Horstead House; a work in progress

For garden owners with cherished, annual drifts of snowdrops like Matthew and Caroline Fleming who open their garden at Horstead House in Norfolk, the days of anticipation leading up to the appearance of the snowdrops can be agonising. But the joy of seeing those snow-white drifts appear never diminishes.  

There are many factors that help ensure their faithful return. As Matthew explains: “We bought Horstead House over 20 years ago and moving in during the summer we weren’t aware of the beautiful snowdrops we had inherited. I made some mistakes with tree clearing and bonfires which left their mark on the original snowdrop drifts, but the ongoing restoration is going well.”

Fanatical splitters of snowdrops the Flemings split the plants as soon as the flowers die back. “We would like to wait until the bulbs are fully dormant, but we have a problem with splitting the plants in the long grass as we have to be able to see what we are splitting. It’s hard work and we spend a lot of time on our hands and knees.” 

At Horstead House the snowdrops are divided across two areas. There are open swathes of snowdrops at the front along the drive where they now flourish with good care and good splitting before they stretch away into the wood. Here the environment changes and the challenges and opportunities change too.  

“We’re lucky that parts of the wood are often inaccessible, so it acts as a nursery for us where we can let the plants grow and naturalise. We are, however, a bit ruthless about moving the flowers from the woodland to the open and seeing whether they will adapt – they do seem to be pretty resilient and bounce back from my sometimes rather clumsy treatment of them.” 

The son of National Garden Scheme garden openers, Matthew has opened the garden at Horstead House with his wife for over 15 years. 

“It’s been so successful,” he says. “I think if you are lucky enough to inherit and develop a snowdrop garden it should be shared. Come and see the drifts, they are fantastic in real life.” 

Horstead House opens on February 18th and by arrangement during February for groups of between 1 and 99. To discover more and to plan your visit see: https://findagarden.ngs.org.uk/garden/22718/horstead-house 

This story is an extract taken from the online talk ‘Celebrating Snowdrops’ recorded last year which you can buy here. 


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