Thousands of crocus tommasinianus are the main reason for a February garden visit to Little Court garden in the pretty village of Crawley near Winchester in Hampshire. Owner Patricia Elkington has been opening in aid of the National Garden Scheme since 1984 and this year she will be generously welcoming visitors from February to June. (2019 dates can be found on the NGS site here)
The crocuses are definitely the main reason for a visit in the spring and this year in particular has been a good one with the weather conditions being near-perfect to ensure a show-stopping display in the Victorian apple orchard. The crocuses have naturalised over the years and seem to be happily popping up in new places each year – between cracks on the terrace and garden paths and marching down the bank towards the lawn “like lavender soldiers” Patricia remarks.
Everywhere are signs to make the heart sing for the arrival of spring. Creamy hellebores are tucked in amongst butter-yellow aconites and a number of different snowdrop varieties are planted in swathes across the banks and beds of the 3 acre garden. Galanthrophiles will be pleased to discover that each variety is accurately labelled and a number have been potted up ready for sale to visitors.
The garden complements the listed house which dates back to the 17th century with later Victorian additions. A delightful restored glasshouse set against the house wall bears an ancient vine and the walled garden is divided into different areas, each telling a different story. The lawned area to the rear of the house is framed by an enormous copper beech tree underplanted with aconites, crocuses and hellebores. To the rear, the afore-mentioned apple orchard, carpeted with purple crocuses leads to the Goose garden, so named after the geese who lived here in earlier times.
A clipped 3 tiered topiary yew overlooks the lawn from its lofty position on an upper terrace beside a rectangular pool, beyond which lies the walled vegetable garden. This area is also home to the family of Pekin bantams which peck around the garden in an aesthetically pleasing way (as long as you like hens).
Little Court garden is open this Sunday, 17th February. Teas will be served in the village hall and the local pub, The Fox, comes highly recommended.