This year’s milder, calmer and less wet winter has been much kinder to gardens as gardeners and volunteers have found in the Trust’s annual Valentines Flower Count.
Gardeners at 25 National Trust properties across the South West took part in the annual Valentine’s Day flower count which first started in Devon and Cornwall in 2006.
Gardens in the south west are usually the furthest advanced in the UK with early spring blooms and, this year, thanks to the mild and calm weather, there are 158 more blooms across the south west than in 2014, an increase of 17 per cent.
Spring is well on its way despite the recent snowy and icy blast with spectacular displays at many gardens. In the depths of Cornwall, Camellias have been in flower since November. And, with the warm weather last week the snowdrops and aconites are creating swathes of colour in many gardens.
In Cornwall 545 blooms were counted compared to 554 in 2014. In Devon there were 800 blooms this year compared to 651 in 2014.
This year 1,345 plants were recorded in 18 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,205 in 18 gardens in 2014. In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded, marking the earliest spring so far recorded. 1,622 plants were recorded in gardens across the whole of the South West this year compared 1,454 in 2014.
The highest numbers of flowers recorded in the South West were recorded at Lanhydrock with 146 blooms, while Glendurgan saw the biggest drop in numbers of blooms from 73 this year compared to 98 in 2014.
Tommy Teagle, Head Gardener at Lanhdydrock said: “We’ve had 146 plants in flower this year, over 100 of the plants in bloom are Camellias and the Daphne is smelling superb! Overall there is a plethora of buds on the plants and it promises to be a colourful spring providing the weather is good.”
John Lanyon, Head Gardener at Glendurgan said: “The reason our figures are lower is because the recent cold weather has slowed everything down. Before the cold snap it was the earliest season I have ever observed. As usual it is the set of weather patterns that stimulated, then halted growth.”
Ian Wright, National Trust Gardens Advisor in the south west said: ‘“Spring is my favourite time of year. It’s a time to get back in touch with plants and enjoy this free, annual spectacular played out over several heady weeks.
“You can almost map the progress of spring as it travels from west to east/south to north by way of the flowers in our gardens. I would thoroughly recommend getting out there and reaffirming your senses with ‘all things nature’. I always marvel at how uplifted you can feel after spotting your first swath of daffodils or magnolias in flower against a crisp, blue sky.
“Comparing the number of plants across our gardens on a set day every year gives us a real insight into how our gardens respond to weather patterns, and is a useful ‘barometer’ for the season ahead.”
Building on the success last year and for the second year running the conservation charity also asked its supporters to vote for their top spring flower. The snowdrop came out on top, with the primrose in second place. National Trust gardens at Cotehele, Stourhead and Killerton were also voted the most popular places to see spring blooms.