Spring is on the way - you can smell it

Smelling daffodils National Trust flower count

Garden teams have just conducted their annual flower count for Valentine’s Day and although this year spring seems to be on the way, just as we would normally expect, but what is noticeable is how many scented plants are out in flower at this early time of year.

The 12th annual South West flower count

National Trust gardeners reported 1,737 plants blooming in this year’s 12th annual Valentine’s Flower count, 34% down on last year’s figure of 2,644. Although numbers are down on 2016, they are still higher than the previous three years.

For the second year running, Saltram had the highest number of flowers recorded with 176 blooms (193 in 2016).

Blooming flowers at Greenway
National Trust flower count
Blooming flowers at Greenway

Favourite spring flower

The snowdrop has been voted the top spring flower for the fourth year running in a survey run with National Trust supporters on social media. The gardens at Cotehele, Lanhydrock, Kingston Lacy and Saltram have been voted the most popular places to see spring blooms.  

Slower spring gives our gardens a longer bloom

The more normal and cautious approach of spring than in previous years does mean we can enjoy the early flowering plants for a bit longer as the cooler conditions will help extend the flowering season of the earlier blooms, this is reflected in the lower numbers in this year’s count. With later flowering plants on hold for warmer sunnier conditions

" Our gardens are full of buds ready to burst into flower, but spring isn’t here quite yet, but when it does it will be a good one."
- Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor in the South West

Scented flowers

Alongside the usual signature plants of spring we are seeing such as Magnolias, Camellias and Rhododendrons, what is often over looked is the amount of plants that  have highly scented flowers at this early time of the year.  They’re all out there advertising their presence by pushing out scents like perfume counters in a department store trying to attract their insect customers, which are few and far between at this early time. 

‘We have reports of Daphne, Mahonia, winter flowering honeysuckle, and Witch hazel to name but a few all of which give off sweet heady aromas and, are well out in flower at many of our gardens such as at Killerton, Knightshayes, Cotehele and Hidcote.  Some types of snowdrops and other early spring bulbs add to this annual attack on your senses producing subtle and beautiful scents.  

Now is the perfect time to get outdoors, await the arrival of spring and hunt out nature’s sweet perfume - it doesn't come in packages so is environmentally friendly and free. What could be better on Valentine’s Day? ‘

Counting snowdrops at Greenway
Counting snowdrops National Trust flower count
Counting snowdrops at Greenway

National Trust Garden teams in the South West have recorded fewer flowers in bloom than last year in this year’s annual Valentine’s Flower Count, with nearly all gardens showing a decrease in the amount of varieties of plants in bloom.

Climate change poses the biggest conservation challenge to National Trust gardens

Figures from the Met Office confirm that 2016 was one of the warmest two years on record. Such changes to our weather pose the single biggest conservation challenge to National Trust gardens and places. How we all garden whether in a National Trust garden or at home, what plants we grow and where may need to change.

‘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 Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor.

Daffodils blooming at Greenway
National Trust flower count daffodils
Daffodils blooming at Greenway

Gardens in the South West are usually the furthest advanced in the UK with early spring blooms but this year numbers are down on last year which shows our spring maybe back to normal for this year at least with 907 less blooms.

Flower count facts

South West gardens taking part in the flower count

Cornwall: Antony, Cotehele, Glendurgan, Lanhydrock, Trerice, Trelissick, St Michael’s Mount, Godolphin. 
Devon: Buckland Abbey, Castle Drogo, Coleton Fishacre, Greenway, Killerton, Knightshayes, Overbecks, Saltram, A La Ronde.
Gloucestershire: Dyrham, Hidcote, Snowshill
Somerset: Lytes Carey, Tintinhall, Barrington Court, Tyntesfield. Prior Park, Dunster
Dorset: Kingston Lacy. Max Gate.

Results from the flower survey

Most popular spring flower in the South West

  • Snowdrop 1st - for the fourth year running.
  • Daffodil 2nd
  • Primrose 3rd
  • Tulip 4th 
  • Magnolia 5th

Spring flowers in bloom in our supporters’ gardens at the moment

(last year’s figs in brackets)

  • Snowdrop 79% (76%)
  • Daffodil 52% (84%)
  • Primrose 46% (47%)
  • Cyclamen 32% (25%)
  • Camellia 23%
  • Rhododendron 3% (6%)
  • Magnolia 1% (9%)

Top 10 gardens in the South West to see spring flowers as voted by supporters on social media

1.    Lanhydrock
2.    Kingston Lacy
3.    Stourhead
4.    Cotehele
5.    Trelissick
6.    Knightshayes
7.    Dyrham Park
8.    Westbury
9.    Tyntesfield
10.    Coleton Fishacre