Mapping the snowdrops

Carpets of snowdrops at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Snowdrop season at Kingston Lacy is one of the most popular times in the garden. Following on from the frost of winter, the blooming snowdrops signify the start of spring.

At Kingston Lacy the snowdrops cover the curved beds of the Victorian fernery allowing visitors to wind through the twisty paths flanked by a sea of white flowers. The flowers continue down the iconic Lime Avenue path and into the Japanese garden. The juxtaposition of traditional snowdrops in-between Japanese bamboo shoots is unique to this National Trust garden.

The snowdrops are cared for by Kingston Lacy’s 8 strong gardening team but the varieties are mapped out by one dedicated volunteer who has been volunteering at Kingston Lacy for 8 years and comes with an enthusiasm and passion for the gardens.

'For the last six years I've been mapping and photographing the snowdrop collection for the Gardens team at Kingston Lacy. I'm fascinated by all aspects of plants. Identifying the subtle distinguishing features between the different varieties of snowdrops is challenging and rewarding. Even their names are wonderful and it's such a pleasure to enthuse others to become galanthophiles. Snowdrop spotting becomes addictive!

When I'm not busy cataloging our snowdrops, it will be other plants, especially orchids, ferns and the National Collections of Anemone nemorosa and Convallaria majalis, not to mention the Hyde Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.'

The bamboo juxtaposes the delicate snowdrops in the Japanese Garden
Snowdrops amongst the bamboo at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
The bamboo juxtaposes the delicate snowdrops in the Japanese Garden

Head gardener, Andrew Hunt, recognises the importance of volunteers to the garden at Kingston Lacy, 'the work that our volunteers do in the garden is invaluable. By mapping the seasonal flower displays we can keep an accurate record of our collection which in turn helps us preserve them for future generations. The snowdrops in the garden are as valuable to us as say the bone enamels in the house, we have over 40 varieties of snowdrops and they are in various locations just like the small portraits.'

The carpets of snowdrops are gradually appearing throughout the garden
Carpets of snowdrops at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
The carpets of snowdrops are gradually appearing throughout the garden

The snowdrops at Kingston Lacy are at their best from early February. Colour continues to bloom in the garden throughout spring with an impressive display of daffodils, bluebells, cherry blossom to tulips and hyacinths on the edge of summer.

Here's a few of our favourite snowdrops (probably chosen because of their names!)

‘Ding Dong’-
Foliage: applanate, wide, glaucous (grey)
Pedicel: sharply crooked behind ovary
Ovary: long, pale green
Flower: Single (early flowering)
Outer segments: white, slender
Inner segments: long two-tone green mark

Foliage: applanate, semi-erect, arched, glaucescent
Ovary: narrowly conical
Flower: double
Outer segments: white, slender
Inner segments: green U to V with expanded rounded ends, slightly blurred

‘Three ships’-
Foliage: eplicative, short at flowering, broad, glaucescent
Ovary: oviod
Flower: single
Outer segments: white, inward curving, puckered
Inner segments: distinctive green X extending to cover most of inner segment

‘Wendy’s Gold’-
Foliage: explicative, splayed, green, pale midrib
Ovary: vivid yellow
Flower: single
Outer segments: white
Inner segments: vivid yellow, elongated V covering most of inner segment