Snowdrop carpet restored to bloom

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The Independent Online
SNOWDROPS are just coming into full bloom at Easton Lodge, near Great Dunmow, Essex. They will cover almost two acres of the restored 17th-century garden and probably last into early March. Snowdrops have been in the garden for countless years and survived many years of neglect.

Easton is one of the many places that can claim that Queen Elizabeth slept under its roof. Henry VIII built a wooden lodge here and his daughter, Elizabeth, is believed to have rested overnight during hunting parties in the Great Forest of Essex. The lodge and the Elizabethan manor that followed it are both long gone.

Easton's heyday was the Edwardian era when the Countess of Warwick - "Darling Daisy" - entertained lavishly at the Victorian house. Her friendship with the Prince of Wales, a frequent guest along with the Marlborough House set, was the stuff of scandal.

The countess, who died in 1938, commissioned Harold Peto to design gardens suitable for her parties. The Italian and Japanese gardens he created are now being restored by Brian and Diana Creasey who in 1971 bought Warwick House, the west wing of the countess's home which survived a fire in 1918.

Forty years of brambles, fallen trees and general ruin is being cleared at Easton, open to visitors under the National Gardens Scheme since 1985. The area where the snowdrops bloom was woodland laid out in the early 17th century. Clearing and replanting is taking years as no work can be done when the bulbs are in growth from November to July.