The season starts with the snowdrops in February and March. We now open the garden on Wednesdays to Sundays 10.30am to 4pm. There is a large collection planted mainly between the Wars by Lady Grey, who was a great bulb enthusiast; over time a number of natural hybrids have evolved and multiplied, and every now and then boffins descend on us and give them cultivar names on what to a layman might appear to be tiny differences. They are planted in large drifts throughout the garden and make a fine display, telling us all that spring is not far away.
The snowdrops are followed in late March by the daffodils, again nearly all planted by Lady Grey between the Wars; they are therefore all the old varieties and she was particularly fond of the white and paler yellow ones, with single trumpets as opposed to double. Varieties include Seagull, Albatross, King Alfred, Pheasant Eye, Amabilis, Principis, Sirius, and Tenedos. They are planted all over the garden and last well into May. Many of the old bulbs ought to be dug up and divided, but that would be a labour of Hercules. We have recently established different forms of early daffodils like the Lent Lily up the Back Drive under the young beeches.
On the south side of the Hall in the meadow down by the Burn, there are some native fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris, including some white ones, which can be seen in April.
The autumn colchicums are another feature, whose lush green leaves in spring make a fine contrast to the daffodils; the flowers, mostly purple with some white, appear in September. Nearly all were planted by Mabel Grey and are larger forms than most modern ones.
In Silverwood, the woodland garden, dark blue scillas Scilla sibirica appear in late March and a mixture of Erythronium, the dog-tooth violet, a little later; scillas have always been successful, but erythroniums are a relatively new addition which have performed well. We will be increasing them. We have tried a few species fritillaries as well, but these are proving short lived; Fritillaria pallidiflora flowers well but does not seem to last more than three or four years, while F. pudica and F. michailovsky last barely two. In August, we have a few auratum lilies building up, all from scales off one old bulb. They used to be a wonderful feature in Silverwood twenty years ago, but then they succumbed to a lily virus to which they are known to be vulnerable, apart from one surviving bulb from which we have propagated; we hope it is a stronger strain. Lilium auratum were Lady Grey's favourite, a beautiful white flower with the best scent of all. It will take a long time to build up a good stock. We have found it very difficult to establish Cardiocrinum giganteum, another splendid white member of the lily family flowering in June; they take time and trouble to grow here in the cold summers of the north-east coast and have a limitless appetite for leaf compost.
Other bulbous plants in Silverwood include early dwarf daffodils, maianthemum, lilies of the valley, arisaema (the Cobra Lily), mainly blue forms of camassia and agapanthus, with a few pale yellow daylilies.
On the Rockery, after some early aconites and snowdrops, there are some low species tulips in April and May and quite a few clumps of cyclamen with spring leaves and autumn flowers. The blue Triteleia paniculata make a good show by the stone path through the middle, and there are also a number of different alliums.
The meadows on the north and east sides of the Hall are a lovely feature in May, where Lady Mary planted late single coloured tulips in four or five different shades in the long grass to follow on from the daffodils; the bulbs last about four years, so we replant regularly. They can look very effecti