Nothing can quite muster and conjure a sign of spring in the countryside than the sight of snowdrops.
Although still in the grip of winter, we can grasp at the first signs of fresh green shoots and swathes of floral white as harbingers of a welcoming warmer world.
Still, snowdrops do depict a bleak but uplifting iconic wintry scene blessed but sanitised, by cold and sleety blasts on woodland banks often by foaming burns; a fragile beauty in abundance when seasonally there is little of note to report.
A walk on the path up Minto Glen this week through the initial hush-inducing mature fir plantation brought me into the old mixed woodland with twisted and gnarled giant beeches – bastions of the estate’s grander past. Subtle and even more rooted in history were the carpets of snowdrops clothing the banks and valley floor by the burn, thrusting up through the rich brown leaf litter their distinct dual colour transcending even that of vibrant green mosses draped over decaying logs – a visible life force transforming the dormant scene of gaunt leafless trees and rotting vegetation.
Time now then to celebrate the Border Snowdrop Festival, part of Scotland’s Gardens celebration of the flower lauded far and wide as something unique and worth experiencing – and gaining greater significance by the year. It’s still early to see them in full flood; you’ve time though to take note and pay them a visit very soon.
Three of the places listed I’ve become acquainted with over the last few years, each having its own distinctive character. For further information, see www.scotlandsgardens.org.
Furthest away is Dawyck, the royal botanical garden just west of Peebles noted for its towering Californian Red Woods, exotic plant specimens and eco café. The Scrape Burn punctures the place, tumbling through in cascades under picturesque arched stone foot bridges and lined just now with swathes of snowdrops under those majestic trees; rather formal, but brimming with white florescent splendour viewed from easily-accessed terraced paths.
Nearer to home is Kailzie Garden, this side of Peebles, immortalised by Raeburn’s portrait (1805) of the then residents – a Mr and Mrs N. Campbell – caught strolling arm in arm in happy harmony around the estate. Here there are drifts stretching out in all in directions from the tumbling burn crossed by rustic wooden bridges with matching arbours for sanctuary in inclement weather to winding paths, altogether a more informal gentle woodland setting.
Finally, to Dryburgh Abbey, hidden away in a sheltered loop of the Tweed, noted as the final resting place of Sir Walter Scott and Field Marshall Lord Haig; a place steeped in history and tranquillity. They’ve colonised grassy banks and mounds, along with carpets of yellow Lesser Celandines – a sharp contrast to the magnificent evergreen cedars and sequoia shadowing the extensive ruins; a time to roam, reflect and absorb the natural surroundings.
Scotland’s Gardens Snowdrop Festival runs until March 13.