A French garden with 250 varieties of snowdrop is the first of the year to visit under the Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts scheme. It will be open to visitors on February 6 and 7 with Covid-19 health protocols in place.
Sheila and Ian Cole have opened their Birdsong garden Arnac-la-Poste, Haute-Vienne, to raise money for Open Gardens for a number of years, often during the winter, to allow people to see their magnificent collection of rare snowdrops.
In January the garden was featured in the popular gardening magazine Mon jardin et ma maison.
Mrs Cole says most of her snowdrops should be in flower for the open day. She confesses to be a confirmed galanthophile (snowdrop enthusiast): “They are a beautiful flower which gives joy throughout the bleaker months and they are fascinating because of their variety.
"Their height can range from 4cm to 35cm. There are elegant single ones, doubles and double doubles.
"I always advise visitors to look at the leaves as well which are so important. They vary widely in shape, colour and texture and can sometimes be more impressive than the flower.
"Galanthus Augustus has a silver streak down the centre of its leaves. You can find the snowdrops throughout the garden. Most are planted in herbaceous borders, so they are protected by other plants during the summer to prevent them from drying out.”
Every year she increases her collection. When Connexion spoke to her in 2017, she had a hundred fewer varieties: “I can never resist when the catalogues come in. My latest favourite is called Golden Fleece, Galanthus plicatus which became quite famous for being the first tipped with yellow.”
To comply with health regulations, only six people will be allowed in the garden at a time and visitors are asked to book a half-hour slot at 10h30, 11h00, 11h30, 14h00, 14h30 or 15h00 on either day by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr and Mrs Cole will be on hand to walk round with visitors, if they wish, to explain the snowdrops. They are not able to sell refreshments this year, but there will be plants on sale. People with increased health vulnerability can ask for individual appointments throughout the week, from February 8-12. The entrance fee is €5.
Last year Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts, decided not to open any gardens, because of the Covid-19 situation. But this year the association which encourages gardeners of all nationalities to open up their gardens, big and small, to the public, to raise funds for charity, is back in action.
President Karen Roper says last year they did not want any of their garden owners to feel under pressure and they did not want to put anyone at risk: “This year we are in a slightly different position, everyone is accustomed to the accepted safety measures and people are more aware of how to keep themselves safe.
"We have used the government guidelines and put protocols in place to guide all our garden openers and it is up to each one to decide, whether at any particular point in the year, they are happy to open.
"We know it may still be very up and down this year, but we would like people to know we are operating and opening whenever possible.”
Open Gardens started in 2013 when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to see if they could raise money for charity and the idea quickly caught on.
Since then they have raised a significant amount of money. In 2019 they were able to give €17,000 to five French children’s charities. The main beneficiary, as in previous years was A Chacun Son Everest which helps children and women who have had cancer.
Membership is €15 which allows visits to all gardens open in the year. Alternatively, individual garden visits are €5, payable at the garden gate.
Mrs Cole says she is delighted gardens will be opening again this year: “Sharing the simple joy of being in a garden in the fresh air is one of the pleasures of life, and I am happy we will once again be able to raise money for such good causes.”