Rococo Snowdrops


It was with a sense of relief today that I took a day out  of work and drove cross-country to the Cotswolds to meet up with two blogging friends, Michelle and Victoria.  We had arranged to visit Painswick Rococo Garden between Gloucester and Stroud to see the snowdrops.  Michelle and I had originally planned to do this some three years ago but life and bad weather had intervened.  Why was I relieved?  Well it felt like this was the first garden visit of the year and that winter was starting to recede.  It was also nice to catch up with two friends I made early on in my blogging life and a return to that aspect of blogging which I used to enjoy so much.

2013_02060006 Now none of us are galanthophiles so we weren’t looking for somewhere which would have lots of rare and special snowdrops.  Painswick has the benefit of not only having an extensive display of snowdrops but also a range of interesting follies.  The garden was developed in the 1740s in a period when garden design was moving away from the formality  and Baroque of the previous century.  Instead of elaborate parterres and hedges the garden follows the style made popular by Alexander Pope twenty years before. This was composed of a garden walk during which various decorative buildings, follies and sculptures were encountered.  Richardson in The Arcadian Friends describes Painswick as follows:

Painswick in Gloucestershire, for example, is a garden with a unique feel: an associative or symbolic landscape garden squeezed into a modest valley, with lots of tight corners, deceptive vistas and delightfully tricksy buildings. Painswick is really a miniature version of what had gone before, with the emphasis on decorative incident, and this has led to its being billed a ‘rococo’ garden – a rather misleading appellation.”


What I found interesting was the detail on the follies.  I know from studying garden landscape history last year – most of which seemed to have left my mind today – that often follies were merely a frontispiece to look good from a distance but had no real substance.  However, if you take the Red House it comprises two rooms with a fireplace, stained glass windows and intricate moulding as you can see above.


The follies, like the Exedra above, certainly added interest and I can see that they would draw you on a walk through the garden; sadly much of the symbolism’s mean isn’t so obvious to the modern visitor.  We did find some of the views and vistas a little strange and reading the garden history on my return home it turns out that by the 1970s the garden was completely covered in an overgrown wood.  Although the garden has since been restored based on a painting made at the time of its original creation the house is no longer part of the garden and therefore the approach to the garden and some other views weren’t as original and although not jarring it did at times feel a little strange.


In the summer there is an extensive Kitchen Garden surrounded with trained apple trees and herbaceous borders.  Whilst there are lots of snowdrops planted amongst the shrubs in the borders for me the nicest area was the  woodland area where the land rose and fell and the snowdrops smothered the ground.  Occasionally we were lucky and the sun filtered through the trees causing interesting shadows and lighting up the flowers.


All in all I had a delightful and fun day with lots of much needed fresh air and a feeling that Spring is definitely on its way.


32 Comments Add yours

  1. Really lovely, thanks for the tour.

  2. Anna says:

    That living carpet of snowdrops looks stunning. Looks a fascinating place to visit during any season. Glad to hear that finally made it there Helen and in the company of such lovely folk 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      I think you would like it – about an hour from me so maybe worth a visit next time you are down this way

  3. Helen, you must have had a lovely day out, what a lovely thing to do midweek in February

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Nel
      It was just what I needed this week, would be nice to be able to do something similar each week but sadly have to work

  4. Cathy says:

    It must have made it a day that was good for your soul, Helen – glad you got there after all this time and thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. Mark and Gaz says:

    How lovely to be able to meet up with friends and fellow bloggers! And a lovely looking garden too, accented by snowdrops!

  6. Bernieh says:

    Those Snowdrops are just exquisite. Not a sight we ever see here, so I’ve enjoyed all your photos of them. The garden seems like a fabulous place too, especially with those great follies. It sounds like you all had a fabulous day.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      It was a fabulous day although a little chilly but luckily the coffee shop warmed us up:)

  7. Yvonne Ryan says:

    How gorgeous! Here in Auckland is is very hot and dry and brown. I am now staying with my third daughter on Whangaparoa Peninsula. Gorgeous seaviews back to Auckland. The last 6 weeks in rain forest in the west with pungas and nikaus and kereru’s to look at. I am very sad as my husban died in the Hospice on Tues 5th! It’s been an awful 2 months with agressive cancer. I have given myself permission to blubber now and not be Mrs Strong!

  8. Oh, those masses of snowdrops! Fantastic!

  9. VP says:

    It was great to have finally got there with you at last 🙂

    For me masses of ‘ordinary’ snowdrops in their thousands (if not millions?) will always win over displays of the rarer varieties.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi VP
      I agree for me the masses of snowdrops have a special atmosphere as opposed to the single rare ones – although I have a curiosity about them which I am following up at the moment. I suppose I am just trying to understand what the fuss is about

  10. It was a fabulous day out. It just shows you that, although cybercommunication is wonderful, you can’t beat getting out into a real garden, with real gardening enthusiasts. For me, that’s one of the best things about blogging – I’ve made so many real friends and been to so many wonderful places.

    1. VP says:

      I totally agree – well said Victoria 🙂

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Victoria
      I agree. It reminds me that one of the reasons I started garden blogging was to find other like minded people and there is so much more to sharing a garden visit than talking about nothing in cyberspace

  11. hillwards says:

    What a lovely idea all round. I keep meaning to go back to Painswick, as we have only visited for the espalier training course we took a few years ago. The snowdrops are beautiful in such large drifts.

  12. Those masses of snowdrops are breathtaking! I love the way they accentuate the silvery markings on the asarum foliage in your last photo. What a great day out. Thanks for the virtual tour.

  13. Holleygarden says:

    All those snowdrops is quite amazing! I enjoyed hearing about this garden. I can not imagine having to restore a garden based upon a painting. Those follies are fabulous!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Holleygarden
      I agree it must be hard to restore a garden from a painting as it is one person interpretatdion and no doubt the space in the painting wont relate to the space in the actual garden

  14. Bill S says:

    Thanks for the tour Helen, lovely photographs too !

  15. What a nice spread of snowdrops! Thanks for sharing, Helen.

  16. andreamynard says:

    Looks wonderful and lovely photos. I live in the north Cotswolds and have never visited Painswick Rococo gardens – think I need to go in the summer to see the kitchen garden in all its glory.

  17. Patty says:

    What nice clumps of snowdrops! I’m glad you saw what you had hoped to see, all of you. Sounds like a nice day out.

  18. Charlie says:

    We have snowdrops in our mountain meadows, they are one of the true pleasures of early spring. Your photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Sounds like a fabulous way to spend some time. I don’t think I have ever seen snowdrops massed like that. I am with VP, quantity wins out with snowdrops for me! Magical. Shame the garden has lost the context of the house.

  20. Thanks for the nudge, Helen. My partner’s family live in Nailsworth and we visit often and yet, to my shame, I’ve never visited Painswick. I will now! Dave

  21. Helen, snowdrops, how I miss them where I live now! At lease through your images I can feel them a little bit!, Lula

  22. Helen I hope to get a beautiful display like this going in my white garden. I planted about 10 new clumps. But of course the newly fallen 2 feet of snow is still covering all…I wonder if this was our last big storm…

  23. Jean says:

    That carpet of snowdrops under the trees is beautiful.

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