Altamont for snowdrops has become an annual visit not to be missed. We usually visit in early February as this is generally when the greatest number of snowdrops are in flower. The snowdrop season can stretch from October until March but the greatest selection is open in February and this has dictated the timing of the annual Snowdrop Week at Altamont Gardens and of the associated Snowdrop Gala. As an aside, the Snowdrop Week at Altamont Gardens has been such a success over past years that it has now been extended to become a Snowdrop Month!
There are very few gardens in Ireland with a snowdrop collection as extensive as that at Altamont, something attributable to Paul Cutler who is the head gardener there and a snowdrop enthusiast for many years. He has built up the range of snowdrops over many years and continues to grow and maintain them to a high standard. Paul gives guided tours of the collection during the snowdrop event and will share the duties this year with Robert Millar who will do the Saturday tours. Robert is the proprietor of Altamont Plants, based in the walled garden at Altamont, and the organiser, along with Hestor Forde, of the annual Snowdrop Gala – based this year at the Mount Wolseley Hotel in Tullow, Co. Carlow.
The gala offers attendees talks from two speakers – Ian Christie, a highly respected and well-established nurseryman who specialises in alpine and woodland plants and who has a particular interest in snowdrops. His introduction, Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ a beautiful yellow-marked snowdrop created headlines as it was auctioned and achieved the highest price for a snowdrop to that date. It is only one of many interesting snowdrops he has introduced. Ian Young is best known for his weekly Bulb Log, a blog he has written for many years and which is a wonderful source of information and observation of growing bulbs under cover and in the open garden. Both are from Scotland. After the talks there is a tour of Altamont Gardens and the opportunity to purchase from the interesting selection of snowdrops on offer from the attending nurseries – Avon Bulbs being the biggest nursery attending.
The gala is on Saturday, 2nd of February, and there is a talk on the Friday evening, a joint presentation by Paul Cutler and Assumpta Broomfield – “A Celebration of Corona North” to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. Corona North was the owner of Altamont Garden who passed the garden and house on to the state. This talk is open to the public and will also be at the Mount Wolseley Hotel.
Circumstances seem set to prevent my being at Altamont for the snowdrop tours this year so, at the drop of a hat, we headed off to Altamont today and were delighted to see the gardens looking so well and can assure readers that there is a treat in store for anybody who visits. Altamont Plants is, likewise, gearing up for the occasion with an excellent stock of plants being put on display today. Altamont has the wonderful advantage of having an excellent garden and an outstanding plant centre – perfect ingredients for a great gardener’s day out.
A slideshow of images from today’s visit: