The mild winter has brought forward one of the south’s most spectacular sites as thousands of bluebells are bursting into flower along the hedgerows and woodland paths of Exbury Gardens in the New Forest. With a late Easter this year, families visiting the gardens on their Easter break will be greeted by a display that in an average year is usually at its best in early May. Further treats are in store for visitors as Exbury Head Gardener John Anderson returned from Saturday’s RHS Early Camellia and Rhododendron Show at Wisley with a clutch of awards, including firsts in two classes in the Spring Ornamental Show and firsts in many classes in the Main Camellia Competition.
‘Exbury is looking wonderful at the moment, with the evergreen azaleas now flowering profusely above carpets of bluebells and primroses. We were thrilled to win the RHS awards and look forward to our trip to RHS Rosemoor for the Main Rhododendron Show the week after Easter. We are spoilt for choice in terms of cuttings – we have had a very mild winter that has brought forward the flowering; very few damaging frosts, and have the added resource of our new Gilbury Lane garden, showcasing the Trehane Collection of Camellias. All of our prize-winning plants will be looking good at Easter and then through April and into May.’
Throughout Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday there are special train trips on the Gardens’ steam railway, when younger children can spot Easter bunnies in the woods from the railway carriages. There is a new Easter Trail to follow through the Gardens, where children are encouraged to solve rhyming riddles to discover the names of different trees in the Exbury collection, including the ‘smelly’ New Zealand Cabbage Palm and magnificent Monterey Pine. There will also be a special colouring competition in Mr Eddy’s Tea Rooms, with winners in different age groups receiving Waitrose ‘Woodland Friends’ chocolate eggs. The Tea Rooms are opposite Exbury’s new Children’s Play Area and Gilbury Lane garden, both open to visitors for the first time this spring and sure to prove popular over the Easter period.
Visitors can expect a treat too in the Five Arrows Gallery where the Four Seasons Art group’s Spring Exhibition showcases the work of distinguished artists, all concerned with the natural world. Nature is depicted in oils, watercolour, pastels and pencil, and as etchings, prints, cards and posters, all available to purchase.
“Easter marks the traditional start of the visitor season” said Gardens’ President Nick de Rothschild. “With our new Children’s Play Area and Gilbury Lane garden – and the early flowering of our bluebells and evergreen azaleas – plus our added-value activities, we look forward to welcoming guests for a colourful, fun and rewarding Easter experience.”