Coosheen, a garden on the edge of Cork city in the south of Ireland, is sheltered from the salty-winds whipping off the Atlantic by a boundary of beech hedging. Inspired by visits to the Dublin garden that formerly belonged to the author and horticulturist Helen Dillon, garden owner Hester Forde combines bulbs with perennials, evergreens and grasses. Her passion for collecting snowdrops has created a garden that draws you out, even on the coldest of winter days.
Snowdrop collecting in Ireland derived from naturally occurring hybrids found in gardens around the country. Once nurtured and bulked up, they were shared among passionate gardeners and it is only recently that many of them have become available commercially. Cicely Hall, who had a snowdrop named after her, amassed a noted collection that is now maintained by her son Robin at Primrose Hill Garden in Lucan, Co Dublin, while at Altamont Gardens, Co Carlow, Corona North enriched her collection with hybrids she collected from abandoned demesnes.
Here are just a few examples of some of these special Irish cultivars, grown by Hester Forde at Coosheen.
Top row, from left to right
Also known as ‘The O’Mahoney’, this tall Irish snowdrop has chunky flowers with grooves on the inner segments. Reliable once settled. Height 25cm
G. ‘Hill Poë’
This pinnate Irish double, with five outer petals, was found growing under a walnut tree at Riverston, Co Tipperary in 1911 by James Hill Poë. It needs good draining and flowers late in the season. Height 14cm.
G. ‘Brenda Troyle’
This early flowering hybrid, with a a broad inverted ‘V’ at the apex, was found on the Acton family estate in Co Wicklow. It has large, rounded flowers, a honey scent and grey-blue leaves. Height 20cm.
G. ikariae ‘Emerald Isle’
This Irish snowdrop has broad, green markings on the outer segments and is almost entirely green on the inner segments. It was found in 1986 by Megan Morris oat Drew’s Court, Co Limerick. Height 18cm.
G. plicatus ‘Woodtown’
This Irish snowdrop, with large rounded flowers and erect to arching, blue-green leaves, was raised by Oliver Schurmann of Mount Venus Nursery. Height 16-20cm.
G. ‘Waverley’ seedling
This Irish cultivar is a tall, mid-season snowdrop. A vigorous grower, as good as its parent ‘Waverley Aristocrat’. 18-20cm
G. ‘Mark’s Tall’
Found by Mark Smyth in Northern Ireland, this tall snowdrop is a cross between nivalis and plicatus species. Flowers prolifically in January and February. Height 35cm.
G. ‘Cicely Hall’
This outstanding, robust Irish cultivar has dark-green inner markings on the largest sinus (notch at the tip of the tepal) of any cultivar. It was found at Primrose Hill, Lucan, where it was knicknamed The Stalker. Height 20-25cm.
With chunky, rounded flowers this Irish snowdrop is a really good doer, flowering in February and March. Height 18cm.
G. ‘Waverley Aristocrat’
Raised by Harold McBridek in Co Down, this snowdrop has long, slender outer segments and a broad green mark on the inner segment. It often produces two scapes (flower stalks). Flowers February to March. Height 16-20cm.
G. ‘Green Lantern’
This snowdrop, with well-shaped flowers, has a broad inverted ‘V’ on the inner segments. It bulks up well. Height 18cm.
Address 15 Johnstown Park, Glounthaune, Cork, T45CC42, Ireland.
Tel +353 (0)86 865 4972.
Open Coosheen is open on selected days during February. From May to September, the garden is open to groups, by appointment.
Words Annie Gatti
Photographs Jason Ingram