What's happening in South West gardens this spring?

Counting flowers

The results of our 2016 Valentine's Day flower count are in and there's a 63 per cent increase in plants blooming this year.

With high rainfall and mild temperatures, this winter’s weather is causing huge confusion in South West gardens. Many flowers and plants are appearing together at the same time or much earlier than normal.
" 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."
- Ian Wright, Gardens Adviser

The results

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 weather, we’ve seen a total of 1,022 more blooms across the South West - an increase of 63 per cent.
  • In 2016 1,983 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
  • In Cornwall 897 blooms were counted compared to 545 in 2015
  • In Devon there were 1041 blooms this year compared to 800 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
For the third year running we’ve been asking our supporters about their favourite spring flowers. The snowdrop came out on top followed by the primrose.

Unseasonal blooms 

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.  
Magnolias out in bloom at Glendurgan Garden
Magnolias out in bloom at Glendurgan Garden
Magnolias out in bloom at Glendurgan Garden
Even summer flowering plants such as hydrangea’s, Fuchsia and Agapanthus are flowering, as gardeners have been finding, while counting blooms as part in the Trust’s 11th annual Valentines Flower Count.
Provided the high winds and storms we are experiencing at the moment don’t blow away all the blooms, it’s time to get back in touch with plants and enjoy this free 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.

A mild, wet winter

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.
Cyclamen flowers at Killerton
Cyclamen flower at Killerton
Cyclamen flowers at Killerton
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. 
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.

A growing challenge

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.


Help us build a picture of which flowers are blooming in the South West by posting a photo of your garden in bloom.


Which flowers are blooming in your garden? Add your photos to the hashtag.


Add your pics to the Instagram hashtag #flowercount.