Winter is on its (brrrr) exit just in time for the annual Valentine’s Flower Count

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Winter is on its (brrrr) exit just in time for the annual Valentine’s Flower Count

The National Trust teams are out and about counting flowers in National Trust gardens all in time for Valentine’s Day and what better place to be than in a garden, 85% of people believe visiting a garden is good for their soul. 

In these times of uncertainty, the one thing we can be sure of is that spring is just around the corner and winter is on its (brrrr) exit. But there’s some confusion in the flower world; has the cold snap passed? Is it safe to pop up their heads and look for a brighter future? Or should they hang on for a better moment?

In fact the stats are in from our garden teams and the swingometer is definitely pointing to spring nearly being here and at a similar time to last year with just 2% more blooms than in 2018. So it’s safe to say not only is spring around the corner but we are all in for brighter and more colourful times ahead in our gardens, at least.

  • Gardens in Cornwall have seen a small increase of just under 1% more blooms than last year and Devon have gone up by 12%
  • Saltram in Devon closely followed by Trelissick in Cornwall have the most blooms out in any National Trust garden in the South West.

2,352 plants are blooming in this year’s 14th annual Valentine’s Flower count, 3% up on last year’s figure of 2,287, although numbers are down on 2016 where the south west saw 2,644 blooms.

For the 4th year running, Saltram had the highest number of flowers recorded with 210 plants in bloom with Trelissick in Cornwall seeing the biggest leap with 91% more flowers in bloom than last year!

The daffodil has been voted the most loved spring flower in a survey run with National Trust supporters on social media for the second year running with prior to that, the snowdrop was the top choice for the previous four years. 72% of people who took part in the survey have snowdrops and 66% have daffodils already in bloom in their gardens.  National Trust gardens at Kingston Lacy, Stourhead, Cotehele and Hidcote have also been voted the most popular places to visit to see spring flowers.

Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor in the South West said: ‘As a cure for those winter blues I’d like to prescribe to everyone a visit to a garden.  Personally I find there is no better uplift for my sprits than visiting one of the many gardens our teams care for. Our gardens can be a healthy distraction from modern life and now’s a great time to visit with spring predicted to be just around the corner… so put your phone away and immerse yourself in some spring cheer!

NT-Kingston lacy flowercount

Andrew Hunt, Kingston Lacy Head Gardener, said: ‘Being in the garden this time of year really thrills me, the new season is beginning and there is so much to look forward to. Walking through the garden here at Kingston Lacy, early morning when the grass is crisp really helps me relax and unwind, it is so peaceful with a few birds singing as the sun shines through. It’s such a calm time of year, you know summer is on its way and everything is wanting to come to life after the cold winter months, the plants just want to burst through and show off their leaves and flowers once again.

‘There is much to do in the garden this time of year, preparing for what’s to come but being able to enjoy your surroundings and take in the tranquillity and spirit of the garden is as important, when I get stressed or need to clear my head, a good walk around the garden certainly helps. Breathing in that clean, fresh air helps replenish my mind and soul which does uplift me to for the rest of the day.’

Karl Emeleus, Killerton Head Gardener said: ‘Given the unpredictable weather in recent years it isn’t always easy to predict when spring will arrive.  At Killerton we have much in flower already, including huge swathes of crocus on sunny days, but probably no more or less than usual.

NT-Killerton flowercount

‘The garden at Killerton always has much to offer and space to relax and unwind in is easy to come by.  My favourite area is the upper garden where I can wander through the collection of mature trees and shrubs or sit and enjoy one of the far reaching views.  I enjoy the calmness of it all, listening to birdsong and other wildlife.  It’s also a great place to appreciate the changing seasons from the fresh emerging leaves in spring through to the vibrant autumn colours.  I will undoubtedly see work that needs doing or things that don’t look quite right but taking time to slow down to fully appreciate my surroundings is hugely important to my well-being.’

In 2008 3,335 plants in bloom were recorded in Devon and Cornwall, marking the earliest spring so far recorded.

Gardeners at 29 National Trust properties across the South West took part in the annual Valentine’s Day flower count which first started in Devon and Cornwall in 2006.

Gardens in the South West are usually the furthest advanced in the UK with early spring blooms and this year is no different with just a 2% increase in blooms but generally we are seeing plants in flower that should be at this time of year.

  • In Cornwall 795 blooms were counted compared to 793 in 2018
  • In Devon there were 1050 blooms counted compared to 932 in 2018
  • In Gloucestershire there were 145 blooms counted compared to 123 in 2018
  • In Somerset there were 250 blooms counted compared to 213 in 2018
  • In Dorset there were 96 blooms counted compared to 116 in 2018

‘Comparing the number of plants across our gardens on a set day every year gives us a real insight into how our gardens respond to weather patterns, and is a useful ‘barometer’ for the season ahead’, said Ian Wright, National Trust Garden’s Advisor.

Many National Trust gardens are already open in the South West.  For more information and opening times see


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