SNOWDROPS or crocuses – which one of these winter-to-spring jewels will sparkle more brightly for you?
Or, even better, you can pick the pair and visit both gardens, soon to open for the National Garden Scheme’s nursing and caring charities.
Each garden is set in beautifully tranquil spots in rural North Devon – snowdrops at Higher Cherubeer, two miles east of Dolton, crocuses at East Worlington, two miles west of Witheridge.
And those important diary dates: Snowdrops – Friday 8 February, Friday 15 February and Saturday 23 February from 2pm-5pm.
Crocuses – Sunday 3 March and Sunday 10 March from 1.30pm-5pm. Admission to both spectacles is £4, with no charge for children.
Jo Hynes, who lives at Higher Cherubeer with husband Tom, confesses to being a snowdrop devotee, popularly known as a galanthophile after the flower’s botanical name.
She has amassed more than 400 varieties since she was given a handful of name bulbs back in the mid-1980s and continues to be fascinated by the subtle pattern variations – usually in green, occasionally in yellow or gold – that have turned the genus into a cult following in recent years.
There’s much more to see at 1½-acre Cherubeer, not least woodland paths lined with snowdrops, hellebores and winter and spring-flowering shrubs. Keep an eye open for some of Jo’s National Collection of hardy cyclamen that display their dainty heads for almost 12 months of the year.
Enjoy refreshments, too, and a chance to buy plants, including snowdrops, of course.
But a horticultural weather warning from Jo that many of her snowdrops are opening early, so turning up on the 8th may prove advantageous again waiting another fortnight.
Over at East Worlington, visitors will feast their eyes on thousands of purple crocuses – among many other seasonal blooms – that have naturalised and spread over nearly a century across the two-acre garden and into the neighbouring churchyard. Eyes can also be trained on gorgeous views of the valley and Little Dart river that are framed in near-panorama dimensions.
Owners Campie and Barnabas Hurst-Bannister lost a day a year ago because of the freak March snow but hopes are high for an uninterrupted show this time.
And to combat the possible effects of cold, thirst and hunger, cream teas will be served next door in the parish hall, where the final stages of refurbishment will benefit from profits.
⏩⏩➡» Jo Hynes will be chatting to gardener Toby Buckland on Radio Devon between 11am and 12 noon tomorrow (Sunday), talking about her love of snowdrops and life as a gardening guru.
⏩⏩➡» How to get there: Higher Cherubeer – From Torrington on the A3124 between Beaford and Winkleigh turn right at the Stafford Moor sign and take the first right. The garden is about 500 yards on left. East Worlington House – From Witheridge square, turn right towards the village, after 1½ miles turn right at the T-junction in Drayford, over the bridge, then left to Worlington. After a third of a mile turn left at another T-junction and see garden 200 yards on left.
⏩⏩➡» Winter wonders: From top: Galanthus Elwesei Green Tip and John Gray; crocuses in close-up at East Worlington; Jo Hynes with clusters of snowdrops in her woodland; crocuses and daffodils welcome garden-goers.