New snowdrop raises funds and profile at Myddelton House Gardens

A new snowdrop variety discovered at Myddelton House Gardens went on sale for the first time on Saturday at £80 a plant - and sold out in minutes.

(l - r) James Hall, John Glover and Joe Sharman. Image: Taka Wu
(l - r) James Hall, John Glover and Joe Sharman. Image: Taka Wu

Named  ‘Market Cross’ by photographer and snowdrop collector John Glover, in a competition run by the garden in Enfield, north London, the plant’s debut was made at its annual Ultimate Snowdrop Sale.

Despite one of the coldest Januarys in recent years, the sale attracted more than 200 visitors, with plants on sale going for prices ranging from £5 to nearly £1,000 for a variety known as ‘Golden Fleece’.

Head gardener James Hall said both the sale and the competition raised the garden’s profile, with mentions in the local press, The Times and The Daily Telegraph and an interview on BBC Radio Essex.

"I think that helped encourage people to visit. It’s always hard to tempt people out on a January morning but I’m sure there were some new faces that we didn’t have last year.

"We had a good turnout especially as this year it’s been so much colder and snowdrops have not been in people’s minds. It’s only in the past week that they’re just beginning to show.  It was quite a busy weekend especially for January as lots of gardens are quiet or closed. To have all these people in the garden is really exciting for us."

Hall said he is doing all he can to capitalise on Myddelton House’s association with snowdrops to drive footfall and increase the garden’s visibility.

The new 'Market Cross' variety is unusual because it has eight segments

He said: "I think it’s good to have a gimmick, just something the public can latch on to or associate with your garden."

"Myddelton got a bit forgotten in the past there are other gardens that are quite high profile. When you consider the importance of EA Bowles and Myddelton in the horticultural world it lost its way a bit and had various periods of neglect but over recent years under the Lee Valley Park Authority it has had a resurgence.  I think Myddelton is back on the map again, it’s really exciting time to be here."

The garden is steady at around 50,000 visitors a year following a HLF restoration project which ran between 2009 and 2011. Before that it only attracted around 5,000 annual visitors.  

The money raised from the Ultimate Snowdrop Sale, which Hall said was one of the first of the year and also one of the biggest, will go to Market Cross’s breeder Joe Sharman of Monksilver Nursery in Cambridgeshire, and towards a project to restore the rock garden, which Hall called "the epicentre of snowdrops". Work is underway to restore water features and Hall is careful planting of herbaceous perennials and deciduous shrubs that will not compete with the annual snowdrop show.

The new plant is the latest snowdrop discovery in the Gardens, and was found there on 19 February 2008.  Sharman has spent the past few years carefully propagating it. It is unusual as it is what is known as a 4x4, meaning it has eight segments which are arranged in two whorls of four. Most snowdrops’ flowers are made up of six segments arranged in two whorls of outer larger perianth segments and inner shorter perianth segments.

The wining name was chosen because, as well as the flower petal arrangement of the new plant relating to a cross. Hall is currently in the process of restoring the rose garden which has the old Enfield market cross (pictured) as its centrepiece.

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