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Rare snowdrops already blooming on historic Suffolk estate

PUBLISHED: 11:04 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:04 15 November 2018

The rare species of snowdrops are now blooming at Ickworth Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALE

The rare species of snowdrops are now blooming at Ickworth Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALE

Ray Dale

Visitors to Ickworth estate near Bury St Edmunds could be forgiven for thinking the pretty white snowdrops in bloom were a sign of nature getting confused.

Jack Lindfield with the Reginae-Olagae at Ickworth Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALEJack Lindfield with the Reginae-Olagae at Ickworth Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALE

However, the flowers are actually a very rare species which bloom in the autumn.

The species is so rare that when gardeners at the Suffolk estate decided to start work on a plan to plant bulbs which would let visitors enjoy snowdrops for six months of the year, only 1,000 of the November-flowering Reginae-Olagae were available.

The species has evolved over time to flower in autumn, rather than the more familiar January-flowering snowdrops.

The Ickworth gardens team have been planting the bulbs along one of the estate’s most popular outdoor trails, the Albana Walk, and they are already growing and flowering this month.

The rare species of snowdrops at Ickworth, which bloom in autumn Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALEThe rare species of snowdrops at Ickworth, which bloom in autumn Picture: NATIONAL TRUST/RAY DALE

Jack Lindfield, assistant head gardener at Ickworth, said: “Planting the snowdrops within the Albana woodland means the display will really stand out from the rest and give them a good place where we know they will naturalise overtime.

“Galanthus Reginae-Olagae is a beautiful plant that is rarely offered and it is always nice to see something a bit different or something very special.”

The project means the National Trust’s Ickworth estate will become the first place to see glimpses of snowdrops in the eastern region.

A rare example of Italianate architecture in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, Ickworth is home to an art collection brought together by the Earl Bishop – the Fourth Earl of Bristol – during 30 years of travel around Italy.

Mr Lindfield, whose team will continue to plant unusual species of snowdrop at Ickworth over the coming years, sourced the Reginae-Olagae bulbs from a specialist grower in Holland.

“As soon as I knew about these bulbs, I knew that we had to have them here,” he said.

“Not only does this autumn-flowering variety originate from the Italian region of Sicily, and we know how much the Earl Bishop was influenced by Italy, but he also created an Ickworth that celebrated a changing landscape and we want to continue that today.

“The Albana Wood was a great 18th century pleasure ground so we are building on the Earl Bishop’s legacy.

“Ickworth already has a wonderful display of snowdrops each winter, so we’re adding to that and growing it further. The plan is, in the next few years, to create a beautiful display lasting six months of the year.”

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