It’s Snowdrop in the ocean as Tees garden set to raise thousands for charity again

Mike Heagney

One of Teesside’s best-loved gardens is being prepared for the annual snowdrop open weekend that will add even further to the total of well over £100,000 raised for local charities during many decades of fundraising.

Tudor Croft Gardens, Guisborough, will open on Saturday February 15 and Sunday February 16 2020 from 11am to 3pm for visitors to enjoy what is thought to be the biggest collection of snowdrops in the north of England.

More than 250 varieties of snowdrops will be on view, some for the first time, and other spring-flowering bulbs will add to the spectacle within the setting of a beautiful garden.

Snowdrops flower for about a month, some as early as September, but the vast majority will be at their best in mid-February.

“Snowdrops are amazing flowers and some of them are absolutely beautiful,” said owner Mike Heagney, whose business Gardens Revitalised looks after many large gardens.

“The snowdrops give everyone great joy and by attracting our visitors they also help us raise funds for charities.”

Snowdrops are native to an area from the Pyrenees across to the Alps to Greece and Turkey and down as far as Syria and into Ukraine. They were probably brought to Britain by the Romans and later monks started picking them to decorate their churches on Candlemas Day, February 2.

“Because snowdrop bulbs nearly double every year, there were soon masses of snowdrops around monasteries and churches and from there they spread all over the country,” said Mike.

“The Flora Britannica, published in 1804, wrote that snowdrops only occurred in four places in Britain, including Blackwell near Darlington, on the banks of the Tees. That may have been true then but sounds unbelievable now because they can be found all over Britain.

“In the 1930s, snowdrops with wonderful markings and different scents and sizes began being discovered and people started collecting them – any with green markings on the outside of the petals are much sought-after, as are those with golden and yellow markings.”

The stunning five-acre garden at Tudor Croft was built during the 1930s by prominent Yorkshire brick manufacturer Ronnie Crossley. It has been enlarged and constantly developed by the Heagney family since they made it their home more than 60 years ago and has featured twice on TV’s Gardeners’ World and in many magazines.

Its many secrets include arbours, fountains, lily ponds, curving paths, old medieval stonework, a meandering stream, follies and even terracotta elves made at Crossley’s brickworks in Commondale.

“The garden is a great joy but we have to work hard every single day to keep it in good shape,” said Mike. “We have a first-class team and many volunteers, most of whom come in once a week. We couldn’t manage without them.

“At this time of year visitors can see the structure of the garden, which is hidden to some extent in the summer when it’s full of flowers.

“Funds this year will principally go towards Kids Kabin, which provides creative activities for children in underprivileged areas and has worked in community centres in North Ormesby, Thorntree and Berwick Hills, and is now setting up street workshops in Grove Hill, in collaboration with Thirteen Housing Group.

“We will also be helping four schools, two in Guisborough, one in South Bank and one in Middlesbrough with their garden projects.”

Fundraising at Tudor Croft started in the 1950s with garden parties run by Mike’s parents and continued in the 1970s with many summer balls. It has continued ever since.

Admission is £5, free for children, and parking on nearby roads will be well signposted, with volunteer stewards on hand to help. Most areas are accessible by wheelchair. Refreshments including warming home-made soup will be served and snowdrops and other bulbs and plants will be on sale.

The gardens will also be open on Saturday June 27 and Sunday 28 from 11am to 4pm for Tudor Croft’s annual summer open weekend. Groups of 20 or more may pre-book to visit in July by calling 07860 558545.