Burnby Hall Gardens and Museum, York
Burnby Hall's annual Tulip Festival (29 April - 13 May) sees some 14,000 tulips bring cascades of colour to tubs and beds across the garden. With more than 30 cultivars on display, it's a delightful spring day out. The festival is once again being run in conjunction with Bloms Bulbs, who won gold for their tulip display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013. Major tulip festivals also take place at Hever Castle in Kent (24 - 28 Apr & 2 -7 May, excl Bank Hol weekend; RHS members free) and Glenarm Castle in Co Antrim (29 Apr - 1 May; RHS members half-price).
West Dean Gardens, West Sussex
About half of West Dean’s lawns have been converted into wildflower areas with naturalised bulbs, giving an evolving floral display from late January to mid June. In early spring, the main display comes from snowdrops, primroses and silver blue Crocus tommasinianus; later, fritillaries, Chionodoxa, daffodils, primroses and cowslips continue the show.
Backhouse Rossie Estate, Fife
In April the Backhouse Heritage Daffodil Collection - recently awarded National Plant Collection status - is at its best. 'The brilliant thing about the daffodils is they were bred over three generations of one family for a period of 100 years by 6 people: grandad, the children and grandchild,' says owner Caroline Thomson, a descendant of the accomplished Backhouse horticulturists. Join in as the garden celebrates its Scotland Daffodil festival debut (15 - 16 April) with a woodland daffodil trail, bring-and-show daffodil competition and more.
Threave Garden and Estate, Dumfries and Galloway
Threave Garden has three delightful daffodil trails to follow. There are more than 200 labelled cultivars to see, with something in flower from February right through to May. Admire miniatures, tall daffodils, all sorts of colour combinations (yellow, white, orange, pink), single-flowered, double-flowered, and multi-headed cultivars. One of the stars of the garden is the striking daffodil bank, mass-planted with thousands of Narcissus ‘Southern Gem’, which was first recorded pre-1913 and is now rare in cultivation. Read more about Threave Garden's daffodil trails
Ripley Castle Gardens, North Yorkshire
In April and May, follow your nose to Ripley Castle's walled garden, home to a National Hyacinth Collection. There are more than 2,000 hyacinths here, spanning 40 cultivars, and ranging from soft whites and yellows to bright blues and pinks. In full bloom, the fragrance is heady!
Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire
Kelmarsh Hall's naturalised colony of snake's head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) is a beguiling spring attraction. You can admire the nodding, chequerboard-patterned flowers in damp parts of the garden, particularly along the lime avenue. ‘It’s always a special treat to be able to see masses of these delightful flowers up close,’ says Garden Consultant Michele Hickman. You can also see good fritillary displays at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire; Monteviot House, Scottish Borders; Wyken Hall, Suffolk; and The Garden House, Devon.
The Garden House, Devon
The Bulb Meadow at The Garden House is a spring treat, carpeted in Narcissus ‘Wee Bee’, N. cyclamineus, Chionodoxa and Eranthis. The Acer Glade is also home to a wealth of spring bulbs and woodlanders, including collections of named antique daffodils and thousands of Crocus tommasinianus.
Merriments, East Sussex
Each year, some 6 - 8,000 tulips are planted at Merriments, daubing the borders with a fanfare of colour. Near the entrance, the top border is filled with soft, pastel tulips in pinks and purples. The temperature rises in the Hot Border, where 'Ballerina' and 'Brown Sugar' (both scented) give a bold display in oranges, yellows and reds. Tulipa 'Negrita' is a favourite in the garden, its dark purple blooms giving good contrast, especially against soft pinks. Other bulbs to look for include camassias in the long grass (May-June), snake's head fritillaries and Leucojum in the Bog Garden.