Winning tip: Myddelton House Garden, Enfield, London
This fascinating four acre-garden was created in the early 20th century by noted artist and botanist Edward Bowles, whose nickname, the Crocus King, gives an indication of his passion for spring flowers. The Alpine Meadow, a scrubby slope for most of the year, is carpeted with snowdrops, fritillaries, daffodils and crocuses from February to April. There are beds of gorgeous cyclamen and hellebore currently in bloom and the well-stocked Victorian glasshouses are a delight at any time of the year. In May, the 111-year-old wisteria adds to the attractions. There’s also a small cafe and museum.
• Free entry, car park £2.50, visitleevalley.org.uk
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
As St David’s Day approaches, what better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than by being surrounded by thousands of that most optimistic of flowers, and national emblem of Wales, the daffodil? In the sheltered eight acres of wooded valley that form part of Colby Woodland Walk in Pembrokeshire, you’ll not only find banks of cheerful golden trumpets but also drifts of snowdrops, dotted with jewel-like purple crocuses. Hard to imagine that this was once a coal-mining area; nature has reclaimed it, painting it in vibrant spring colours.
• Adult £8.40, child £4.20, nationaltrust.org.uk
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Enter the cream garden gates of Dunham Massey at this time of year and you are swathed in the sweet scent of flowering shrub daphne Jacqueline Postill. As my sight is getting worse, I particularly appreciate these fragrant shrubs, plus winter honeysuckle and sweet box. There is much else to enjoy: a classic group of white birches gleaming against the black leaf litter and a neighbouring copse of the delicate multi-stemmed variety; shy clumps of tiny magenta cyclamen; an avenue of sulphur yellow witch hazels; and sunlit dogwoods, bare stems glowing salmon, ruby and lime.
• Adult £11, child £6.50, nationaltrust.org.uk
Cambo Gardens, Fife
Spring brings a tapestry of colour in these gardens near Kingbarns, home to a national collection of snowdrops and a woodland walk to the sea. Snowdrop season is enchanting but, as well as these intriguing little beauties, there are aconites, anemones, irises, daffodils, crocus, hellebores, primroses and fragrant shrubs bursting into hopeful bloom. It’s a family-friendly place, with a lost elf village, snowdrop tours, yummy veggie and vegan food in the cafe, plant sales and cute new-born piglets.
• Adult £5.50, under-16s free, cambogardens.org.uk
Dora’s Field, Rydal Mount, Cumbria
William Wordsworth was warden at St Mary’s Church church in Rydal and when his daughter Dora died of TB at the age of 42 in 1847 he and his wife planted hundreds of daffodils as a memorial to her. The Wordsworths’ had bought the land to build on in 1826 because they were concerned they would lose their tenancy at neighbouring Rydal Mount. Not just the beauty and tranquillity of the garden appeals but the view from it overlooking Windermere.
The Backs, Cambridge
Many Cambridge colleges lie with their rears facing the River Cam, creating wooded meadows called the Backs. In February the area is carpeted with purple crocuses. As you pass along the path towards the flowers, view King’s College Chapel and Trinity’s Wren Library across the Cam. Walk or cycle from Cambridge railway station towards Silver Street, cross the Cam and then follow the hoggin (gravel and sand) path north and parallel to the river for about 500 metres. The densest flowering is behind Trinity College, west of North Paddock.
Ramster Gardens, Surrey
When it comes to early spring it’s hard to top these gardens and walks near Chiddingfold in the Surrey Hills. The natural woodland feel and layout means every walk feels like a discovery instead of a meticulously planned garden. The visitors’ map we received on entry helped in our spotting of camellias, magnolias and azaleas and helped us identify the many rare flowering shrubs. There are plenty of spots to sit and take in the views and it’s also wonderful for photography as the garden’s lakes and pools add amazing reflections. And, very importantly, there’s a tearoom.
• Opens on 16 March, adult £7.50, under-16s free, ramsterevents.com
Coton Manor, Northamptonshire
This garden between Rugby and Kettering is among my favourite places to visit in spring. It has a woodland area where white narcissus grow alongside anemones and violas. In the orchards I am quite jealous of the spring-flowering shrubs. The camellias, magnolias and viburnums all look so healthy. There is an on-site plant nursery but maybe I could employ the Coton Manor gardeners to spruce up my garden. Well worth a visit.
Adults £7, child £3, cotonmanor.co.uk
Inkpen Meadow, Berkshire
Each spring wild crocuses carpet this meadow seven miles south-east of Newbury. A delight to view and a joy to visit – for free. One legend has it that 12th-century crusaders brought them back from central Europe. Others believe that they are garden escapees that have established themselves over the past 200 years. Alongside the crocuses you may find wild orchids, oxeye daisies and vivid mauve and purple scabious and knapweed.
Wheddon Cross, Exmoor
Snowdrop Valley puts on a marvellous show each spring. The woodland and dells surrounding the River Anvil play host to hundreds of thousands of delicate snowdrops. The estate is privately owned but opens for about a month each year to share just how beautiful it is. This year it is open until 3 March. There are five walks of varying difficulty to take: we chose walk two, which takes about an hour-and-a-half and consists of bridle paths and footpaths, largely through woodland. The snowdrops line the route and lie in front of you like a giant white carpet.
• Car park £2, wheddoncross.org.uk
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