When it comes to snowdrops we are twice blessed in Gloucestershire. We have Mr Elwes’s national collection at Colesbourne Park and carpeted acres at the Rococo Gardens Painswick.
The current estate at Colesbourne comprises 2500 acres including four farms and 900 acres of forest. A lake was created in 1922 in a deep wooded valley near the house to provide hydro-electric power. The striking blue colour of the lake is believed to be caused by the colloidal clay in the water.
The estate tends to be open to the public for snowdrop weekends each Saturday and Sunday in February and/or early March.
In 1874 Henry John Elwes discovered Galanthus elwesii while travelling in western Turkey and he became one of the prominent snowdrop collectors of his day. The present day collection is the result of the renewed interest of Carolyn and Henry Elwes, who have devoted much time to replanting and expanding the groups. New varieties are added each year, with the collection now totalling some 250 varieties. Also at this time of year, inter mingled with the snowdrops you can find hellebores, fritillaria, wood anemone, leucojum and cyclamen.
The estate also houses a sizable arboretum In 2004 the arboretum was visited by Owen Johnson of the Tree Register of the British Isles, who measured many of the most notable specimens found that eight of our trees were British champions, though as is the way with such things, several of these are now superseded by later discoveries. They include the tallest fastigiate hornbeam, Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ at 24 m, black oak, Quercus velutina (28 m), both in the Ring Neadow, and the beautiful Thuja plicata ‘Semperaurescens’ (23 m) by the lake steps.
Painswick’s Rococo Gardens was designed in 1740 by Benjamin Hyett. It is the only surviving garden of its type open to the public in this country. Rococo describes a period of art fashionable in Europe in the 1700s, identifiable particularly in furniture and architecture. Some of the key features include highly ornamental decoration, the use of pastel colours and asymmetry.
Today Painswick Rococo Garden Trust is a registered charity and exists to restore the Garden and to educate the public about it. It has many fun and quirky structures, nooks and crannies and is a popular wedding venue.