Newcastle gardeners make trip to see vast array of snows

Newcastle gardeners make trip to see vast array of snows

7 March 2018

TWENTY six members of Newcastle Gardening Group travelled to Maurice and Joy Parkinson’s cottage garden at Ballyrobert in Co Antrim last month for one of their very popular snow open days.

The garden, which is open to visitors, is also a Royal Horticultural Society Partner Garden which Maurice and Joy try to blend into the local surroundings, both horticulturally and culturally.

It contains an extensive collection of plant varieties with over 4,000 at last count. From the garden the couple also trial, propagate, grow and sell plants both online and onsite. 

Maurice is a snowdrop expert, a Galanthophile to give him the correct title and his garden is host to many varieties, with the Newcastle visitors given a tour where there are large drifts of snowdrops interspersed with ribbons of Crocus. 

The Hellebores, which are a bit later this year, were emerging to give some wonderful colour too.   Maurice pointed out the different varieties and that not all snowdrops are alike, with the visitors learning a lot about the varieties and their names.  

There are about 19 snowdrop (Galanthus) species and thousands of varieties. Maurice grows about 160 varieties of snowdrop some quite tall, two of which are ‘Colossus’ and ‘the Pearl’ with some Irish varieties too.  

Yellows are a fairly recent addition, with the best of the yellows at Ballyrobert one called Primrose Warburg. Although we often see and enjoy snowdrops in large drifts in the larger gardens and estates, they can be grown very successfully and are a lovely addition to smaller gardens.

A recent study in Ireland has discovered that snowdrops are far more commonly found in Church of Ireland churchyards compared to those other Christian faiths, no one knows why.  As ever, in horticulture there is often a 

social history running alongside. 

The Newcastle visitors also learned about the propagation and cultivation of this beautiful plant, with Maurice informing the group that the best collection by far in Ireland is at Altamont Gardens in Co Carlow. 

The Newcastle visitors, who enjoyed tea and home-made cake in the tearoom, with many buying some plants to bring home, plan to visit the Co Antrim garden in the future as there is much more to enjoy as the season progresses.

The Newcastle Gardening Group’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, March 15, at the Newcastle Centre, starting at 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome, with the £4 charge payable at the door, including tea and coffee.

The guest speaker will be Dawn Mitchell-McEntee whose beautiful romantic walled garden in Hillsborough opens regularly under the Ulster Gardens Scheme. 

Dawn’s garden has featured in the BBC Garden of the Year with Diarmuid Gavin and Helen Dillon, and she is also a major contributor to the Hillsborough floral displays as well as Britain in Bloom competitions. Along with husband Ken, the couple are sure to provide an entertaining evening with their presentation focusing on their life in gardening.