Our house faces north.
This is not usually a popular choice, for the sun only shines into our principal reception room … all right, our lounge … during the earlier part of the morning and then only in the summer months. However, the fact that our house faces north means that the back of the house is south-facing and ipso facto enjoys the full benefit of the sun whenever it shines. And, since we spend a far greater proportion of our waking hours in the back of our house than we do in the front, this means that we enjoy sunshine when we are working - cooking, ironing, doing laundry, shining shoes, working on computers, letter-writing, even eating breakfast and lunch. It also means that we have views over what is, properly, our back garden for many of the daylight hours, although the alignment of our house prompted us to lay out our back garden in a manner more customary in front gardens.
So, glancing out of the window as I write these words, I have views of a wide variety of attractive foliage shrubs, views of winter grass, views of bulbs thrusting their shoots upwards with the promise of flowers to come - but no actual flowers. And I do miss flowers, especially during dull days in February, although if I stand up and look to my right under our Korean fir, I can see some snowdrops, welcome harbingers of spring. Yet, pretty as they are, my plantings of snowdrops cannot compete with the massed plantings to be found during the 2015 Snowdrop Festival, which is getting under way right now.
Scotland’s Gardens, the organisation devoted to encouraging us to visit beautiful gardens throughout our country, has this to say about the Snowdrop Festival: “Snowdrop openings during February and March provide some fabulous spectacles of white carpets and collections of unusual snowdrop species. VisitScotland will be supporting our openings with their heavily marketed Snowdrop Festival which is an important part of their successful annual marketing programme.” And there is an excellent clue about how to find out where to find information on gardens with stunning displays of snowdrops in any part of Scotland … go to www.visitscotland.com and follow the links to the Snowdrop Festival in whichever part of the country you choose. I chose Stirling & Forth Valley and learned that gardens at The Linns, Dunblane, will be open between 15 February and 15 March to show off a specialist collection of snowdrops; that the grounds of West Plean House will be open on 22 February to allow visitors to enjoy a woodland walk with a snowdrop-filled backdrop; that Braco Castle, Dunblane, boasts spectacular spring bulbs which will be accessible to the public between 1 February and 15 March; and that visitors can discover five acres of mature gardens round Gargunnock House during February and the first half of March … gardens where there must be tens of thousands of snowdrops. Slightly further afield, the Scotland’s Gardens website … www.scotlandsgardens.org … alerted me to the stunning display of snowdrops along the side of the former drive in the grounds of Duntreath Castle on the A81between Blanefield and Killearn, a display which is open to the public between 11:00am - 4 p.m. during the period 1 March to 8 March.
The definition of times and exact dates in this last entry prompts me to remind you, gentle reader, always to discover the precise dates, times and entry charges … yes, many of the gardens specify an entry charge to raise money for charities … and, as far as possible, whether the weather-dependent snowdrops are actually worth travelling to see on a particular date. Websites for the individual gardens and estates, which usually give telephone numbers, can be found through the Scotland’s Gardens website. Do check in advance … and enjoy!