The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Snowdrops and aconites

Photo: Aconites under a spreading horse chestnut tree

Photo: Aconites under a spreading horse chestnut tree

A beautiful postcard stands beside my computer, showing drifts of woodland snowdrops. It’s an advertisement for four snowdrop weekends at Chippenham Park.

One day I hope that there will be bountiful drifts of snowdrops and aconites in front of our cottage.

At the moment there is a patch of grass. The south westerly aspect means sun all afternoon. There have always been small patches of snowdrops in spring, a few aconites and a little later, pale blue crocuses open like stars on bright days.

The gravel driveway takes up most of the space from this grass to the gate.

When I decided to divide and replant my snowdrops, I twigged that many years ago the gravel must have reached the cottage wall as there’s a deep layer of hardcore four inches beneath the grass. I’d found a small stand in Debden that sold snowdrops in the green for 50p a pot. In a wave of enthusiasm I bought five pots.

It took me a good couple of hours to plant them. There was no question of dividing the resident groups. I had imagined a long relaxed swathe of snowdrops but the hardcore limited my dream within a few seconds of digging. Small holes were dug and three snowdrops were placed in each hole with some fertiliser.

Last year the bulbs came up having doubled in quantity over the summer. This year these small snowdrop communities have multiplied again and there are bigger patches in the grass. Still just the size of saucers but we are gradually getting a better show, although it looks more like a snowdrop version of Twister than the lush patches that I’d really enjoy. Perhaps this is the year that I remove the turf, excavate the stones and prepare a new grassy bed for all my snowdrops.

Meanwhile Danny has been alerted to the delicate tips peeping through the grass and is careful to avoid them when taking shortcuts to pick bay leaves after dark.

This past week, I’ve been enjoying the drift of aconites in the photo above. They flower under a huge horse chestnut tree on the estate where I’m working. We have a few aconites dotted around our garden but nothing like this display. When the sun shines, they shimmer like a beautiful embroidered cloth. Laid out with care and then forgotten in the grass.

  Leave a reply


  1. camilla

    good point…but I’ve gardened too long and too hard today to go back out there now! I’ll bring them in tomorrow morning and hope the shock of tonight hasn’t kyboshed the entire venture, thank you.

  2. camilla

    Lovely pictures, fabulous site. I’ve just planted eranthis hyemalis (aconite) seeds and can’t really believe they will germinate…instructions recommend 2-4 weeks at 64-72 degrees then 25-40 degrees for 4-6 weeks. I’m hoping polytunnel for first bit and fridge for the second? anyone tried this? seemed like a simpler way to increase aconite numbers…not so sure now!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Camilla

      I think an airing cupboard or an electric propogator would be a better bet than the polytunnel for the first bit as the temperature will drop in the polytunnel overnight.

      Personally I’m going to scatter the seeds as per the post, with the strimmer.

  3. City Mouse/Country House

    I think dividing plants is one of the great pleasures – I love my plants the multiply and double, especially the hosta (a favorite) and snowdrops. For some reason, the squirrels don’t bother with either of those here, but will dig up other things.

  4. At this time of year there is a certain corner near my mum’s where, as you drive past, you can catch a quick glimpse through the very bottom of the hedge of swathes of snowdrops under the trees. I always feel so cheated if there is a car coming in the opposite direction which blocks my view, especially as you can really only see them when you drive in one direction. In a life where we seem to have year round access to so many seasonal things, I love the fleeting nature of snowdrops and the delicious anticipation of their next appearance.

  5. magic cochin

    Thank you for the Chippenham Park link – I’ve visited to see the cherry blossom and daffodils but not the snowdrops and aconites.

    I love the sculptures – especially the birds in a nest 🙂


  6. I hate grey squirrels, every year they eat most of my bulbs and every year I end up re planting 100’s. At least my snow drops have come up this year.

  7. kate (uk)

    First early variety snowdrops in bloom and some of the more sheltered clumps starting to “drop”, we have squirrels so snowdrop survival can be rather hit and miss.
    Aconites are very slow spreaders and quite choosy about where they will be happy, so be prepared to wait!

  8. Scintilla

    Thanks for the spring kiss ! I’m looking out for mine too. But after reading the last comment, I’ll leave them in the garden!

  9. Dare I say it? I am not a snow drop fan. I think it is because I am scared by supersticious mumbo jumbo. I pick some as a child to give to my Grandmother and she went bonkers as I took them in the house. I dont think anyone died…?

  10. lucky you! i planted some bulbs just over a year ago. …nothing as yet. i’m wondering which part of the italian climate they must have liked least. and i’m crossing my fingers that they’ll change their minds and still pop up yet, as it is still wintery here.

    enjoy yours!

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