Everyone’s got a favourite spring flower, one that makes us happy or brings to mind someone close to us. The hopeful sight of a carpet of snowdrops, a cheery sea of bright yellow daffodils, or the nodding chequered head of a snakeshead fritillary can make someone’s day.
As we emerge from the hibernation of winter, this is the perfect time to meet up with loved ones for a spring pilgrimage to see the bulbs, blooms and spring flowers with the National Trust in Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire, followed by a catch-up chat over a cuppa.
Each of the National Trust places we look after has gorgeous spring flowers in the garden. We’re very grateful to everyone who stays on the paths so as not to damage the delicate flowers and resists picking them so that they remain growing for everyone to experience.
Here are the best places to enjoy spring favourites in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Snowdrops – out now
Stowe is, of course, the place for snowdrops – so widespread and so popular are they that they have their own season.
And it’s Stowedrops time right now, with a special snowdrop walk to follow. Canons Ashby has a carpet of snowdrops as you walk up to the house, as well as along the paths and garden walkways.
Daffodils (end of February/March)
Waddesdon’s daffodils are so plentiful that they have an entire valley named after them. Swerving the shuttle bus and taking the 20-minute walk up to the manor will take visitors on a sunshine-yellow route through Daffodil Valley.
Ascott reopens on 17 March, and their 1.5 million (yes, you read that right) daffodils lining the driveway should be in full and glorious bloom. At The Vyne, daffodils litter the south drive beside the mansion and line the path through the historic walled garden. They have bunches for sale here too.
Hughenden is the place for delicate, lemon-coloured primroses. They were (former Hughenden resident) Benjamin Disraeli’s favourite flower, and they dot the banks and borders of the garden.
Cherry blossom (March)
Greys Court’s cherry garden is open for blossom season again this year, with more cherry trees than ever before. Last year, this part of the garden was closed for restoration and tree planting.
The historic walls have been repaired, the path re-laid so that it is more accessible, and the planting minimised to showcase the frothy blossom of the cherry avenue.
Stowe has a brand-new blossom map highlighting all the best places to get a fix of blossom ‘hanami’. The largest and most magnificent of the cherry trees is next to the statue of Queen Caroline.
Catch the magnolia, whilst you can, at the entrance to the walled garden and, in the white garden, by the tower at Greys Court. It’s a perfect selfie pic framed against the ancient walls.
Nuffield Place (opening 01 March) has flowering magnolia (along with cherry trees and colourful rhododendrons) running around the edge of the woodland walk.
Fingers crossed, there is no frost, as this instantly causes the stunning creamy white and pink flowers to turn murky brown and fall to the floor.
The Wilderness Walk at Chastleton has been restored and this has let more light onto the ground, resulting in many of the original plants returning after decades of being shaded out.
One beautiful little plant that thrives at the edges of the wooded area is the dogs-tooth violet. The delicate little star-shaped flowers with swept-back petals can be pink, mauve, yellow or white.
Mixed spring flower displays (March/April)
The team at Greys Court have planted a mix of spring bulbs – anemone, narcissi, erythronium, hyacinth, muscari, scilla, tulips and iris. These are best seen in the patchwork planting on the Nut Walk (reflecting the patchwork quilt on Lady Brunner’s bed in the house). Watch out for the burnt orange-coloured hyacinth by the Cromwellian building – Head Gardener Tim loves it but says it’s quite ‘marmite’.
At Hughenden, Head Gardener Claire was inspired by the calming effect of cool waters in the moonlight for the spring displays. (She was planning it at the end of the long, hot summer last year!) There’s an abstract pattern in the round ‘pool’ beds of swans with their heads in the water, picked out with narcissi, polyanthus, iris and fragrant hyacinth.
Basildon Park has gone more naturalistic with its planting in recent years to encourage the spread of the wild orchids in the summer. This has resulted in a profusion of naturalised spring flowers, including daffodils, tiny, deep-blue violets, lemony primroses and cowslips.
Snakeshead fritillaries (April)
This elegant plant has a curious pink chequerboard effect on its bulb-shaped flowers balanced on the finest thin stem. You can see snakeshead fritillaries at Stowe in March/April, dotted around Gurnet’s walk, and they can also be seen at Greys Court in the walled garden.
At Waddesdon, this spring, more than 50,000 red and yellow tulips will bloom on the parterre, with more in the Aviary Garden in tones of vibrant pink and purple.
Appropriately enough, the Dutch garden at Ascott is another place to see tulips in April/May. There are 14 varieties planted in the circular beds leading to the sculptural Eros fountain at the head of the garden.
Bluebells (end April/early May)
The woodland at Basildon Park is a great place to see bluebells in the dappled shade of the oak and beech trees. The ranger team have installed some forest bathing benches so that visitors can fully immerse themselves in the delicate scent and cool blue aura of a bluebell wood.
Hughenden’s Woodcock Walk is a short walk, great for families, and takes in some beautiful Chiltern woodland filled with bluebells.
For those with mobility issues, Nuffield Place is a really good place to see bluebells. The bluebell wood surrounds the garden, so it’s not far to walk, and there’s a good path around the edge.
Boarstall Duck Decoy is open Sundays and perfect for a family walk and plays on the natural play trail. The bluebells carpet the woodland here.
Find out more about the National Trust’s properties in Oxfordshire.