We were able to open our garden for the National Garden Scheme in February last year but our June openings were cancelled and there was inevitably doubt over our 2021 planned dates, particularly the February one. We were contacted in November and told all visits would have to be pre-booked online, which was the case for gardens that opened later last season and so to be expected. With Covid restrictions tightening as the weeks went by and the likelihood of garden-opening vanishinging, I did toy with thoughts of cancelling back then, particularly as so many of our winter delights were beginning to appear unusually early, but decided to stick with it just in case, because the NGS has lost so much of its charitable income already.
When our county, along with many others, moved into Tier 4 immediately after Christmas I was sure in my own mind that there would be no opening in February, even more so when England came under full lockdown a few days later. Out of curiousity, I checked on the NGS website to see if anyone had actually booked to visit our garden – they hadn’t, but I was shocked to find a statement to the effect that gardens would still be able to open to local visitors, subject to social distancing… To me, this went against the ‘stay at home’ ruling and certainly did not constitute meeting just one other person for exercise in a public place; not only this, garden openings on a domestic scale rely on an interaction between garden owners and visitors and as such would put everyone at risk, something we were not prepared to do. Partial clarification came out by email the next day, and of course larger gardens could perhaps open more safely, but we had no qualms about cancelling and were relieved that our decision had finally beeen made.
As it happens, despite an early start for snowdrops, hellebores, witch hazels and many other winter bloomers, the colder spell of the last few weeks has put their development on hold, bringing them into line with a more typical flowering period. From having the common snowdrops pushing through before the end of November, along with more than two thirds of the named snowdrops, there are only three or four specials in bloom, the remainder still either green shoots or firmly closed buds like the diminuitive ‘Ailywn’ with her chubby buds and ‘Percy Picton’, belying his potential taller stature:
Some witch hazels are not yet any showing colour at all, or just have one or two blooms like H ‘Pallida’, or only just opened, like H ‘Magic Fire’ and H ‘Harry’:
Most hellebores have been in bud for a number of weeks, but only one or two are actually in bloom – and I am greatly pleased to see ‘Penny’s Pink’ is in bud, having not flowered last year:
And of course I am thrilled to have a handful of buds on Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, new to me last year and promising a fragrant treat in due course albeit, like all our winter specials, for the benefit of just the Golfer and myself this year: