Snowdrops remind us that the gardening year is about to begin
Every year it gets bigger and better - Snowdrop month, a Carlow festival that happily creeps over the border into Kilkenny, a celebration of the little white beauty that is the native snowdrop.
The white and green blooms of snowdrops peep through the cold winter ground and remind us that the gardening year is about to begin. They make us giddy with their promise of a brand new gardening year. This arrival of the snowdrop is celebrated throughout some of our best gardens by a dedicated series of events this month, which will run until February 29. So there is no reason for not getting out to see spring springing up!
The centre point of the festival is the garden at Altamont, in Tullow. Altamont offers an unrivalled opportunity to see a great collection of snowdrops, first started by the wonderful Corona North, former creator and owner of the gardens. Having been further developed by the OPW over the last 20 years the collection is now amongst the largest in Ireland, with over 150 named varieties alongside swathes of our native flower.
Guided tours take place each Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout the month. They start at 2pm with a reasonable admission charge of €3. OPW Head Gardener, Paul Cutler will give the talks. Many will know Paul from his appearances at the Garden Talks in Kilkenny Castle over the years.
The gardens at Altamont open daily from 9am to 4.30pm and individuals can simply arrive in time for a talk. Advance booking is needed for group tours however.
In Kilkenny there is another opportunity to see great massed ranks of native snow drops among the spectacular early Spring bulbs grown at Shankill Castle in Paulstown. The Garden is open each weekend during the month (for more information contact 059-9726145 or www.shankillcastle.com)
It holds one of the most beautiful swathes of snowdrops I know.
Snowdrop fun for all the family is on offer each weekend during the month at Huntington Castle, in Clonegal Carlow. These historic 17th Century grounds feature over 10,000 snowdrops and crocuses.
Huntington Castle was recently listed in the top six gardens to visit in Leinster.
It’s a fine old garden under constant restoration and development set in a really lovely little village that is a garden in its own right in the summer months.
There are also tours of the wonderful spooky and atmospheric castle available every weekend from 11am to 4pm as well. For further details contact 053-9377160, firstname.lastname@example.org or huntingtoncastle.com
The gardens at Burtown House near Athy will open every Wednesday to Sunday during the month, featuring an extensive collection of snowdrops, aconites, hellebores and early bulbs.
Take the opportunity to get out and see some of these spectacular spring flowers in this large and attractive garden in the historic Shackleton home.
Having enjoyed all these displays of snowdrops, if you do not have any in your own garden, you could start by buying a few pots in any of our good garden centres this month, as well as from Altamont Plant Sales. You can pick up pots of both the native, Galanthus nivalis, as well as some of the more flouncy and special, named varieties.
If however, you want a really big display in future years, you should put it in your diary to acquire bulbs in the green in March or April.
In the green means a bulb that is still sprouting green, growing shoots. These bulbs are dug up for sale after they have finished flowering. They may come with a little egg-shaped seed head on the wilting stem – all the better, as these will produce seeds for future bulbs. You buy in the green bulbs in bunches of perhaps a dozen or 20.
Speak to your garden centre now, or go to a garden shop like Mr Middleton on Mary Street in Dublin, about buying them this way later in the year. They will let you know when stock of these bulbs will be available.
It is important to plan an operation like this, because it is important to buy and plant them quickly for best results.
When planting them, they will look wilty . This is because they are beginning to die down.
Set them in situ in the garden and next year the reward will be the start of a proper colony of snowdrops that will multiply up over a period of about three years, after which you will be able to dig and divide and multiply your stock.
You can buy bare bulbs later in the season to, as you would daffodils or tulips, but for some reason snowdrops grow more successfully when planted in the green.
You have been advised: Put it in the diary. Be ready to get buying and planting in late spring.