Valentine's Day flower count heralds good spring for gardens

The cold snap has affected spring flowers this year compared to 2016 but the number of blooms recorded in National Trust gardens in south west England is still higher in 2017 than in 2013-15.

Annual count provides a barometer of weather patterns. Image: NT
Annual count provides a barometer of weather patterns. Image: NT

In their annual flower count for Valentine’s Day, National Trust (NT) garden teams have recorded 1,737 plants blooming, 34% down on last year’s figure of 2,644. 

For the second year running, Saltram in Devon had the highest number of flowers recorded with 176 blooms (193 in 2016).

The cold weather should lead to a good spring for its gardens, the Trust said, as early flowering plants will bloom in gardens for a bit longer as cooler conditions help extend the flowering season of the earlier blooms and later flowering plants are held back for warmer, sunnier conditions.

National Trust gardens advisor in the South West Ian Wright said: "Our gardens are full of buds ready to burst into flower. Although our survey shows that spring isn’t here quite yet, when it does arrive it will be a good one.

"Alongside the usual signature plants of spring such as magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons, what is often overlooked is the amount of plants that have highly scented flowers at this early time of the year. They’re all out there advertising their presence by pushing out scents like perfume counters in a department store trying to attract their insect customers, which are few and far between at this early time.

"We have reports of daphne, mahonia, winter flowering honeysuckle, and witch hazel to name but a few, all of which give off sweet heady aromas and can be enjoyed at many of our gardens such as at Killerton, Knightshayes, Cotehele and Hidcote. Some types of snowdrops and other early spring bulbs add to this annual attack on your senses producing subtle and beautiful scents."

Gardens in the South West are usually the furthest advanced in the UK with early spring blooms, but this year numbers are down on last year which shows our spring may be back to normal for this year at least with 907 less blooms. 

Head gardener at Castle Drogo in Devon, Emma Robertson said she was seeing "a typical spring this year with nothing out in flower that shouldn’t be, and everything out at the ‘right’ time.  This is good for the garden."

In Cornwall 595 blooms were counted compared to 897 in 2016. In Devon there were 707 blooms this year compared to 1041 in 2016. 

Ian Wright added: "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."

In 2008, 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall, marking the earliest spring so far recorded.

Separately, a social media survey of NT supporters found the most popular spring blooms in the South West are: 

  1. Snowdrop - for the fourth year running.
  2. Daffodil 
  3. Primrose 
  4. Tulip 
  5. Magnolia

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