Snowdrops at Lydiard Park

Snowdrops at Lydiard Park (Jane Gifford)

Snowdrops (Jane Gifford)

Each February the display of snowdrops at Lydiard Park is more spectacular than ever, partly by clumps getting bigger and self-seeding, partly by deliberate dig-and-divide work by staff and volunteers each March.

The snowdrops are in all the woods as you walk around the site, by the lake, on up to Lydiard House, and an especially vivid display in front of the stable buildings where the Coach House Tea Rooms are located. People visit from long distances to marvel at the sheer numbers in every nook and cranny.

Many are the basic, but beautiful, wild variety, while more are a double version. Very rarely, you can find hints of cross-breeding with an unusual variant linked to Lady Diana, a historic character who loved her garden plants in the large Walled Garden beyond the Coach House Tea Rooms. A few specimens of the Lady Diana snowdrop are carefully preserved in a secret location.

But people come simply because they know they can go for long walks along elegant tree-lined paths, and see snowdrops en masse in lots of picture-perfect woodland combinations. Come and see for yourself!

Then come back again in April to see the first displays of wild flowers, the bluebells, the cowslips and then later to spectacular pink displays of red campion and much much more.

John Ball (Gardener)








A blog full to the brim

DSC_0010I have decided to pour the watery contents of one month into the other, to make a blog full to the brim.

These days I like to offset the effect of increasing age and pessimism, and positively discriminate in outlook.  So from the glass half full perspective, I should talk about the wonderful absence of frost and snow this winter.

I can enthuse about the ease for wildlife, in the way of available food, not this year frozen in the soil or the lake.  Our waterfowl, unlike some recent past years, did not look like they were auditioning for ‘Frozen Planet’!

And normally so rare in our county of Wiltshire, we could often enjoy the sound of rushing white water mixing with the sound of gales blasting through the bare trees, whilst enjoying a quick stop at our Chinese bridge between the two lakes.  And there being time to notice beyond the white water, a choppy body of turbid khaki water with birds bobbing around.

Amongst themselves and in exchanges with the public the Team has taken part in the great debate about if the present conditions are due to man made climate change.  Also there will be a change in the suitability of our country to its current wildlife population, which will favour some species, but not others.

The ground conditions limit the range of tasks the Wardens are engaged in.  Much of our work in these two months has been making safe fallen and damaged trees.  Our volunteer force has been a great assistance in the cutting up and moving the arboreal victims of the storms.

We have been reminded of the value our visitors attach to LydiardPark as a countryside venue of choice.  The few sunny days we have experienced since Christmas, have produced a fantastic response in visitor numbers.  I contend that ‘cabin fever’, and an instinctive requirement to experience the outdoors, has condensed our visitors into these few fine days.  We have had days when all our parking was taken up, so please be patient as a visitor, with the advent of drier weather we will have our overflow parking area again in use.

With a feeling of having rounded the worst dark days of winter, we welcomed the appearance of our fantastic snowdrop display.  These have now been joined by the crocus, with the purple variety coming to the fore.

And now at the end of the month we see daffodils in bud, with some showing an odd welcome golden flower.  Some sheltered hawthorn trees are bursting into life, and wild cherries are showing white blooms.  The hazels are festooned with pollen bearing catkins and pussy willows (goat willow) are near to their welcome display.

So from the perspective of the ‘glass half full’ position, spring is around the corner, and the ground being well watered, will sustain a long lush summer for us all.

Mark Eborn, Lydiard Park Warden

First signs of spring

30. Lydiard Park Winter Copyright Jane Gifford 2008

After a long absence from updates over the Christmas and New Year period, in which the Garden Team have been busy formative pruning fruit trees, cutting back perennials, weeding and carrying out winter maintenance we are seeing the first signs of spring starting to come through.

All this despite the horrendous weather – people and plants buffeted by high winds and never-ending rain – and the ground underfoot becoming marsh-like in places. Even though Lydiard Park is largely on Corallian Limestone (colloquially known as Coral Rag) the deluge of rain means it has nowhere left to drain to and pools at the surface. The effects of all this are easy to see in the new mini-ponds and debris from trees, but the impact of standing in water for so long can also affect plants in the Walled Garden and won’t be obvious straight away.

In the Walled Garden the formal structure of the fruit trees, topiary and lawns creates an impressive backdrop for the plants we are cultivating and waiting to see – the work of the Garden and Warden Teams is quite appropriately summed up by George Eliot in the quote “It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.

Bedding –Spring bulbs are starting to emerge, first signs of Reticulata Iris flowers, Hyacinth flower tips and Tulip leaves.

Fruit – Apples have been pruned into the formal “goblet” shape, creating an impressive visual impact when viewed from afar.

Flowering plants The hardiest of plants are showing themselves at this time of year including winter aconites, hellebores, a few early pulmonaria and omphaloides. Not to forget the ornamental leaves of Arums, Cyclamen and Asphodels.

Notable plants The stunning displays of snowdrops across the park are a glorious sight, carpeting areas before the woodland canopy covers over. Also, outside the Front of House is an almost insignificantly flowering Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet) – just go up to the small spidery brown/yellow flowers and sniff…what a fantastic fresh lemony scent!

Plant sales Lifting and division of plants for sale in our new retail area continue, with many more being prepared at every opportunity.

Simon Brooks, Head Gardener