Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Snowdrop King at Colesbourne Park


Talk about a week of wonderful encounters.  When I finished at Barnsley House last week, I went to another, very different Cotswold garden that has also featured high on my "Wish List" in the last couple of years - Colesbourne Park.  This garden ranks top in the world for its snowdrops, but the ravages of the English weather rendered a visit there impossible for me this winter, because I couldn't get out of Brighton, let alone make a 130 mile trek to Gloucestershire to see the spectacle that has made this garden so famous. But just seeing the terrain here at this beautiful property allowed me to imagine how it would look in winter with acres of bobbing white heads and I'm determined to get there one day to enjoy its full galanthus glory.
But in some respects I'm glad I didn't get there in February, because my visit last week afforded me the opportunity of seeing this incredible property in summer and more importantly, having the luxury of talking to the Snowdrop King - Dr John Grimshaw (below) - at length about his work. One of the world's leading snowdrop experts, John is also an authority on trees and has written several specialist botanical books to date. Fellow Blotanist, Rothschild Orchid reviewed the Colebourne snowdrops earlier this year, so click on the link to see her post and wonderful photographs.
Colesbourne Park extends to some 2,500 acres and includes four farms and 900 acres of forestry.  When you drive in you can see all the grazing sheep, distinguished by their long fringes after sheering, which John says, is what they do to Cotswold sheep. This is a lovely property, with views over acres of greenery (top) and it's famous "blue" lake (above), which is thought to take its colour from the colloidal clay in the otherwise clean, but limey water; complete with hydroelectric station (below).  It was once the home of celebrated Victorian plantsman and collector Henry John Elwes and the house is still inhabited by his descendants.
Dr John Grimshaw arrived here in 2003 as Gardens Advisor and has spent the last six years restoring the gardens to their former state of interest.  He added long borders to the area adjacent to the main house; started a spring garden at the rear of the property (below) and added to the snowdrop collection - which already runs to well over 200 varieties.  Qualified as a botanist, he is also an dendrologist and has recently finished a major book about trees, which is extremely fitting when you consider that Henry Elwes also wrote a book on the same subject.  And when you see the incredible specimens at Colesbourne, you realise it would be easy to become passionate about trees.
Colesbourne is a truly magnificent landscape and I am really glad I was able to visit off-season, just to enjoy the views and talk to John, who is not just knowledgeable, but charming.  He has moved on from here now, but has his own blog - John Grimshaw's Garden Diary - and if you want to see regular snippets of scholarly garden news and receive the latest galanthus news, this is the place to look.
     This garden couldn't be more different than Barnsley House, where I'd been earlier in the day, or indeed, Sudeley Castle where I ventured next, but for me this was the jewel in the Gloucestershire crown!

3 comments:

  1. Tree overlapping with shapes and colours at the edge of water is very melodic... beautiful. ~bangchik

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  2. Nice garden out there. I think a connection with plants means a connection with the nature itself. Iflorist.co.uk

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  3. The reflections in the lake make for a very soothing and peaceful garden. Very beautiful.

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