Nothing says spring like the arrival of the humble snowdrop.
Peeking out of the ground, nestled in a late drift of snow, they’re often all too easy to miss. The annual Scottish Snowdrop Festival organised by VisitScotland, however, is working hard to make us a little bit more appreciative of this tiny amaryllis.
There are more than 60 gardens across Scotland involved in the festival, including, naturally, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Suzanne Casey, group marketing manager at VisitScotland is proud of the way the project has developed over the past five years.
“The festival began as an incentive to get people out and about in winter when there’s not much to do,” she says. “It started with garden enthusiasts but has really mushroomed from there. There are lots of families with young kids who come along for a day out and a walk.”
While most of us are happy with a tour of the display at the Botanics, a cup of tea in the cafe and the chance to buy our own pot of bulbs in the shop, for botanists it’s a time to monitor the spread of different species and identify new varieties.
For many small gardens the appeal is not so much volume as variety. From the outside, snowdrops all look much alike but real aficionados of the flower can be found on their hands and knees at this time of year looking up into the white bell shaped tepals that make the flower and examining the formation of the plant’s leaves to ascertain which one of the 2000 cultivated varieties of snowdrop it is.
Stella Rankin of Kevock Garden in Lasswade sees her garden’s contribution to the project as “a sign of hope” that spring is finally here. She says: “The festival is an exceedingly good event, lots of people have come out to visit the garden. We don’t have beautiful carpets of flowers like the Cambo Estate in Fife but we have lots of varieties of snowdrops dotted all over the garden and lots of early spring colour. We have daphnes, sarcococcas, hellebores, irises and rhododendrons .
“People visit Cambo’s wonderful display to see vast carpets of snowdrops while they come to us to see colour.”
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Ideal for a local introduction to snowdrops, the Botanics has been giving visitors tours of its snowdrops for almost a month now. Alongside the snowdrops is exhibition More Flowers Spring dedicated to the beginning of a new season.
Catch the last guided Snowdrop Walks of the season today and tomorrow at the John Hope Gateway at 11am (£4, age 14+).
Hopetoun House, South Queensferry
Officially the grounds of Hopetoun House are closed until Easter but rangers have made a special exception to show off their glorious floral display. Hopetoun’s 2pm guided tour is already fully booked this Sunday but there is still the opportunity to show yourself round the grounds. The house has a special education programme for children which is also dedicated to snowdrops this weekend.
Open this Sunday, 10.30am-4pm (adult £4.25, child £2.50).
Kevock Garden, Lasswade
Hosting a special open day on Sunday, March 4 dedicated to the appreciation of snowdrops, Kevock Garden is a hidden gem that will appeal to avid gardeners. Specialising in rare alpines, the garden also has a large nursery with an array of unusual plants for sale. You will also be able to catch the first flush of their early rhododendrons too. Open 12-3pm (adult £3.50, children free).
Shepherd House Garden, Inveresk
For the widest variety of snowdrops, it’s hard to beat Shepherd House. Lady Ann Fraser takes a personal interest in the cultivation of snowdrops and painting them. So far she has amassed 50 different types of the flower dotted around the garden. Eschewing large displays in favour of planting them in hospitable beds, an afternoon here may prove to be one large game of hide and seek. There will also be flowers for sale.
Open this Sunday, 2-5pm (adult £4, children free).