time being nerdy together among the snowdrops. Hopefully when we return, we’ll feel motivated to tackle our garden before the first of our grow your own workshops that, numbers permitting, will take place on the 10th March.
If you need a pick up or are interested in being among thousands of snowdrops, here’s the details about the Carlow festival.
Ballykealey Manor Hotel Snowdrop Gala – 6th February
The snowdrop gala at Ballykealey Manor that kicks off the festival sounds amazing but perhaps geared more towards the true Galanthus enthusiast.
A full day is planned with speakers, lunch, specialist nurseries and a guided tour of nearby Altamont’s snowdrop collection. Colin Crosbie, a passionate plantsman, author, gardener and curator of the RHS Garden in Wisley will be talking, along with garden historian Jennifer Harmer who wrote a book entitled “meet the Galalthophiles”.
Snowdrops are a serious business for some plant enthusiasts. Last year an Elisabeth Harrison snowdrop bulb sold for £725 and a Golden Fleece bulb sold on Ebay for £1,390!
If you’d like to join the day at Ballykealey Manor, bookings can be made via Hester Ford on 086 865 4972 or Robert Miller on 087 982 2135. There’s a fee of €70 which includes the lectures, lunch, refreshments, bulb sale and guided tour.
Huntington Castle – Snowdrop Week 8th to the 14th February
I was thrilled to read that Huntington Castle are continually improving their gardens having planted over 10,000 snowdrops that should be blooming for the 2016 season. Current owners Alexander and Claire Durdin Robertson are working hard to make Huntington a family destination in county Carlow and it’s paying off as every time I’ve visited there’s been something new to see.
I’ve written about Huntington before but in short, the Castle features a woodland nature walk, a fantastic children’s adventure trail which is worth the dash across the cattle field for, as well as the famous ghost walk, castle tours and tea rooms.
Admission to the gardens is adults €5, concessions €4 and children €2.50. Have a chat with the owners about group discounts. We were really please to find our dog was welcome last summer once she was kept on a lead and we promised to clear up after her.
Telephone 053 937 7160 for more information or visit www.huntingtoncastle.com
Altamont Gardens – 8th to 14th February
The second largest collection of snowdrops in Ireland are growing in the grounds of Altamont and there are over 100 named varieties of these hardy but pretty little bulbs. The collection started over 30 years ago when the late Corona North began collecting and along with the hellebore, it’s a wonderful sight.
As well as the flowers and formal gardens, there’s a woodland and river walk (weather permitting), a garden centre and a café on site which serves hot drinks and homemade cakes.
Entry into Altamont is free but sadly they have a strict no dog policy even on leads. The gardens are open daily from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm during the winter months. Guided tours daily are available at 2.00 pm for €3 per head and group tour bookings are available by prior arrangement.
Shankill Castle and Burton House and Gardens
In the surrounding counties both Shankill Castle in Paulstown and Burton House and Gardens are opening their gates and showing off their snowdrops too. Take a look at the Carlow Tourism poster for more information.
If you’re aware of any more snowdrop festivals taking place or other gardens to see them, please leave details in the comments below, I‘d love to hear about them.