Hornby Castle's annual Snowdrop Weekend highlights garden restoration scheme

PUBLISHED: 01:01 07 February 2012 | UPDATED: 21:00 20 February 2013

Hornby Castle's annual Snowdrop Weekend highlights garden restoration scheme

Hornby Castle's annual Snowdrop Weekend highlights garden restoration scheme

Historic Hornby Castle is a great place to spot our favourite spring flower but the garden restoration scheme also makes a visit worthwhile, writes Linda Viney

February is the month we can really start looking forward to spring and one of the first signs is the appearance of snowdrops. What better way to see them than visit Hornby Castle, near Lancaster, when they open for their annual Snowdrop Weekend? Its also an opportunity to see the work being carried out to bring new life to the castles magnificent grounds.

The castle itself is not open but a delightful walk alongside the River Wenning will reward you with drifts of snowdrops and more and more varieties are being added in the borders. They have about 20 types but if you head for the nursery in the walled garden you will find another 100 that Mary and Ken Green have collected over the years. Some will be for sale.

Hornby Castle, a Grade 1 listed building in private ownership, has been developed over the centuries from its origins as a medieval castle. Last year Oliver and Caroline Battersby moved in with their family when Olivers parents retired and it had become too much for them.

It has always been a family home and they are gradually injecting new life into the garden and grounds. Mary and Ken already knew the grounds and are now working for the family to help create this special place. Their help, hard work and advice is paramount as we add to the already great canvas, Caroline said.

The garden was probably laid out in the mid to late 19th century as was the walled garden which is now run as the nursery specialising in hostas and ferns and other shade-loving plants. The grounds surrounding the castle are full of established trees and shrubs and yet more trees are being planted to replace those lost. When not in flood, the river adds its own tranquility and a walk enables you to forget the pressures of everyday life.

The more formal area by the main building boasts a full and colourful herbaceous border with traditional peonies, aquilegias and roses. Old weathered stone seats in alcoves beckon you to sit overlooking the large lawn in front. Steps and pathways lead through the garden and here rhododendrons with their blowsy flowers and azaleas with their perfume are underplanted with hostas and ferns. It is very much the Battersbys special place and, with children and dogs, the whole place is alive with fun.

On Hornby Castles open days you have the privilege to enter through the main arch and the drive is flanked either side with trees and shrubs and as you get further up they are underplanted with hostas and other shade-loving plants which you will see in spring. However it is the snowdrops that welcome you in February, taking a walk along by the River Wenning you are greeted with drifts of these delicate looking, but hardy plants with their white heads bobbing about.

The raised herbaceous border by the castle is where you will find most of the special snowdrops with about 20 different varieties which are well labelled. Hellebores are another treat with their heads turned down, shielding their beauty from view. You will be able to spot the new shoots of the perennials starting to show, a picture is yet to come.

If you are tempted to make the trip, then visit the walled garden which is a nursery run by Mary and Ken. Here they have 100 varieties all well labelled and you have the opportunity to notice the very slight difference between them. Maybe I am a traditionalist - I just love the small well-known varieties seen in drifts. Advice on planting and growing snowdrops is readily available and whether you have a large or small budget here is your opportunity to indulge.

This year they are open Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February, 11am to 4pm, and 26th and 27th May, 10.30am to 4.30 pm, Admission is 3. Telephone 015242 21989 or mobile 07778 910348 as the nursery is only open by appointment at other times.

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Lancashire Life

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