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:


This entry was posted in Gardening, Gardens, open gardens, Winter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Cancelled…

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    I think you are better off not opening to the public. It is too great a risk to your health and that of your family.

    • Cathy says:

      You are perfectly right, Paddy, and for our openings we need to be able to mix with our visitors as that is an integral part of the experience for all concerned – as is the provision of tea and cake!

  2. SpruceKnob says:

    I love seeing people’s photos of witch hazel. This past spring I planted two native witch hazels, which are still just sticks in the ground after the full season. I don’t have much hope for them, but I do enjoy seeing others’ and dreaming…

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Be well, be safe… Enjoy your beautiful garden yourselves is the best idea.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, it’s definitely for the best – and of course will give me the freedom to dream up some new projects in the interim!

  4. johnvic8 says:

    You are wise. There’s a lot of gardening and golfing ahead, so stay safe.

  5. Anna says:

    Oh I am so sorry that you will not be able to share your winter gems Cathy and welcome visitors in February but definitely the wisest decision for all. ‘Percy’ is indeed a tall guy. Email on its way to you soon – a thorough greenhouse inspection is required first 😄

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, it’s a mixed blessing, Anna, but definitely for the best. I have just had another email from the NGS today, changing their guidance again because of the situation, canelling all January openings and then reviewing it on a fortnightly basis. Here I have already poked around in the soil to see if any more om ‘drops are emerging, but wil stay hopeful and not dig out any of those in pots yet to check the contents!

  6. Noelle says:

    Keeping safe, and keeping to the rules is the top priority at present. When gardens reopen and it is safe to do so, we shall all return to enjoying Sunday afternoon visits all the more.

  7. Chloris says:

    Yes, garden visiting must surely be against lockdown rules. Many of my snowdrops seem later this year and the winter aconites are still not showing apart from a few buds. As for Witch hazels, I still have Jelena and Vesna to come. Arnold Promise is of course the last of all. It’s good, we don’t want all our winter treats at the same time.

    • Cathy says:

      The NGS jumped the gun with the first statement they issued on 4/5th January, and have since revised it, closing all gardens that would have opened in January and planning to review the situation on a fortnightly basis. I have no doubts we made the right decision when we did. I am really appreciating the vraiation in witch hazel season, which I now realise seems to vary not just from year to year but by variety too. Like you, some of mine are still to come, but some of those have been amongst the first to flower in other years. Almost all of them are blooming (or likely to bloom) more profusely than ever before, which must be weather related, which I am guessing must be the result of heavy rain at the beginning of last year as it was dry for so long after that

  8. Cathy the safest thing for you and your family, with the level 4 that you have in your county, is not to open the garden. Enjoy your divine witch hazel in flower or about to bloom that I love. And the rest of the wonders you have in the garden such as hellebores and snowdrops when they bloom. Maybe in June you can open the garden and interact with the people who come to visit it. Now you and the golfer take great care of yourselves and enjoy your wonderful and magnificent garden and its jewels. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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