Home / Places to Visit / Gardens / New Geoff Hamilton Winter Border at Barnsdale Gardens

 

I love Barnsdale Gardens and visit several times a year. But in truth, rarely in the depths of winter, when gardens go to sleep – well, my garden certainly does! But when I bumped into Nick Hamilton at the Discover Rutland Tourism Forum, he enthused about the 9,000 snowdrops in the new Geoff Hamilton Winter Border, each one planted individually, which would be making their presence felt by February.

So it was that on Friday, on a morning of watery sunshine that promised spring in Rutland, I accepted Nick’s invitation to see the new border for myself. And what a joy it is!

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Criss-crossing neon-bright stems of dogwoods and pollarded willows are under-planted with masses of simple snowdrops already making a brave show. Many more snowdrops are about to open, each clump of green spears labelled with its species name. The fat buds of hellebores are just opening, and there will be daffodils in their season too. They’re all set against the softness of stipa tenuissima, anemanthele lessonia (hark at me!) and other grasses. And as I circled the beds, admiring it from every angle, the most wonderful scent wafted across, from the mass of tiny white flowers on a large bush of Christmas box (sarcococca).

many species galanthus have been donated

many species galanthus have been donated

The whole effect – bulbs and shrubs, grasses and structural features, bird song and scent, was a cheerful boost at the tail end of winter, and a fitting reminder of Barnsdale’s founding father.

It may be almost 21 years since Geoff Hamilton died, but the much-loved Gardeners’ World presenter is remembered with great affection across the UK. After his son Nick decided to re-develop a border first created by Geoff for the TV show, word went round the gardening community, and so in addition to those 9,000 snowdrops, there are many more bulbs donated by well-wishers as well as perennials which will give summer and autumn pleasure later this year. Each donated plant bears not only the plant name, but the donor’s. They include members of the extended Hamilton family and many of the ‘great and good’ of horticulture: Nigel Colborn, Fergus Garrett, Gordon Rae, Ursula Buchan to name just a few.

At the centre of the border is a magnificent terracotta ‘ali-baba’ style urn, inscribed in Geoff’s memory by its maker, Jim Keeling of the famous Whichford Pottery.

Whichford Pottery memorial

Whichford Pottery memorial

sweet-smelling sarcococca

sweet-smelling sarcococca

colourful cornus (dogwood)

colourful cornus (dogwood)

And it was one of Geoff Hamilton’s greatest fans, TV gardener Carol Klein, who officially opened the border in August last year (2016), as she put in the final plant brought from her own garden, Glebe Cottage in Devon.

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My visit was made at the start of the snowdrop season in Rutland, so if you go in the next two or three weeks you’re in for a treat. Barnsdale’s Spring Flower Fortnight runs from today, Monday 6 – Sunday 19 February 2017, which is the perfect time to see the border in all its glory: there may even be time to book in for the special ‘full English’ Breakfast and Guided Walk with Nick Hamilton on Wednesday 8 February.

Finally, as I wandered from the new winter border back to the cosy café for a welcome coffee and cake, I was struck by the beauty of Barnsdale Gardens in winter, when the ‘bones’ of the garden can be seen. For a novice gardener like me, it was a wonderful opportunity to see the carefully-created structure of the garden, from the archway of trained apple trees and the pruned roses to crisply clipped box hedges. Visit Barnsdale Gardens in winter? Well worth doing!

 
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