6 February 2017
The first blooms
The garden at Allt-y-bela is beginning to spring to life once
more. On the droveway and through the woodland snowdrops abound
drifting in vast white carpets across the brown green of the winter
landscape. There is something magical and heartening to see swathes
of ground suddenly coming to life in these dark weeks. Amongst the
throng of single native snowdrops, a few double flowers can be
found. You can generally tell the doubles by the broader nature of
the flowers, the only way to be sure of course is to get down on
your hands and knees and have a good look. The rewards certainly
make the muddy knees worthwhile but it is a shame we don't get the
chance to appreciate them in a more congenial environment.
Along the sides of the drive towards the field gate is a small wild bed filled with winter snowflakes. Winter aconites are beginning to establish there too. The winter snowflakes look a little like a broader stronger snowdrop, their heads still nod in the cold breeze but they are larger and slightly more showy.
The bulb lawn is beginning to show the first signs of life now too, a few short weeks ago I was looking across the grass at the telltale leaves of iris and crocus that offered so much promise and over the course of the last few days the flowers have been breaking out, first a few crocus, then the very first reticulated iris. Each day, come rain or shine, flowers have been emerging.
One of the frustrations I've found in past years is that I never seem to be able to photograph these spring treasures to really do them justice, then, while crawling around on my hands and knees through the mud it occurred to me that it would be rather lovely to bring these flowers into the house and photograph them properly. Around this time last year Allt-y-bela played host to a Dutch Masters flower arranging course, the resulting pictures were so stunnning I was desperate to have a go at recreating a similar sense of light and dark, fine detail and highlights. These early spring bulbs which posses such breathtaking beauty are perhaps slightly overlooked as we dodge the rain and hurry past against the biting cold. Brought indoors, with time to really look and appreciate them, their elegance shines through.
Once inside with our selection of flowers we decided to break them down into three groups; the crocus, the iris and the snowdrop type flowers. I think we could have very easily spent days placing them around the house to photograph. Allt-y-bela is such at atmospheric house, somehow though it always comes back to the older parts of the house, the medieval dining room with its massive stone fireplace and shining polished oak furniture lend themselves so freely to this style of photography.
The bulbs which are in flower now represent the beginning of the year in the garden at Allt-y-bela, there is so much to come, the thought is almost a little overwhelming. But this week, through the incessant rain and frost, these beautiful plants have emerged bringing with them a sense of positivity and hope for the coming year.
1. Left to right; Crocus subs. biflorus, Crocus tomasinianus, Crocus 'Snow Bunting', Crocus 'Cream Beauty'
2. Crocus 'Prins Claus' & Crocus tomasinianus
3. Crocus 'Snow Bunting'
4. Crocus 'Cream Beauty'
5. Left to right; Leucojum vernum 'Snow Flake, Galanthus 'Flore Pleno', Galanthus nivalis
6. Galanthus nivalis
7. Left to right; Iris reticulata 'Pauline', Iris reticulata 'Gordon', Iris reticulata 'Pixie', Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin', Iris reticulata 'George'
8. Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin'
9. Iris reticulata 'George'
10. Handtie of Iris reticulata 'Pauline', Iris reticulata 'Gordon', Iris reticulata 'Pixie', Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin' & Iris reticulata 'George'
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer