#snowdrops. Out of Hibernation-for Hodsock Press Day 

img_9173All winter I’ve found a kind of sanctuary in the potting shed. There’s a deep peaceful silence. A protection from the cold. A place to think. I can plot the progress of the seasons from the pottingshed window. Just now I can see gaunt willows bordering the pond. They look like charcoal drawings. I think of my farming ancestors who would have lopped the willows to make sheepfolds at this time of year.


I’m fascinated by old farming almanacs. My grandmother used to read them and occasionally I’d hear talk of Imbolc and Candlemas, mentioned in the first week of February. Imbolc meaning lambs milk or the start of the lambing season. And Brigantia, the Celtic female deity of light, St Brigid in the Christian tradition, calling  us to celebrate the sun – halfway on its advance from winter solstice to the spring equinox.

I map the progress of winter through the pottingshed  windows, watching the angle of the sunlight as it hits the huge table where I work.

Suddenly there’s a day -usually in the second week of February – when I notice the light has returned to the garden.  There’s a shaft of sunlight that shines through the side window like a wake up signal for spring. A kind of sundial for the seasons.


It’s a signal for me to reconnect with the world and leave the pottingshed behind.


So I make my annual pilgrimage to Hodsock Priory- accompanied by my Mum, as always.  And it is a place of pure magic. I stand in wonder under a 500 year old oak- the same age as the  brick tower gatehouse.

We call Hodsock the Chelsea of the snowdrop season. This is the first of many gardens Mum and I will visit over the coming weeks. We are lucky, and grateful, to be invited to the annual press day and enjoy a guided tour of the garden.


The woodland walk makes the heart sing.  Pyramid-pruned beech trees flank each side of the path. Such a simple idea, and it works, adding interest without being too formal.


Pools of colour from the Cyclamen Coum look  as bright as stained glass windows in the sunshine.


This Garrya Elliptica wrapped around the corner of the house always puts on a stunning display. It has every right to be called the silk tassel bush. We all decide it’s the best we have seen.

Wintersweet   or Chimonanthus Praecox. Glorious Scent  is as much a special feature of the garden as snowdrops. I particularly love  the winter honeysuckle walk. Lonicera Fragrantissima has  such tiny, almost translucent flowers  A delicious treat for the senses.


We take a new tour around the house and underground tunnels, and emerge in the dry moat. This is a view of  the house I haven’t  seen before.


We find an inviting side door to the tower. Amazing to think this stone and brickwork has been here for 500 years.


Before setting off for home we find  Narcissus Cedric Morris along a bank in front of the house. Such a cheerful sight for mid February.

There’s a  plant sale at the entrance to the cafe. I treat myself to this beautiful hellebore, Harvington Yellow. I’m drawn to the  dark eye in the centre. Such a beauty.  I shall plant it in front of my pottingshed  to remind me of  our visit.


And on the pottingshed window to welcome me home- there’s a pot of snowdrops I bought at Hodsock last year. They are just the common Galanthus Nivalis. But I like them just as much as all the fancy  named varieties. They suit the humble setting.

Hodsock Priory is open every day until March 5th.

37 thoughts on “#snowdrops. Out of Hibernation-for Hodsock Press Day 

    • Thank you Eliza. It was a day of colour and scent. So welcome in the middle of winter. I’ve planted out the little pots of snowdrops I bought. So I have a tiny “Hodsock” corner at home. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It’s much appreciated.

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  1. I love the way you talk about the returning of the light. You are right – there is an imperceptible shifting in the seasons and a lifting of the mood about now. I hadn’t heard of Brigantia so I’ll go and look it up. Ceri

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    • thank you Ceri. It may only be a few minutes each day,but there’s definitely a shift. When I get home from work, I can usually run round the garden in the light now- and not with a torch. It makes such a difference. I worked for many years in a room with no windows. I felt totally disconnected from the seasons. It didn’t suit me at all.

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    • Thank you Hugh. That’s so kind of you to say so. Must admit, Mum and I had the most wonderful day there. And the sun shone. We’ve come back and planted our little pots of snowdrops. Nice to have a tiny patch of Hodsock in my garden as a reminder of a happy time. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. It’s much appreciated x

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  2. The hellebore is beautiful, what an excellent souvenir of this year’s trip!
    Of course I love the potting shed, but it must be great to get out and about again to see spring returning. So much is already in bloom, it really fires up the spring fever 🙂

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    • Thank you for thank you for your kind comments. I’ve never seen that colour before. It really shines out on a dull day. Yes, spring fever is on the way, thank goodness

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  3. What a fabulous post! I am reading Janina Ramirez’s book The Private Life of Saints and she mentions St Brigid and Brigantia, it is a wonderful book. Your photos are amazing, what is the name of the white daff at the beginning? It is a stunner and needs to be on the Lust List! The only white one I know is Thalia. Sounds like you and your mum had a great day, yet again I wish I were closer and I could have tagged along. 🙂

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    • Oh Gill, I wish you were nearer. Would have loved you to tag along. We’d have had a fun day all together. Mum would have loved meeting you. The daffodil is Paperwhite. I planted them in October for xmas presents -then more in December to cheer up February. They are so easy to grow. Lovely to look at in the pottingshed. And the scent is glorious. I’ll go and get that book you mentioned. I’d love to know more. Thanks for reading and for your kind comments. Xxx

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    • Thank you Jessica. That blue sky did us the world of good. As did the masses of winter flowering shrubs and snowdrops. Thanks for taking the time to read and for commenting. All the best. Karen x

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    • That blue sky did us the world of good. I’ve been envying your blue skies on your travel dairies- which I so much enjoyed. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Jessica. x

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  4. You are so right about the light Karen – perhaps I need to make a note of the date when I first notice it to compare from year to year. The photos you take of and from your potting shed are so evocative and highlight the relationship you have with it. Your photos of Hodsock are lovely too – that patch of cyclamen is so beautiful and how exciting to visit a different part of the building each year

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    • Thank you Cathy. I think I notice the light so much because I worked in an air conditioned room without windows for a number of years. I felt totally disconnected from the seasons. it was dark when I went to work, and dark when I drove home. Thanks for your kind comments. I always wanted a potting shed and waited for years for one to be built. No wonder I can hardly bare to leave it. x

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    • Thank you Anca. I’ve just been mooching in there, putting little clumps of snowdrops from the plant sales into tiny terracotta pots. Shall enjoy them on the potting shed windowsill for a while. Thanks for reading and commenting. All the best. Karen x

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    • Hi there. I noticed that the cyclamen at Hodsock were planted in very sparse grass around the base of an old tree stump. the dry soil and roots from the dead tree would restrict the growth of the grass. You would have to set the mower blades high to mow over them. At home, I grow them in such a situation around the base of some willow trees where there is a tiny bit of grass. I don’t think they would be successful in thick lush grass. they would be best at the edge of the lawn and wherever the lawn is weakened. They prefer some slight shade, not full sun. Hope this helps. Good luck with your planting. Let me know how you get on, or let me know if you need more info. Karen

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