The snowdrop has been voted the top spring flower for the third year running in the South West, with the gardens at Stourhead, Lanhydrock, Kingston Lacey and Cotehele being the most popular places to see spring blooms.
National Trust Garden teams in the South West have recorded more flowers in bloom since 2008 in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing an increase in the amount of varieties of plants in bloom.
In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall (where the flower count first started), marking the earliest spring so far recorded. 2644 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West this (2016) year compared 1,622 in 2015.
Matched by record breaking amounts rain falling in December, the very mild and dull weather we’re experiencing this winter’s weather has been causing huge confusion to plants in National Trust gardens across the South West. Many flowers and plants have continued to flower all winter, some are appearing all together and some plants have appeared much earlier than normal.
Daffodils are appearing with snowdrops and even a bluebell or two has struggled to the surface boosted by mild weather. Varieties of magnolia which usually flower over a period of months are appearing together and much earlier than usual. Even summer flowering plants such as hydrangea’s, Fuchsia and Agapanthus are flowering.
Not only have varieties of plants been blooming at the same time but the growth in our gardens has continued right throughout the winter months, most of our gardeners are still cutting their grass and plants such as hydrangea’s still have their leaves, which could make for difficult pruning later in the year.
Ian Wright, South West Gardens advisor said: ‘Spring is my favourite time of year and after a long wet winter, I think it’s just about here albeit in a slightly confused way.
‘Provided the high winds and storms we are experiencing this week don’t blow away all the blooms, it’s time to get back in touch with plants and enjoy this annual spectacular show.
‘You can almost map the progress of spring as it travels from West to East/ South to North by way of the flowers in our gardens.
‘Despite the mild weather, record levels of rain have made working in the gardens really difficult for our teams. Our borders are saturated with water so we could really do with some dry and sunny weather. But what we don’t want is a cold snap. With all the soft growth in our plants, a period of hard frost could potentially cause huge damage.
‘After a long wet winter, we all want to get out there and enjoy the spring and luckily for us this year it seems to be even earlier this year, but the extremes of weather we are experiencing from drier hotter summers to mild wet winters are a major concern for our gardens and what the long term effects will be if they continue.
‘The changes in our garden can be seen as a clear indicator of climate change and poses the single biggest conservation challenge to our gardens and places we care for. How we all garden whether in a National Trust garden or at home, what plants we grow and where may need to change’, he added.
Building on the success last year and for the third year running we’ve asked our supporters to get involved in our very own blooming garden watch and tell us what they have in flower in their garden, we’re hoping this becomes an annual spring must do for everyone.
Gardeners at 35 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, thanks to the relatively mild and calm weather, we’ve seen a total of 1,022 more blooms across the South West an increase of 63%
For the third year running we’ve been asking our supporters about spring flowers in their own gardens at the moment, with the snowdrop coming out top followed by the primrose.
In Cornwall 897 blooms were counted compared to 545 in 2015. In Devon there were 1041 blooms this year compared to 800 in 2015.
‘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.
This year 1,938 plants were recorded in 18 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,345 in 2015 and 1,205 in 18 gardens in 2014. In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded, marking the earliest spring so far recorded. 2,644 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West this year compared 1,622 in 2015.
The highest numbers of flowers recorded in the South West were recorded at Saltram with 193 blooms, all gardens apart from one have seen an increase in the amount of plants in bloom.
Many National Trust gardens are already open. For more information and opening times see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk.