Gardens to visit in February
Keith Wiley, plantsman and owner of Wildside Garden and Tom Coward, head gardener at Gravetye Manor, recommend gardens to visit that look beautiful in February
February is here. Why not peruse our list of the best February flowers, lovely gardens this month, February gardening jobs and what to plant in February.
Looking for an outing to a stunning garden this month? Our expert plantsmen Keith Wiley and Tom Coward pick the gardens with stunning flower and plant displays. Be sure to check opening times and travel restrictions before travelling. Garden visits mayneed to be pre-booked.
February is when those seasonal stalwarts, the galanthophiles, emerge to walk around the gardens of other equally passionate devotees pouring over the minutiae of snowdrops. You’ll find many events across the UK – read our feature on snowdrop gardens to visit.
The best gardens to visit in February
The gardens at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge boast more than 300 different species and cultivars of snowdrop, including some cultivars that are specific to Anglesey Abbey. You can tour the gardens at any time but to get a glimpse of these rare snowdrops you need to book yourself on one of the guided garden tours that take place three times a day in the first two and last weeks of February. The tours are included in the normal garden admission, but you do need to book in advance. See website for details. Quy Road, Lode, Cambridgeshire CB25 9EJ. Tel 01223 810080, nationaltrust.org.uk Chosen by Keith Wiley
Painswick Rococo Garden
On the other side of the country, Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire is the UK’s country’s only surviving, complete Rococo garden. Designed in the 1740s as a pleasure garden for the owner of Painswick House, the gardens are home each February to around five million snowdrops that turn the steep banks and woodland glades pure white. There is plenty to excite galanthophiles here with less-common cultivars, such as the double form Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’, but the garden is famed for the cultivar Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’, named after a snowdrop grower called James Atkins who lived on the estate in the 1800s. The garden also boasts many Cyclamen coum and a number of different hellebores.
Painswick Rococo Garden, Painswick, Gloucestershire GL6 6TH. Tel 01452 813204, rococogarden.org.uk Chosen by Keith Wiley
Alpine Garden Society
For plantaholics of a more generalist persuasion, the Alpine Garden Society show season starts this month. Despite its name, the society is not restricted to alpines and also includes woodlanders and bulbs, many of which are rarely seen. Unfailingly inspiring. alpinegardensociety.net If you prefer to view your plants outdoors, then one tree that is generally in full flower throughout the month, whatever the weather, is the witch hazel. National Collection holder, Chris Lane periodically holds open days at his Witch Hazel Nurseries near Sittingbourne in Kent. But these are booked up for this year but worth putting in the diary for next year. The Granary, Callaways Lane, Newington, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 7LU. Tel 01795 843098, witchhazelnursery.com Chosen by Keith Wiley
More dependent on milder weather, but usually reliable in the mild South West, are the spring flowers of many of the great Cornish gardens. Towards the end of the month is usually the time to see the wonderful displays of Asiatic magnolias with their huge flowers on forest-sized trees. There are many gardens in the very mildest parts of the South West where these trees are the star attraction but one of the best is the National Trust garden, Lanhydrock. Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 4AB. Tel 01208 265950, nationaltrust.org.uk Chosen by Keith Wiley
One of the best places to see snowdrops in the UK, with more than 300 species and cultivars displayed in ten acres of beautiful garden. Many fine cultivars have been selected here, including Galanthus ‘George Elwes’ and Galanthus ‘Lord Lieutenant’, and the garden also has fine colony of Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’, donated by Mr Arnott himself, the sight of which can turn anyone into a galanthophile. Set within a 2,500-acre estate in the beautiful Cotswold countryside, the garden and landscape is stunning at any time of year and the arboretum, originally planted in the 1890s by owner-botanist Henry John Elwes, has a fascinating collection boasting 11 champion trees. Colesbourne Park, Colesbourne, Cheltenham GL53 9NP. Tel 01242 870567, colesbourne gardens.org.uk Chosen by Tom Coward
This arboretum in Belgium has a very important collection of woody plants. Originally planted as part of a nursery in 1856 by Charles Van Geert, it was developed into a botanical collection in 1952 by brothers Georges and Robert de Belder and Robert’s wife Jelena. Later the same year, the International Dendrology Society was founded at Kalmthout to promote the preservation and conservation of woody plants. Today it has the largest collection of Hamamelis in Europe, which includes some of the oldest and largest witch hazels in the world, and the sight of these plants in flower lit by the winter sun is just magical. Heuvel 8, 2920 Kalmthout, Belgium. Tel+32 (0)3 666 67 41, arboretumkalmthout.be/en Chosen by Tom Coward
Jardin Majorelle-Yves Saint Laurent Mansion
If you’re heading slightly further afield in search of some winter sun, a visit to Jardin Majorelle-Yves Saint Laurent Mansion in Marrakech, Morocco, would be the perfect escape. Originally designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle, who fell in love with the colour and energy of Marrakech, it’s a true painter’s garden, with the exotic structural plants showcased against walls painted in the now iconic Majorelle Blue. After a period of neglect, the garden was restored by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, and it was opened in 2017 as the Yves Saint Laurent Museum as a tribute to the designer’s legacy and his connection to Marrakech. Rue Yves St Laurent, Marrakech 40090, Morocco. Tel +212 (0)524 29 86 86, jardinmajorelle.com Chosen by Tom Coward
Le Jardin Secret
No trip to Marrakech should be without a visit to Le Jardin Secret. Dating back to the 16th century, the garden originally surrounded a palace that was destroyed and then rebuilt as a stately home in the mid 19th century, with great respect to the original layout and architecture. After the Second World War, the property fell again into disrepair, until in 2008 an eight-year restoration project began to rebuild this beautiful garden with a planting design by Tom Stuart-Smith. Made up of two courtyards, the larger has been restored as an Islamic Paradise Garden, reflecting pure geometry and Qur’anic symbolism, while the smaller courtyard is an exotic garden, using plants from around the world. Don't miss Gardens Illustrated's feature on the garden, or our interview with Tom Stuart-Smith on the space. Rue Mouassine 121, 40030 Marrakech, Morocco. Tel +212 (0)524 39 00 40, lejardinsecret marrakech.com/en Chosen by Tom Coward
Keith is a proponent of the ‘new naturalism’ movement in gardening and runs Wildside in Devon. He has written several books and lectures on both sides of the Atlantic.
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